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Thread: Wire colour coding abroad

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Wire colour coding abroad

    Good day all,

    Can any please point me to a website or good book that summarizes the colour cides used in foreign power systems? Right now I'm working on projects that will go to Brazil and China and would like to keep my drawings consistent with their standards. Thanks in advance!

    Cheers

  2. #2
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    Feb 2011
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    A week and no thoughts? Surely international wiring can't be that chaotic.

  3. #3
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    Perhaps none of our members knows the answer. This is a purely voluntary forum, and nobody is obligated to look things up for you. Have you tried the reference desk at your local library?
    Charles E. Beck, P.E., Seattle
    Comments based on 2014 NEC unless otherwise noted.

  4. #4
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    I understand that it's voluntary, and I wouldn't expect anyone to go find the answer for me. With as many members as are on here though, I would have thought there would be some people who've done work like this before.

    I've tried the local library, but no dice. I'll probably tell my boss that I'm taking off a few hours early and try the main branch of the Seattle Library later this week.

  5. #5
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    Current British standards

    Current British standard, fixed cables (A,B,C,N,Gnd):

    Red, yellow, blue, black, green/yellow
    (Plain green for ground until 1980s.)

    Pre-1965 installations:
    Red, white, blue, black, green

    Flexible cords, current standard:
    Brown (all phases), blue, green/yellow

    Pre-1970 cords:
    1-phase: Red, black, green
    3-phase: Red, white, blue, black, green

    The green/yellow earth wire has been recognized since the 1960s, although only for the EGC in a cord.

    The 1966 IEE Regs. specify only plain green, but the green/yellow was added as an amendment sometime later. The 1970 revised edition specifies green/yellow as being the only acceptable colors for a cord EGC, along with brown & blue in place of the old red & black for line & neutral respectively.

    A few appliance cords made probably during late 1969/early-1970 period which actually have red & black along with a green/yellow ground. I'm not sure if these were British-made, or possibly Continental done for the U.K. market.

    Thanks to Paul ("PaulUK") for the above information!


    Bahamas:

    Black,Red,Blue,white 120/208
    Brown,Orange,Yellow,white 277/480


    Sweden:

    Prior to 2002:

    (L, N, PE)
    Black, Blue, Green/Yellow

    (L1, L2, L3)
    Black, Brown, White or Black or Black/White or (wires in conduit)
    Orange or Grey

    Prior to 1973


    (L, N, PE)
    Black, White, Red

    3-phase and light switches
    Black, Blue and/or Yellow and/or Grey and/or Green.

    Colour of the protective earth conductor.
    (For Sweden)

    Prior to 1960: No rules
    1960: Red for cables; red or g/y for flexes
    1968: g/y for both cables and flexes (transition period until 1972)



    Denmark:


    I think the old (prior to 1973) code was:
    (L, N, PE)
    White, Black, Red

    3-phase or light switch
    White, Brown and/or Grey and/or Blue and/or Yellow and/or Green
    (Order unknown)

    Mains Cords; Europe:
    By this we mean flexible appliance wiring or line cords, not the fixed
    cable or wiring inside the walls. All colour code combinations are
    given in the order L, N, E: In other words line (live), neutral and
    earth (ground).

    The current general standard is Brown, Blue, Yellow/Green striped
    and this is mandatory in most European countries and on items
    intended for sale in those countries. The colours were chosen not
    for their association (otherwise brown would be earth!) for reasons
    set up below.

    Elsewhere in the world and also in Europe in previous times, these
    colour codings vary widely. The following combinations can be
    encountered. Again the order is L, N, E and the list is not intended
    to be exhaustive.

    Belgium: Red, yellow or blue, Grey, Black.
    Germany: (L, N, Gnd): Black, Gray, Red.
    Great Britain: Red, Black, Green.
    Netherlands: Any colour but Gray or Red.
    Russia: Red, Grey, Black.
    Switzerland: Red, Grey, Yellow or yellow/red.

    The foregoing should make it clear why a unified colour coding of
    wires was necessary. Green is by no means the obvious colour for
    earth either:
    before standard colours were adopted, earth was red in Austria,
    Finland, Germany, Norway, and Sweden; black in Belgium and Russia,
    Gray in the Netherlands and Poland, yellow in Switzerland and green
    in Britain and North America. Three cheers for standardization!

