A Guide to Electrical Wiring Colours in Australia

A Guide to Electrical Wiring Colours in Australia

Electrical wiring colours are confusing to the untrained eye, there’s no denying it. A plethora of shades and tones are hidden behind your walls. And since Australian wiring codes have changed drastically over the years, there’s a trail of rainbow coloured wires scattered throughout millions of homes.

The most recent changes came in 2018 with the new AS/NZS 3000:2018 Electrical Installations Wiring Rules. Although the rules have simplified things on a global scale – we’re now more in line with European and UK wiring standards – that doesn’t change existing installations.

Your home’s wiring likely doesn’t match what 2021 standards say. What is now a blue neutral wire might be a live hot wire in your property. But what exactly does that mean for you?

Well, you could be playing with fire if you attempt DIY electrical work. Don’t worry, though.

Metropolitan Electrical Contractors isn’t going to let you get in harm’s way. Our guide to Australian electrical wiring colours will help you see clearly to avoid a jolting accident.

The Main Function of Electrical Wires

If you believe there’s just one wire carrying electricity to and from your outlets and appliances, think again. Each wire has its own function. Colour coding helps your electrician immediately identify what each function is, helping for any fast fault identification.

Previous Australian electrical wire colour codes even included different colour combinations for installation wiring and appliance wiring like powerpoints. Now that’s all the same for a more seamless service.

Talking terminology, a few different common phrases are commonly used. For example, active wires are also known as hot wires. In a three phase system they are referred to as phase 1, 2, or 3 wires, or live 1, 2 or 3 wires. 

Meanwhile, an earth wire can also be referred to as a ground wire. That’s some similar phrasing but it certainly makes it tricky for an electrical novice.

This is the function of each type of electrical wiring.

Active Wires

An active electrical wire transports current (power) from the meter box through to household switches, powerpoints and appliances. They’re referred to as hot wires since there is a live electrical current.

There are multiple active wires in a three phase/multiphase system. Each wire is coloured differently to assist in identifying the destination and function.

Neutral Wires

A neutral wire acts as a conductor, or connector. It helps the current return to the power source, essentially working in the opposite direction of an active wire. 

This prevents circuits from overloading. Be careful around neutral wires as they can trigger an electric shock.

Earth Wires

The common denominator in all colour schemes is the green earth wire (although now it is a green & yellow combination).

The earth wire is a protective measure against electrical shock. As the term ground wire indicates, the earth wire directs a live current into the ground and away from power outlets or appliances. This way the electrical shock does not travel through the circuit towards a person when physical contact is made.

2021 Australian Electrical Wiring Standards

Since 2018, with the introduction of the AS 3000, Australia’s wiring reflects global standards far better. Australian electrical wiring colours match European and UK installations, ensuring that more products can seamlessly integrate into international circuits. 

A standard home has single phase wiring as a steady electrical load is perfect for household demand. However, workplaces and buildings that use heavy machinery and large appliances need more power. They require three phase wiring, or multiphase, to meet extra demand.

As per current Australian electrical standards, single phase wiring colours are:

Active – Brown
Neutral – Blue
Earth – Green & Yellow

Meanwhile, Australian three phase wiring is:

Phase 1 – Brown
Phase 2 – Black
Phase 3 – Grey
Neutral – Blue
Earth – Green & Yellow

Other Wiring Colours in Your Home

Current electrical wiring colour standards were only introduced a few years ago. Therefore, chances are your home’s wiring doesn’t match up. That means a vast majority of Australian homes have a variety of colour combinations. 

The good news is they’re all safe as they were the standard at the time. However, it just means that your wiring colours match online articles that may not have been updated. Subtle differences between online sources and what’s in your walls would be a potential threat. Especially if any DIY rewiring or unlicensed work has been performed. 

If your home was built before 2018 your electrical circuits likely include the following colours:

Previous wiring standards specified that single phase looked like:

Active – Red
Neutral – Black
Earth – Green

Additionally, previous three phase wiring features:

Phase 1 – Red
Phase 2 – White
Phase 3 – Blue
Neutral – Black
Earth – Green

A variety of other potential colour combinations is also likely. Pre-2000s homes could look entirely different. Common colours include white or grey, which are both typically neutral, and black or yellow for active wires.

Should I Perform My Own Electrical Work?

Electrical work is best left to the professionals. This rings true especially with a wide range of colour combinations leaving you in a precarious position of unexpectedly handling live wires.

Your home’s electrical wiring could fit under any array of Australian electrical wiring colour combinations. The age of a home might not even be a helpful indicator if past work has involved home rewiring, or unlicensed electrical repairs.

That’s why you should always leave serious work such as home rewiring to a licensed electrician. They are familiar with all the regulations and can safely address concerns with a switchboard, power outlet, light socket or electrical circuit.

Trust us, the last thing you want is to mix up the wires when replacing a light switch, and electrocuting yourself. 

Leave it to the experts at Metropolitan Electrical Contractors. We’ll provide a safe service to keep your home switched on.

Published: 2021-08-23

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