UK- USA Electrical Differences

British vs. American Electric Terms

Almost 5% of visitors to my site are from the UK. To help them feel more at home, I offer this UK- USA Electrical Differences chart.

Within a country there will be some variation in electrical terminology, but between two that have the same language, the generally accepted lingo can be markedly different. In the electrical trade, some of this is due to actual differences in materials, installation, and regulations.

Here are some differences that I have been able to gather from several sites on the internet (not from any experience by me abroad). Please offer me additions. corrections, and comments (feedbk "at" thecircuitdetective dott com), especially if you are a tradesperson or do have dual-nation experience. Also see my American home electrical glossary.

UK US / Canada Comments
Tension Voltage
Domestic Residential
Mains Utility power
Electrics Electrical Matters
Point Location
Supplies Service
Consumer unit Panel
Miniature circuit breaker Circuit breaker
RCBO GFI breaker
Ring main or ring circuit n/a
Radial circuit Branch circuit
Core Wire
Live Hot This is hotter (230v to earth) in UK than in USA (120v)
Neutral Neutral
Earth Ground
Multi-strand Stranded A core/wire type
2 core and earth:
Pre-2004:
  red, black,
  green/yellow.
Post-2006:
  brown, blue,
  green/yellow
2-wire with ground:
  black, white,
  bare/green
Wires in cables:
 Neutral is:
  black or blue (UK)
  white (US)
 Ground is:
  green/yellow (UK)
  bare or green (US)
3 core and earth:
Pre-2004:
  blue, yellow, red,
  green/yellow.
Post-2006:
  gray, black, brown,
  green/yellow
3-wire with ground:
  black, white, red,
  bare/green
Mounting box Outlet box
Junction box Junction box
Ceiling rose Ceiling light box
n/a Wirenut UK terminations are part of device or fixture
One-way (Single location) Switch system
Two-way (Two locations) Switch system
Changeover Three-way Switch type
Powerpoint Receptacle outlet
Double plug socket Duplex receptacle
Socket Receptacle
RCD GFI (GFCI) 30ma trip-setting in UK, 5ma in USA
Fitting Fixture Lights
Flex Cord

So a UK visitor here may wonder if my website is of any use for, say, troubleshooting UK electrical problems. Good question. For specifics, I would say no, since the applicability of things here in the colonies to back home will never be certain. But for basic concepts and approaches to troubleshooting, I would say yes. I'm thinking especially of the overall approach in the Troubleshooting page.

I am fascinated and unsure how problems on a ring circuit would be troubleshot. One bad connection along the ring wouldn't make itself known until a second one on the same line (live or else neutral) showed up. If one of the two were discovered, the other should be pursued also, but finding either would be a bit different than what I suggest about Locating an open.

Yes, UK- USA electrical differences are more than just a difference in words.