4 Ways To Identify Line and Load Wires

Defining them will help people who have no background in the electrical field.

So How to Identify Line and Load Wires? 

Line wires supply electricity from the main power lines from the utility power company into the electrical switch/device in the building, also known as incoming wires, hot or upstream wires, and the purpose of line wires is to supply electricity to the building. 

Sometimes it might be challenging to differentiate between the line and load wires colors in the electric circuit because different countries use different colors. However, there are ways of identifying the wires in the house.

Most electric wires are insulated to protect the users from electric shocks. Each color on the electric wire has meaning though can, be used interchangeably; the colors range from black, red, yellow, grey, bare copper, brown, blue, white, and green with yellow stripes.

The easiest way of identifying the line/hot and load wires is to check the colors of the insulation. White and grey wires are neutral; green with yellow stripes, green and copper are ground wires, black can be line/upstream wire, red or black are load/downstream.

The white or black are travelers. By mastering the colors used in your country, then it will be easier to identify which is line wire/hot and which is load wire.

4 Ways of how to identify the line wires and neutral wires

1. Position of the wires

Line/incoming wires are always connected to the electrical panel from the bottom, while load wires are from the top. By looking at the position of the connected wire on the panel box, then you will be able to differentiate between the line and load wires in the electrical panel.

Wires on the panel box can guide you well and if in case you cannot get it, then seek advice from a friend or qualified electrician who will be able to guide you in handling the issue safely.

2. Test each wire with a voltage tester

Volt stick/pen detects the voltage without touching bare copper wire; make sure you test every wire that is connected to the switch using a voltage pen. When carrying a test of each wire, consider other people in the house and never leave bare wires hanging anyhow.

When the pen tester glows red light, then that wire is line wire, but when the pen does not glow at all, then that is load wire. A volt stick is an efficient device to use when testing the wire that has the current without unscrewing off the connection of the wire to the meter box.

It is advisable to turn off the power breaker or main switch before carrying out any electrical repairs or installation in the main switch box in your home. Electric repair does not need trial and error; if not handled professionally, then it can cause a fire in the house or electrocution; contact a qualified electrician in case of any complicated issues.

3. Use of digital multimeter to carry out the test

A multimeter is an electrical device used to measure the electric values, voltages, resistance, and current in an electric circuit.If you want to identify the line wire and load wire in your meter or socket, you have to switch on your multimeter knob to AC voltage to read 200 volts.

While the black probe reads COM, and the red is pointing at V (voltage). Hold the insulated terminals of the multimeter and touch the terminals of wires connecting to the switch. If it reads 120 volts, and above then that is the line wire and load wire in your meter box or switches.  Using a multitester/multimeter correctly will solve the issue of identifying the line wires and load wires that might be a big problem identifying them when carrying out repairs.

4. Use of neon screwdriver

A neon screwdriver is a tool that has a form of the screwdriver with neon light inside the transparent plastic handle with a metallic tip used to touch the bare wire or the screws connecting the wire to the meter box or socket.

A neon screwdriver is inserted in the hole of an electric socket, bulb holder, while the finger presses on the metallic cap on the neon screwdriver. Always make sure the power is on while testing the current flow.

If the hot wire is touched, neon glows up, meaning the current is flowing in that wire, and if the neon light doesn’t glow, that means there is no current flowing in that wire.

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What is the difference between line wires and load wires?

Line wires comprise three wires that stand for hot, neutral both are insulated and ground bare wire. While load wires are wires that transmit electricity from the electrical device to other devices within the building, load wires are also known as outgoing or downstream wires.

Load wires comprise hot, neutral, and ground wires similar to line wires. Load wires become line wires in the next receptacle devices in the circuit within the building, and repetition continues. By the time the utility company connects electricity to the panel in your house, it has already stepped down through the electric transformer.

Electric connection is through an electric service panel on the wall located either inside or outside of the building. The incoming main cables can be ground cables or through the electric poles near your house; the utility company uses three insulated wires called hot, neutral, and ground wires of different colors.

