Air Conditioner Wiring Colors
Air conditioning units, while fully protected on the outside by a plastic or metal casing, are a complex web of wires and electronics on the inside. Because of this, virtually any problem with the mechanical function of an air conditioner requires the services of a professional repair technician. Still, if you must plumb the inner workings of an AC unit, it helps to have a grasp of the wiring color codes.
Just as in traffic lighting and traffic signs, red indicates a potential hazard in air conditioning wiring. The red wires transmit 24-volt power to both the heating and cooling mechanisms. Do not approach these wires without first deactivating the air conditioning unit and disconnecting it from all power sources.
With its high visibility, white is used to mark essential air conditioning wires for operation. White wires are involved in the first-stage heating process where the heating element is initially activated.
Lighter than red, the color orange marks wires that activate the heat pump and reversing valve in the air conditioning system. While these mechanisms are activated both during cooling and heating, the orange wiring activates only for cooling.
Part of the cooling apparatus, the yellow wiring in an air conditioning unit indicates first-stage cooling. This process starts the flow of air coolant as well as activates the compressor and condenser.
Like orange, brown-colored wiring activates the heat pump and reversing valve of the AC unit. While orange performs this task during cooling, brown activates these mechanisms while heating.
While the air conditioner may cool or heat air, it would not do anything without a fan. Green is one of the wire colors that regulates the operation of the air conditioning fan. Because this fan runs independently of the heating and cooling mechanisms, it can continue running even if the air conditioner is not active.
The blue wire completes the cooling process, activating the second stage of cooling. This second stage activates a secondary compressor and fan, allowing a greater degree of temperature control.
The air conditioner fan may also feature gray wiring along with, or instead of, green wiring. This wiring performs the same function as green wiring, activating or deactivating the main air conditioner fan, depending on the signal.
The secondary heating mechanisms are regulated by the black wiring. These wires control a secondary heater that provides additional heat as well as additional temperature control.
Sean Russell has been writing since 1999 and has contributed to several magazines, including "Spin" and "Art Nouveau." When not writing, Sean helps maintain community gardens in Silver Lake and Echo Park, California. Russell also worked extensively on the restoration and rejuvenation of public parks in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after damage from 2004-2005 hurricanes.