    The choice of colours for the world-wide system was not arbitrary
    either; earth (ground) had to be distinguished and making it striped
    was an inspired choice. The other two colours had to be clearly
    distinguishable, even by people who suffer colour-blindness, and
    blue and brown were judged the most clearly different shades by experts in this field.

    France:
    (Old System)

    Phase 1: Green (Vert),
    Phase 2: Yellow (Jaune),
    Phase 3: Brown (Marron),
    Neutral: Grey (Gris),
    Earth: White (Blanc)

    According to a reference, the old French color code used up until 1970 and was:

    Phase = Green
    Neutral = Red
    Earth = White or Gray

    Current French Standard:

    Phase A: Black (Noir),
    Phase B: Red (Rouge),
    Phase C: Brown (Marron),
    Neurtal: Blue (Bleu),
    Ground: Green / Yellow (Vert/Jaune)

    Please refer to discussion thread in Non-US Electrical Systems titled:
    International Wire Colour Codes
    and refer to posts by Moderator and Members referring to discussions in French Newsgroups regarding the color codes.

    Old German / Austrian Color Coding:

    flexes:
    P: black
    N: grey (can be connected to ground terminal of receptacle with
    jumper to neutral, TN-C)
    G: red
    L2, L3: black, blue
    fixed wiring: single phase: see flexes
    2 switches in one box: feeder black, switch loops grey and red
    3 ph: 4w
    R,S,T: black, blue, red, neutral (usually only ground) grey, red one
    can be pink as well, was also commonly used for flexes, this was the
    most common wiring arrangement.
    5w (pretty rare): see flexes.
    As you see this system was rather inconsequent, and this is one
    reason why it was phased out.
    However, 4w 3ph systems still have black, brown, blue for phases
    and y/g for ground.

    Anyway, this color code is definitely NOT reliable, even electricians
    usually took whatever wire color was just handy!

    Current Austrian Color Code:

    (L1, L2, L3, N, GND): Black/Brown/Grey/Yellow-Green.

    Until 01/01/02 (probably) L2 and L3 both black.

    Old work (pre 1970) Black, blue, pink, grey and red (no idea about phase order)

  6. #6
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    Feb 2011
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    Thanks Muck, that's a gold mine. If I can find any more countries while I'm working on this I'll try to add to the list.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by muckusmc View Post
    Current British standards

    Current British standard, fixed cables (A,B,C,N,Gnd):

    Red, yellow, blue, black, green/yellow
    (Plain green for ground until 1980s.)

    Thanks to Paul ("PaulUK") for the above information!
    PaulUK is a bit out of date.
    The phase colours for UK are brown, black and grey. Neutral is blue.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by vwdevotee View Post
    Good day all,

    Can any please point me to a website or good book that summarizes the colour cides used in foreign power systems? Right now I'm working on projects that will go to Brazil and China and would like to keep my drawings consistent with their standards. Thanks in advance!

    Cheers
    here in the Philippines, the only color coding is that the ground wire and the neutral wire should be colored different from the phase wires.
    NEC 1968 and 1948

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    London, England
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    The UK colours given above are indeed obsolete, but the change was recent and the colours given are still in widespread use both in the UK and in former British colonies.
    The new British colours are
    Blue------neutral
    brown, black and grey for the 3 phases
    Green/yellow striped for ground (called earth here)

    The old UK colours are still used in former colonies, though white may be used instead of yellow for the middle phase.

    Remember that in many countries colour codes are not taken very seriously !
    Phase and neutral= whatever we have got in stock
    Earth= wots that ?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by broadgage View Post
    The UK colours given above are indeed obsolete, but the change was recent and the colours given are still in widespread use both in the UK and in former British colonies.
    The new British colours are
    Blue------neutral
    brown, black and grey for the 3 phases
    Green/yellow striped for ground (called earth here)
    Perhaps longer than you think. In the current edition of BS7671 (seventeenth edition) it's noted as Amendment No 2: 2004.

    I think the change was an act of sheer and utter utter folly. New installations must comply with the "harmonised" colours. Existing installations had the previous colours so you get this sort of thing where a new installation has to interface with an old one:



    So, depending on the age of the installation, blue could be a live phase, or neutral. Same with black. Or there could be a mixture of both on the same site.
    It's stupid and potentially dangerous. And totally unnecessary.

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