Is a Neutral Wire the Same as a Ground Wire

Is a Neutral Wire the Same as a Ground Wire

In the process of installing an electrical network in an apartment or in a house, you will inevitably face the question of what is a neutral wire and grounding? It happens that the neutral wire is the same as the ground wire in color, but the color is not the only difference between them, therefore, in order to find out which of them is who, you need to know the rest of their differences and nuances. In this article, we will help you figure out how you can distinguish a neutral wire from a ground wire.

What is ground and neutral wire

First of all, let’s figure out what is zero and what is a protective wire, what are their differences, and what is their purpose?

What is neutral wire?

First of all, let’s dwell on the zero, or as it is also called the neutral wire. it is designed to power electrical consumers and is connected to the dead-grounded neutral of the transformer.

  • If we speak in simple terms and discard some of the nuances that are not so important to us, then the neutral wire is a conductor connected to the grounded part of the transformer or generator from which you receive power.
  • In a single-phase network, which is used in almost all private households and apartments, a phase and neutral wire is required for the operation of electrical installations. The neutral wire is essentially directly connected to ground and ideally has a zero potential. That is, there is no tension on it.

Note! There is no voltage on the neutral wire if it is connected to ground. If this connection is broken for any reason, then during the operation of the electrical installation it turns out to be under voltage equal to the phase voltage. That is, for a single-phase network equal to 220V.

  • In the diagrams, the neutral wire is designated by the symbol “N”. The old Soviet instruction recommended using the designation “0” and it can still be found on some diagrams. And the wire itself must be a blue wire.

What is ground wire?

The ground or protective conductor is intended solely for electrical safety purposes. Under normal conditions, it is not energized and plays the role of a conductor only in cases of insulation failure of a phase or neutral conductor. At the same time, at the electrical installation itself, it reduces the potential to a bladeless one.

  • In simple terms, grounding is necessary only in case of a breakdown. For example, you have a breakdown in the insulation of your washing machine. If it is not grounded, then touching it is equivalent to touching a phase wire. If it is grounded, then nothing will happen, since the excess potential through the ground will go to the ground.
  • Grounding can be done in different ways, depending on your capabilities and the circuit of the supply network. We will consider this issue below.
  • The protective conductor in the diagrams is usually denoted by the symbols “PE”. The conductor itself must be made of a yellow-green wire.
  • On some diagrams, you may come across the designation “PEN”. This means the alignment of the neutral and protective wires. We will talk about it below. The color of such a wire should be blue with yellow-green stripes at the ends.

What is the difference between neutral and ground

The neutral wire and the ground wire are usually tied together on a cable panel or in a duct. Still, neutral and ground are slightly different wiring principles.

If you try to explain the difference in a few words, then you can say that the neutral wire is the normal or return path of the circuit. The ground wire is a protective conductor to enhance the safety of the human body and electrical equipment. But still, let us consider in more detail how grounding differs from a neutral wire.


  • The neutral wire is directly connected to the neutral point of the power supply system.
  • The ground wire can (but does not have to) be directly connected to the neutral point of the power system.


  • The neutral wire serves as a return conductor.
  • The ground wire can only carry current in the event of a fault.


  • The neutral wire can potentially be significantly far from zero at some point.
  • It is assumed that the ground wire must be at zero potential.


  • The neutral wire is insulated from the pole on which it is supported. In this case, the insulator is smaller than the one that supports the phase conductors.
  • The ground wire does not mount to any insulator, and it is a direct metal contact with metal fasteners.


  • The neutral wire cannot be connected to earth at an intermediate point in the line.
  • The ground wire must be connected to earth at least 3 locations per kilometer or 4 locations per mile.

The result

We paid attention only to the main aspects and tried to clarify the purpose of these conductors. You can get more detailed information about the installation of grounding, neutralization, and ground loops in the following articles on our website.


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