Question: I have installed central air and I no longer need to 220v
window AC outlets.
They are wired with romax and the colors of the conductor insulation
are Black, Red, and White.
With the current cost of copper, I hate to replace these runs.
Standard color codes are of course black, white, copper/gnd. If I
rewire this for 110v what colors should I put where? I read somewhere
in the code that you can re-identify a cable with colored tape (green
for instance for the wire used for ground)
So, should I use black-hot white-neutral and red-green taped at each
end for ground? Does this meet NEC code or at least come close??
Thanks in Advance, as always!!
Doesn't meet letter of the code, but I'd not hesitate to do so, myself.
If certainly meets everything but the color and the electrons don't
know the difference. The marking needs to be substantial enough so as
to be relied upon for staying there.
My personal opinion on it is that it is old work, not new and there's no
inspector I've ever seen who wouldn't make reasonable allowance for that...
Others opinions/choices/etc., may differ of course...
I'm talking from the perspective of absolutely strict code compliance
from the perspective of an anal inspector:
Legally, you can't use a black or red wire as neutral, but you
can use white for hot (with suitable marking). You can't use
any of them as ground, nor can you use a bare ground for anything
In other words, you could make the black hot, white neutral, but you
can't use the red as a ground (or neutral).
Also, new/revised work has to be grounded (or equivalent).
"Or equivalent" is your back door:
1) Abandon both ends of the red conductor (cap or tape it off - someday
in the future you might need that red wire again - so don't cut
2) use a GFCI outlet.
3) use black for hot, white for neutral on the "line" side of
Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
I'd recommend the OP check more carefully to see if there is indeed a
bare ground conductor in that Romex, perhaps one that was clipped flush
with the jacket for some reason by the original installer.
If the Romex has a PVC jacket vs. cloth, there should certainly be a
ground conductor in it. The print on the PVC jacket should indicate
something like 12-3 with ground. If the Romex is old enough to have a
cloth jacket then perhaps it really doesn't have a ground, though I've
seen a lot of cloth jacketed Romex that has the expected bare ground
And I've seen a lot of plastic-jacketed romex w/o the ground, too. It
certainly wouldn't be at all hard for all the wiring except the ends
coming out of the handy box and in the panel to be inaccessible to
check, but if can be seen, that would tell OP if he can't tell. But, if
the original installer cut it off so short he can't even tell there was
one there, it really won't help much any way, will it? :)
If it's original construction and it doesn't have a ground he's out of
If it's original construction and the ground was clipped short he's out
of luck unless he has some ambition for more work.
If there is a ground that was clipped short and it's in a remodel box he
can pull the box and potentially have enough slack to reterminate the
box with the ground.
If it really doesn't have a ground, but it was pulled into a remodel box
he may be able to use the wire to pull in new appropriate wire.
How exactly could using a red as a ground hurt anything?
The absolute worst senerio is that someone in the future will be working on
the circuit and find the red isn't hot like he expected, and that the ground
is missing. If he isn't bright enough to put the two together (and the
green tape has fallen off the red wire) he will have to fall back on your
suggestion, but there is no way any harm can result.
At some other point in the circuit, somebody may someday decide to connect a
hot conductor to it, perhaps.
I'll agree that it's unlikely, but as they say, never say never. Categorical
statements are always false. <g>
In any event, whether harm can result or not is moot. It's specifically
prohibited by the NEC.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Thanks for all of the suggestions and comments folks. I truly do
appreciate the input.
To answer a few questions....
The outlet, and the feed to the outlet at the breaker panel, no. The
sub panel is grounded (New sub panel with proper neutral seperation,
No, it's a remodel job that was done and AFAIK, the ground was not
clipped, it's just not there.
The wire appears to be cloth covered, however the conductors appear to
be PVC sheathed.
The only thing I could see in the future would be if someone were to
tap into the line somewhere under the house where there would
obviously be no markings. I'm more concerned about a house inspector
dinging me on this if I ever go to sell the house.
It looks like you've got lots of help with your question about wire color.
I presume that the 220v circuit was protected with a 30A breaker, or such? Be
sure to replace that with an appropriate-sized breaker for your new outlet.
If it's a 20A or 15A receptacle, use a proper breaker of that rating for the
Since this post began I have read 250.119 twice. I see no specific
limitation on taping the red wire green regardless of the size. In fact
250.119(B) specifically permits it under qualified supervision
"Unless required elsewhere in this Code, equipment grounding conductors shall
be permitted to be bare, covered or insulated. Individually covered or
insulated equipment grounding conductors shall have a CONTINUOUS outer finish
that is either green or green with one or more yellow stripes except as
permitted in this section." [2005 NEC, Article 250.119 (emphasis added)]
IOW -- if it's insulated at all, the insulation must be green, or green with
yellow tracer(s), from beginning to end. A wire with red insulation, either
remarked as green at the ends, or stripped bare at the ends, does not qualify
because it does not "have a continuous outer finish that is green or ...".
250.119(A) provides an exception for conductors larger than 6AWG, permitting
them to be reidentified as equipment grounding conductors at the time of
The exception in 250.119(B) applies, in the first place, "where the conditions
of maintenance and supervision ensure that only qualified persons service the
installation." These conditions do not exist in a residential setting.
In the second place, that exception, like the one in 250.119(A), applies at
the time of installation *only*. In no case does the Code permit remarking of
a conductor as an equipment grounding conductor in an *existing* system.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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