Before we get into how an orange power outlet works, let’s go over what they mean.
The Meaning of Orange
Orange outlets mean that the ground is isolated and not connected to the outlet’s yoke or mounting strap to provide “clean” power. Indicated by the small green triangle on the outside of the outlet.
NOTE: Even though these outlets are orange, they do sell white isolated ground outlets to better match home decor.
The outlets require a separate grounding pathway back to the electrical panel, which leads to less EMI (electromagnetic interference PDF) or noise.
Why should you be concerned about EMI / noise?
The main reason to be concerned about EMI is that in some electronic equipment EMI can cause data loss or errors. Making them ideal for lifesaving equipment where a power interruption could be very dangerous.
But, in reality, residential homes typically do not require orange electrical outlets and wiring.
What orange electrical outlets are used for:
- High profile computer systems like banks, industrial, and data centers
- Hospitals & healthcare buildings
- Backup power systems – residential and commercial
- Heavy equipment like compactors
- Extensive A/V home theatre rooms – reducing static noise or “hum.”
- Movie theatres
You will often see 30-Amp, 250v orange receptacles in commercial applications with a twist-lock design. This is because the outlet is powering essential equipment, and there is less chance of something being accidentally unplugged.
How Orange Electrical Outlets Work
To understand how an orange electrical outlet works, we need to review a standard power outlet. This video will provide an excellent visual:
The main takeaway is watching him test for continuity.
Continuity is an uninterrupted pathway for the flow of current. A simple example would be a light switch. The current can not flow through the circuit when open, so the light remains off. Once you flip the switch and allow the current to flow, you complete the circuit and have continuity.
If you want to test continuity (PDF), run a test with an electronic multimeter- which will send a small amount of voltage through the circuit to determine the resistance.
NOTE: Before testing any circuit, make sure it is de-energized, and if you’re working on 50 volt or more electrical systems, follow OSHA and NFPA 70 safety protocols.
A meter equipped with a continuous beeper will briefly sound out when it senses the existence of a closed circuit. The amount of resistance required to trigger the beeper/sounder varies according to the manufacturer of the meter. However, most will show continuity using an ohm range between 0-50.
Another takeaway from the video is orange electrical outlets require a separate wire for grounding. This wire goes from the orange outlet back to the panel. At the panel, it connects to a busbar that is connected to a grounding rod outside.
So, if you have an older house experiencing static on a new audio system, unfortunately, adding an orange power outlet will not help you since you don’t have the isolated ground wire going back to the panel. It could work if you’re able to pull the extra wire.
Wiring an Orange Outlet
The wiring configuration for an orange outlet with an isolated ground receptacle starts with a 3-wire cable along with a ground wire.
The white neutral wire connects to the silver-colored terminal, and the bare ground wire connects to the ground screw on the metal electrical box.
The red wire is used as an isolated ground for the orange receptacle; it is connected to its ground screw (usually green in color). It is then marked with green phasing tape (at both ends) to indicate an individual ground wire. As in some instances, a red could be used as a secondary hot wire.
The black hot wire connects to the brass-colored terminal on the receptacle.
The bare ground wire and the green-taped red wire connect to the ground bus in the electrical panel.
Sometimes there is only a neutral bus in the panel, which is bonded to the case of the electrical panel. This allows the neutral and ground connection to be at the same potential, making this connection a neutral/ground relationship. If possible, though, a ground connection directly to the grounding bus, which is connected to a ground rod, is preferred. This ground connection between the isolated-ground receptacle’s ground connection and the electrical panel’s grounding or neutral bus provides a dedicated ground path for electricity to flow without electromagnetic interference.
Note: Many applications involving orange isolated ground receptacles include particular installation requirements that may not be met by the simple example described here. You should always consult a professional and make sure work is inspected to meet electrical codes.
You most likely don’t need an orange electrical outlet for your home. Even if you’re getting some noise on a new home AV system. There are usually easier and cheaper solutions.
A quick and easy solution is to plug every electronic device connected to the circuit with noise into one power strip, which is connected to a single outlet. This will eliminate the possibility of a “ground loop” caused by connecting interconnected devices to multiple outlets. Ground loops create noise through ground imbalance and magnetic induction (PDF).