Standard Wire Colors for Electrical Panels

I know that this topic has been discussed in many other forums but I had a conversation with a customer recently that got my blood pressure up so I thought I would take a few moments to write a post and vent..

It is 2020 and some panel designers here in the USA are still making up wire colors? Really??

News flash folks..there are national and international standards where this has all been discussed and decided years ago. Technically speaking you can use just about whatever color you want if you really want to..but why would you? 

Here in the USA the most commonly used standard is the NFPA 79 , this is an electrical standard for industrial machinery. This standard was derived from the NFPA 70 and is referenced in article 670. As of this writing the most current edition of the NFPA 79 is edition 2018 and it gets updated every few years, you can even read the current edition online for FREE, so now you don’t have an excuse for not reading it!

For readers in the rest of the developed world you will want to refer to IEC 60445.

Identification of Conductors

I will direct your attention to section 13.2 which discusses this topic in detail which I will paraphrase here:

Equipment Grounding Conductor
Green or Green with Yellow Stripe
and of course there are several exceptions..

Grounded AC Conductor (N)

White, Gray, and one other that you really should read for yourself in the standard.

Ungrounded AC & DC Power Conductors

Ungrounded AC Control Conductors

Ungrounded DC Control Conductors

Grounded DC Control Circuit Conductor
White with Blue stripe

Now I have seen this in many panels as blue with a white stripe but the standard actually says White with a Blue stripe. I have heard folks complain that this wire is hard to purchase or some other rubbish. Just about any large wire supplier has the ability to provide you with this wire, even if its not on the website, just ask them. Most suppliers will simply load a spool of white MTW into a machine that paints whatever color stripe you want onto the wire. I should also point out that Automation Direct has sold this wire for several years.

Conductors that remain energized when the main supply is disconnected.
(Read the standard for the details)

Ungrounded AC Conductor: Orange

Grounded AC Conductor:White with Orange Stripe

This is one that I have used for ESTOPS that travel from panel to panel. In most cases this will also require special labels on the enclosure door and other considerations. A few years ago the standard also included Yellow but it appears that this has been removed in the current edition which also means the image at the top of the blog is out of date. 

Three Phase

Oh.. but in the place I used to work we used BRN, ORG, YEL for 480VAC and  BLK, RED, BLU for 240VAC.. Sure you still can do what you want but you will need to add a label to the inside of the cabinet warning folks and now your panel has a mash-up of wire colors.  In the NFPA world all power circuits use black wires. Don’t know what voltage they are on sight? Get your meter out and check them first, if you are about to touch them I hope they are 0V. 

One more thing..I know that the installing electricians like to pull the colored wires when installing equipment, this help helps them save time when identifying phase conductors, that is until they get into a pull with more than 5 wires or until they run out of one of the colors, then wires get black very quickly. 

Authority Having Jurisdiction: AHJ

Lets never forget about the AHJ. The definition of which can be found in Annex A,  Section A.3.2.2

This boils down to AHJ = Your Electrical Inspector and/or your Customer. This means that they CAN get what they want and you should always ask them what they expect, do not assume. BUT..ALWAYS mention that there are national standards for this and by adopting them they will simplify the design process, decrease sources of confusion and increase product safety. Yes, I know that its a bit of a sales job, but welcome to reality.

Non Standard Colors

When non-standard wire colors are used they need to be permanently identified with a label on the inside of the electrical cabinet. (NFPA 79

 Still don’t believe me?

I have provided a link below to the NFPA website where you can find a link to the free viewer that they provide.

I will also provide here a link to an excellent design guide that is provided by EATON.


if you don’t like clicking link on strangers websites the URL is here..

Missing Report Pages

So everything was working great just a few minutes ago but something happened and now you can’t see any of your report pages.. they were just there!

Thus begins your OH SHIT moment.. Fear not young Padawan!

A solution is at hand!


The Page Navigator has a page filter, make sure that your is set to NOT ACTIVATED.



Now would be a good time to review the available filters and see what they do, if you like what they do and think that you might want to use them some day, review the name and determine if it makes sense to you. If it takes a few moments for you to look at the name to understand what the filter does, you should consider changing the name.

I will also suggest that if a default page filter does not provide any value to you, you should consider deleting it to avoid moments like this in the future.

Have a great day!

Sensor Macros

When considering macro representations always remember that even though the Data Portal may not have the exact part that you are looking for, it almost certainly has parts that are very similar to the part that you are looking for. These parts can be searched for using general search terms and used as a reference.

Now, as in everything in life, not all parts on the data portal are created equal. Some are excellent and some are a bit less than awesome and most will need some adjustments to make you happy, especially the NFPA designers.

Here are a few examples of various types of sensors and how a the graphical macro might differ based on the actual device construction:

EX1: Sensor or Device that is Field Wired

A device that requires point to point field wiring such as a limit switch.

Devices like this are often created without a graphical macro, instead they use the function template properties to define the available functions in the device. These functions then correspond to a standard electrical symbol for each function, in the case of a limit switch this might be a normally open and a normally closed contact.

If the designer instead chooses to create a graphical macro to represent the device, a window macro is often created that works well with the design style in use. At  minimum this macro will often include a black box, a macro box and connection points of some sort. 

Be sure to place the insertion points of the various connection points inside the macro black box or alternately include them in the macro selection.