The electrical panel service has the main switch used to switch off the power in the entire house. There are several circuit breakers inside the panel that protects and controls various individual circuits in the building, like in the kitchen, stores, bedroom, living room. The power passes through the meter box through load wires, which become line wires in the next device, then repetition continues in every device.

  • Main entry
    By the time the utility company connects electricity to the panel in your house, it has already stepped down through the electric transformer. Electric connection is through an electric service panel on the wall located either inside or outside of the building. The incoming main cables can be ground cables or through the electric poles near your house; the utility company uses three insulated wires called hot, neutral, and ground wires of different colors.The electrical panel service has the main switch used to switch off the power in the entire house. There are several circuit breakers inside the panel that protects and controls various individual circuits in the building, like in the kitchen, stores, bedroom, living room. The power passes through the meter box through load wires, which become line wires in the next device, then repetition continues in every device.
  • Complete circuit
    The way electric power is wired in the building allows the electric current to flow completing, the circuit through line wires to receptacle devices like light fixtures, switches, and other devices, to compete required circuit flow. Line wires connect the electrical service panel, while load connects to the next devices and the flows continue making different devices operate well in the house.

Cause of circuit breaker tripping

There are three reasons why circuit breaker trips, that needs thorough checking when it occurs:

  • Short circuit
    It is the most dangerous circuit; it occurs when the hot wire meets neutral wire causing the circuit breaker to trip; the cause can be due to faulty wiring.
  • Power overloads
    It occurs when an electric appliance that needs 25 amps connects to a circuit of 20 amps will cause an upsurge causing the circuit breaker to trip.
  • Fault surges from the ground
    Ground fault surges occur when the hot wire touches the ground (copper) bare wire causing the electric current to pass through it that circuit cannot handle.

Related Readings:

How To Check if Multimeter Is Working Properly? – 7 Steps

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How To Check If Wire is Broken With a Multimeter? – 4 Steps

Safety rules

There are measures that you ought to apply when handling electric wires in your meter box, switches, bulb holders, or in your electric sockets you should-

  • Before carrying out any maintenance, always plan your work.
  •  Avoid working on wet floors while handling electric work.
  • Wear shoes with rubber soles because they are none conductors.
  • Metallic ladders; should be avoided because they are good conductors.
  • Rubber insulated tools are the best to use always.
  • If you cannot handle the repair, then seek the services of a qualified electrician.
  • Make sure you do not overload the electric outlet; this can cause the circuit breaker to trip, switching off the entire house’s power.
  • Never leave bare wires because they can cause electrocution if they are line and load wires, make sure you cover them with a wire connector at the twisted tip of the connection point or use masking tapes.
  • Always use certified and recommended bulbs, wires, and tools.
  • Never use bare electric wires.
  • Avoid hanging wires over your head while working.
  • Have knowledge of the electrical repair, if you are untrained as an electrician, then seek the services of a qualified electrician; to avoid endangering your life and life of others in the building or even neighborhood.
  • Know the major; hazards when repairing or carrying out maintenance of electricity they are electrocution, burns, electric shock, and even falling from the ladder or electric pole. These injuries are fatal and can cost you your life if you are not careful. Ways of how to identify the line wires and neutral wires
    Sometimes it might be challenging to differentiate between the line and load wires colors in the electric circuit because different countries use different colors. However, there are ways of identifying the wires in the house.
    Most electric wires are insulated to protect the users from electric shocks. Each color on the electric wire has meaning though can, be used interchangeably; the colors range from black, red, yellow, grey, bare copper, brown, blue, white, and green with yellow stripes.

Conclusion

Line and load wires are the main connection wires in the distribution of electricity in the house; these wires play a crucial role in the electric supply of the whole building. The Electrical Circuit breaker panel located at the electrical service panel mounted on the wall of your house is the distribution point of the entire circuit.

These circuit breakers control and also protect devices in case of dangerous electric upsurge breakers cannot allow excess power to pass through it. When an upsurge occurs, the circuit breakers switch off the entire current from passing through.

 

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