How To Look At A House
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Why do some wires in an electric panel have tape wrapped around them near their connections?
Monday, July 9, 2018
The different wires in an electric panel are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) to be color-coded according to their type. Ground wires (grounding conductors) have either a green insulation jacket or they are bare wires. Neutral wires (grounded conductors) should be white. Hot wires (ungrounded conductors) are usually black or red, but are allowed to be other colors except the ones designated for ground, neutral, or a couple of other colors for the phases of 3-phase service.
When a wire color does not match its use, it can be painted or marked with a tape band near the termination, but we rarely see the wires painted. A white tape band indicates that the wire is a neutral, black or red tape indicates hot, and green means ground.
The place where we most often see this overlooked is at 240-volt breakers with #10 copper wires to a water heater or air conditioning condenser. If one of the two hot wires is white, it should have a black band around it near the breaker. Conversely, because only black wires are usually available in the larger sizes of the service cables, the neutral service wire should be wrapped with white tape, like in the photo above.
Also, see our blog post What is the gooey stuff on some of the wire connections in the electric panel?
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