Red Wire with White Stripe: Decoding Electrical Wiring

Electrical wiring can be a bit of a puzzle, especially with all the different colors involved. If you’ve stumbled upon a red wire with a white stripe during a DIY project, you’re not alone! This unique wire combination has specific meanings and uses within electrical systems.

Let’s unravel the mystery behind this wire and empower you to handle your electrical projects with confidence.

What Does a Red Wire with a White Stripe Mean?

In most electrical codes, a red wire with a white stripe has a few potential meanings:

  • Switched Hot Wire: This is the most common scenario. It signals a wire that carries power from a light switch to a light fixture or other electrical device. When the switch is ON, this wire becomes “hot” or energized.
  • Secondary Hot Wire in a 240-Volt Circuit: In a 240-volt circuit (like for large appliances), the red wire with a white stripe might be a secondary hot wire, used in conjunction with a black hot wire to provide the full 240 volts.
  • Traveler Wire in a 3-Way Switch: Three-way switches (which allow you to control a light from two locations) use “traveler” wires, sometimes marked as red with a white stripe.

Important Note: Electrical codes can vary slightly by region. If unsure, always consult a licensed electrician or your local electrical code for the precise meaning of the wire color combinations in your area.

Where Do You Find Red Wires with White Stripes?

Here are common places where you might encounter these wires:

  • Ceiling Light Fixtures: Wires connected to a ceiling light fixture will often include a switched hot wire, which might be the red wire with a white stripe.
  • Three-Way Switch Wiring: If you’re dealing with a light controlled by two switches, you’ll likely encounter traveler wires, with one potentially being red with a white stripe.
  • Appliance Circuits: Some large appliances using 240-volt circuits might have a secondary hot wire marked in this color combination.

Working Safely with Red Wires with White Stripes

  • Always Turn Off Power: Before working with any wires, the most crucial step is to turn off the power at the circuit breaker. Never assume a wire is not energized.
  • Use a Voltage Tester: Double-check that power is off using a non-contact voltage tester.
  • Consult an Electrician if Unsure: If you’re doing anything more complex than a simple light fixture change, don’t hesitate to call a qualified electrician. Electrical work can be dangerous.

Additional Tips

  • Labeling: If you’re working with multiple wires, label them with masking tape and a marker to avoid confusion. This is super helpful when putting things back together.
  • Wire Nuts: Always use appropriately sized wire nuts to securely connect wires.


Understanding a red wire with a white stripe is an important step in navigating electrical projects safely. Remember, this wire typically indicates a hot or switched hot wire, so always treat it with caution. By following basic safety procedures and consulting expert help when needed, you can tackle your electrical tasks with confidence!


is a seasoned handyman with over 10 years of experience tackling home repairs and renovations. Frustrated by costly contractors, he turned his passion for fixing things into the SpruceSavvy blog to empower homeowners to do it themselves.

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