Key Points

  • Wiring color codes can vary based on the region, thus there is no definite answer to where the red wire actually connects.
  • However, there are basic rules of thumb, which can be followed to wire a red wire.
  • Often times you might not encounter a red wire, because of the color code for your specific region.

A wire color code indicates the purpose of each wire in an electrical circuit, according to standards in use since the mid-1900s.

When a cable has only two conductors, like most 120-volt cables do, the white wire is always neutral, and the black wire is always hot. The ground wire is normally kept bare; however, it might be colored green in rare situations.

In this article, I will take you through the details of wiring color codes and etiquettes which you need to follow while wiring up any electrical components with red wires as well as answering the question, “does the red wire connect to black or white?”. So, let’s begin.

Does The Red Wire Connect To Black Or White

What is Split-Tab Wiring?

Split tab wiring is the process of breaking off and removing the tab, isolating the two terminals, and creating two separate receptacles. A split-tab circuit can be wired with any duplex outlet rated for the circuit’s ampacity, with the exception of GFCI and AFCI outlets, which cannot be modified to separate the outlets.

When you look at a standard duplex receptacle, you’ll notice that conducting plates connect the two brass screws and the two chrome screws. The two outlets will work separately if the plate connecting the brass screws is broken or removed.

Split-Tab Receptacle Wiring Diagram
Fig-1: Split-Tab Receptacle Wiring Diagram

One can be powered by a hot wire from a wall switch, while the other can be powered by an always-on hot wire. On a single white wire, the two outputs will share a common return path, as well as a common ground.

Running a three-conductor wire to a wall switch is the typical approach to power a split-tab outlet. A black wire connects directly to the circuit. Does red wire go to white or black? The red wire actually connects to the switch on the cable. The switch is likewise connected to the ground wire, but the white wire is spliced to the circuit neutral wire and bypasses it. So, does the red wire connect to black or white? None. in this case.

Wiring Outlets with Red, White & Black Wires

Before the wiring operations, you must identify which wire is which, and where it has to be connected as well as depending on type of installation you’re doing.

For example, what does the red wire connect to in a light fixture? The “load” wire would be the red wire (controlled by the switch.) It would be linked to the “load’s” black wire (light fixture, switch-controlled outlet, fan, etc.).

Similarly, another question might’ve popped up in your head, “Can I connect red wire to white?” The response in the United States would be no. White is not a combative color. White represents neutral, black represents 120, green represents ground, and red represents the second phase of the mains entering your home.

However, before taking any of these into account, please consider the accurate color code for your country. As color code for different countries can vary from one to another.

But, what to do with red wire if not needed? It is rare for you to encounter a red wire that you will not need. However, when trying to convert 3 phase to single phase or trying to figure out how to wire a 3-way switch with multiple outlets, you might need to reconsider these facts.

However, if you are unsure of what you are doing, please consult an expert electrician. As faulty wiring is one of the main cause for electrical hazards.

Do All Circuits Have Red Wires?

Not necessarily. However, it is completely up to the color code of the specific region you are in.

For example, if you’re wiring an outlet for a 240-volt device like a stove or air conditioner, you’ll also three-conductor cable with a wire gauge of at least 10 AWG. Both the red and black wires are hot in this scenario, and they link straight to the main panel’s circuit breaker. Connect the black wire to one of the outlet’s brass screws – it doesn’t matter which one – and the red wire to the other. Connect the white wire to the chrome terminal and the ground wire to the ground terminal, which should be bare or green.

However, not all outlets are the same. As they are each different, they have different wiring diagrams. The difference between GFCI and regular outlet dictates how each of them need to be wired.


In this article, I have tried to cover most of the common scenarios that might answer the question, does the red wire connect to black or white. As the scenarios vary, so does the answer.

Before proceeding with any electrical operations or installations, please make sure to double check the color code of your household and region, to properly identify which wire is which, as they vary from region to region.