These symbols represent wire connection points so remember to use device connection points, not terminals which look very similar.

Example Part: OMR.WLCA2-7-N

(Includes Link to Data Portal)

EX2: A Device with a Plug Port

This is a very common representation of a sensor that is found in just about every project, it should be very clear that the sensor includes a plug port or receptacle (some here in the USA call this a Jack) and it should clearly represent that it is intended to mate to a plug on the end of a cable.  

Make sure to get the plug symbol sex correct and make sure that the insertion points of the symbols are on or inside the black box.

The graphics shown here can be nice to have but they are not required, adding them can also make it harder to reuse them for other similar parts and its one more thing that can be identified at the end of the project that might need to be corrected.

Example Part: IFM.KI5085

EX3: A Device with supplied cable and fly leads

This represents a type of device that is commonly encountered that is provided with a length of multi-conductor cable. This device  comes with factory terminated connections on the device side of the cable and loose or fly lead connections on the other.

Because a lead cable is provided with this part, it is important to illustrate that in the macro design so that it is clear to all (including yourself at a later date). In this case the designer created the black box and added device connection points with no graphics (hidden) to represent the direct wired connections.  Standard symbols can also be added as graphics to help communicate the function and functions of the device.

Example Part: GAN.139.1-49-101-CK-2

Now like I said earlier, not all macros are created with the attention that they might deserve. 

Just like the previous device this device also comes supplied with a length of cable. However if you only looked at the macro you might think that this is a field wired device with no supplied cable. I am not trying to shame anyone here, just want to point out that some methods are better than others for certain devices.

Example Part: A-B.872C-D10NP30-J2

EX4: Device with included cable with Plug

In this example we have a device with an included cable with a factory terminated plug in which all the internal conductors are shown.. Now this is where you need to make a decision, do you show the internal conductors or not?

Most users would ever need to trouble shoot the internal conductors, so you may wonder why they are shown and decide not to show them yourself. However for EPLAN to be able to understand and communicate the full logic of the connections it needs the full details of all the connections. If you do not use or require these detailed capabilities you could also represent this connection as a single connection. For basic reporting purposes it will work fine, but once you go down this path you are committing to it and if you decide later to use error checking (EPLAN Messaging) you will find that EPLAN can tell that what you did graphically does not make sense logically.

Example Part: SICK.1072612

Here is a similar device with a macro that leaves room for confusion. Now logically the macro is correct and all device connections are shown, however you can probably imagine that most people who look at this macro would have no idea that the device includes a supplied cable.

Example Part: FES.570134

I hope this has been helpful for you.

Assigning / Changing Part Numbers

An EPLAN user recently asked me how to change or assign a part number in EPLAN and I thought that I would share my response with you as it may help others.  There are MANY different ways to accomplish this task in EPLAN and the best answer for you will always depend on your particular use case. Get to know all the different methods and then the best solution for your particular instance will reveal itself.

As I said there are MANY different ways to accomplish this task in EPLAN, I will discuss only the most common methods coffee is almost gone.

Assign/Change a part number using Device Selection
EPLAN has a special tool built in that makes it simple to either assign a part number or to exchange a part number. This tool uses information assigned in the parts manager to identify the type of device you have selected and then to filter the parts database to similar items, in particular the product group and the function definition. This means that when you select something like a circuit breaker symbol and then use device selection, EPLAN will filter the parts database and only show you part numbers for circuit breakers, this makes it very easy to find the part number that you want to assign to a symbol.

  • Select a symbol in your design.
  • Double left mouse click to bring up the device properties
  • At the bottom left of the dialog, select [Device Selection]
  • In the main parts window, right click and select Configure
  • Representation to configure the display with the part data that is of interest to you.
  • Select the desired part number to assign
  • Select the BLUE ARROW to assign the part number
  • [OK] to accept the changes

Exchange (Change) Part Numbers
For the typical user changing a part number that has been assigned to a device can be accomplished with several tools built into EPLAN.

At the main menu select: Project Data > Parts/ Devices > Bill of materials navigator. Also note that if you have more than one project open you will need to select the project of interest in the navigator.

You can view the part assignments using either the [TAB] view or the [List] view.

The Bill of materials navigator will present to you a list of all the parts in the current project parts database.

  • Find and select the part number that you wish to change, the tool can “exchange” all instances of a particular part or only the ones that you select.
  • Select a part in the tree view.
  • Double click on the item to expand the selection. As you do you will see the current DT in use (if assigned) and one or more instances.
  • Right Click on the desired part, Select “exchange part” from the menu
  • Select a new part number from the system parts manager
  • [OK] to overwrite the updated part info to the item

Exchange (Change) Several Part Numbers

You can also select a part number in the navigator and exchange all current instances of the part in your project.

  • Find and select the part number that you wish to change, the tool can “exchange” all instances of a particular part or only the ones that you select.
  • Select a part in the tree view.
  • Find the parent part number OR the parent DT that you wish to exchange in the navigator. 
  • Right Click and select “exchange part” from the menu
  • Select a new part number from the system parts manager
  • [OK] to overwrite the updated part info to the item

At the parent DT level the graphical preview can or will display the image of the part that is or was assigned in the parts manager database when this part was added.

I hope that helped you..