A cycling and flow of knowledge and ideas.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A Power Translation

While I was looking into various items and options in a consumer unit or breaker panel, I noted the difference in terms used in North America. Predominantly these are terms used in the USA and UK. I decided that I would compile a table allowing a comparison of some of the common terms used in domestic electrical systems.  It also helps to vaguely highlight some of the differences in design and implementation of regulations.

Here is a quick translation table for a simplistic comparison of terms between the UK and the USA

USA Terminology

UK Terminology
  • Ground (normally bear wire or Green)
  • Earth (green/yellow sleeving)
  • Hot (normally Black but could be also Red in 240v circuits)
  • Live (normally Brown but also Red)
  • Neutral or Grounded conductor (normally white)

  • Neutral (normally Blue but also Black)
  • Traveller wire (3 cores + or - ground)
  • 3 core & earth (exactly as stated)
  • Radial circuit
  • Radial circuit
  • - No equivalent -
  • Ring Main
  • - No equivalent -
  • Fused Spur
Circuit Breaker Panel Consumer Unit
  • Main Breaker.
  • Isolator Switch
  • Circuit breaker.
  • Miniature Circuit breaker (MCB)
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
  • Residual Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB)
  • Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)
  • - No Equivalent -
  • Combination type Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (Combo AFCI)
  • {Implemented in some parts of Europe but not UK as yet} Arc Fault Detecting Device (AFDD)
  • - No equiv but AFCI often have GFCI/CB abilities
  • Residual Current Breaker with overload (RCBO)
USA Domestic fittings UK Domestic fittings
  • Outlet or Receptacle.
  • Socket (normally includes switch)
  • GFCI receptacle
  • Residual Current Device (RCD) Socket
  • AFCI receptacle
  • - No equivalent -
  • - No equivalent -
  • Ceiling rose
  • - No equivalent - but like terminal box
  • Junction box (screw terminals)
  • Wire nut
  • - not used - screw terminal/clamp or crimp
  • Wago (Technically, this is a trademark of manually operated spring loaded clamp)
  • Wago (Technically, this is a trademark of manually operated spring loaded clamp)
  • Light switch
  • Light switch
  • 3 way switch
  • 2 way switch
  • 4 way switch
  • Intermediate switch


  1. Thank you so much for this translation! You might literally be saving lives with this - what if someone from the UK didn't know what a "hot" wire was? Scary to think about!

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