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A random thought about The Lost Art of Steam Heating book.

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JohnNY
JohnNY Member Posts: 3,231
edited May 2023 in Strictly Steam
I occasionally flip through the pages of Dan's books. Especially The Lost Art. I like that I frequently re-learn something or am reminded of something I haven't had to deal with in a while. Recently, I read a line that struck a chord with me. On page 270, under the title A Final Thought on Vapor Heating is this: "There's not a heating season that goes by where I don't learn more about this old stuff. I honestly love it, but I never feel completely comfortable with it because I continually come across things I've never seen before."

This is the struggle of steam and trying to make a living at being among the best at it. I'm a very good steam guy. I know I am. Sorry if that sounds like boasting but I get to compare myself to a lot of other contractors in my market and I know my place on that spectrum.
I don't get stumped anymore. I don't do unnecessary tasks anymore and I don't waste my clients' time or money with trial-and-error or mechanical experiments. I'm in a good place.

But then there are moments when I'm looking at something and I'm at a complete loss and it's disturbing. It happens. Those are the times when I reach out to another pair of eyes or just bring my brother out to listen to me say things out loud. Sometimes verbalizing my internal monologue and trying to make my words make sense to others helps.

In short, steam is simple and yet can be incredibly difficult, but like all things mechanical, it's important to be methodical and bring all concerns to resolution one at a time.

Reading Dan's words helped me get through some stuff this week.

Have a good springtime, all.

John Cataneo

Thanks, Dan.
Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
Consulting & Troubleshooting
Heating in NYC or NJ.
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Mad Dog_2ratioPC7060mattmia2Alan (California Radiant) ForbesErin Holohan HaskellEdTheHeaterManDan Foley
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Comments

  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,652
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    I love what I don't know.
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 4,050
    edited May 2023
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    I don't get stumped anymore.
    But then there are moments when I'm looking at something and I'm at a complete loss and it's disturbing.
    Just being candid: Those two quotes don't get along. Do you mean that you get some situations where you don't know the answer right away, but that always in the end, you find it?

    Hot water heating is already tough, steam is a sea change.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,109
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    Johnny...I feel the exact same way.  Everytime I reread a section, my understanding goes deeper...never fails...many light bulb 💡 moments!
    Any time you think you're Mike Tyson...There's a Buster Douglas out there in a Boiler room.  What I get a kick out of is seeing hybrid installations previous installers did, that are very unorthodox but work fine.  I see that on consultations often..especially on two-pipe systems.  I'm like "wow! This is wacky,  but the guy understood "The Steam" Or Gravity !!"
    Lost Art is one of the greatest books I've ever read, and I've read extensively on many subjects.  It was a Water Shed moment for me and our industry.  I 'splain to Clients how "Huge" this book was/is and that Dan is the Billy Joel of OUR industry.  They need to be told. I go further, I  know if no other industry or profession that has a Dan Holohan...a regular guy from Hicksville Long Island  who educated the masses of his industry in such a momentous way.  He won't admit it, but all of his works are pure genius.  He took complex engineering terminogy and drawings and made them easily understandable to the common man...and he made you laugh 😆 at the same time.  He made his characters part of our psyche.
    Doug Starbuck, Ed Bratton, Bob Steinhardt ; Gil Carlson,  Jake Greenwood, Al & Rich Levi, TLM, his Daughters,  et al. You've left your mark....a  Fantastic legacy, Dan!  
    CLamb
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,335
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    Hi @JohnNY , I like it that you get inspiration from Dan's book. He spices up the technical information with wisdom... and a little magic! ... I'm supposed to be pretty good with hot water, yet there are jobs where I really have no idea how this problem is going to be solved. I was once told that I was the eighth plumber called to deal with a stubborn problem. Sometimes it takes multiple visits, but the problems do get solved and everybody is happy. Often it takes trying to get into the heads of the people who touched it before you. That's tricky when you find stuff like this red wire nut. Guess if I have a point it's that even if you're really good, there will always be challenges, so life isn't ever boring! And, this seems to be universal. Einstein never ran out of challenges.

    Yours, Larry
    Mad Dog_2PC7060EdSheridan
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,174
    edited May 2023
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    @Larry Weingarten - ok, I’ll bite.  What the story behind the red wire nut?  :)
    Mad Dog_2CLamb
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,335
    edited May 2023
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    Hi @PC7060 , It's just that whoever did this had no idea of color coding. White, red and black going into that nut? ... Could be confusing. All they forgot is the bare copper :D That's the sort of thing that keeps life interesting.

    Yours, Larry
    Mad Dog_2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    Hi @PC7060 , It's just that whoever did this had no idea of color coding. White, red and black going into that nut? ... Could be confusing. All they forgot is the bare copper :D That's the sort of thing that keeps life interesting.

    Yours, Larry


    It's very common to use it as such when wiring a switch.

    It also looks like there's a red stripe on the wire no?

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Today's wiring could have a red trace indicating that is the neutral for a red circuit.
    ID of a neutral with it's hot conductor is now required, often done with trace colors on the neutral matching the hot......or not....just cable tie the two together in the panel will usually suffice.

    This is far before that code though.

    You may use the white as a switch leg/loop if using a cable with only black and white.
    We usually sharpie mark the white wire at a switch and the source to indicate that it is hot.

    It seems silly in that if you are an experienced electrician you know it could be hot.....if not experienced then you might wonder what the marking is for.

    But when you have raceway such as this appears to have, then the proper colors should be used.

    And if it is part of a factory installed circuit then all these rules are thrown out.
    Mad Dog_2
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,258
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    Or someone turned a 120V circuit into a 240 by using the white wire?
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Mad Dog_2
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,231
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    ChrisJ said:



    It's very common to use it as such when wiring a switch.

    It also looks like there's a red stripe on the wire no?

    I had a guy working for me that used to reverse the black and white wires at the fixture/pump... as he said "to show it is a switched circuit". I never got it but he insisted it's the way to do it. He didn't last long for other reasons.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
    ChrisJMad Dog_2
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,335
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    Hi, I use a sniffer on everything. I've found green wire actually being hot. Just another way to keep from getting bored. :p

    Yours, Larry
    PC7060Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,109
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    I had a guy that worked for my for several years.   He was mechanically fearless, but but would tackle anything whether he had any business doing it or not..." We do!" Was his reply to any queries from a HO.  I checked his work all the time and the craftsmanship was excellent.  However, He would take on side jobs anywhere, anytime, anyhow....no license, no insurance,  no worries....When he hit a wall, he'd call me to come and bail him out.  He one time wired up 6 hot water zones and a Whole boiler and everything was reversed:  Black was Nuetral and white was Hot 🔥.   Another time he installed and oil boiler but no Firematic Valve.  "Badges??? We don't need no stinkin" badges!!"  Ha ha.  Mad Dog  🐕 🤣 
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,109
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    Ive worked with very good electricians that PURPOSEFULLY made their wiring enigmatic and confusing for the next guy. Job security? Boredom?  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    Mad Dog_2 said:

    Ive worked with very good electricians that PURPOSEFULLY made their wiring enigmatic and confusing for the next guy. Job security? Boredom?  Mad Dog 🐕 


    We have a word for people like that.
    It starts with an A and ends with an E.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 2,007
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    ChrisJ said:
    Ive worked with very good electricians that PURPOSEFULLY made their wiring enigmatic and confusing for the next guy. Job security? Boredom?  Mad Dog 🐕 
    We have a word for people like that. It starts with an A and ends with an E.
    Adorable 🤔🤔???
    ChrisJPC7060Alan (California Radiant) Forbesttekushan_3
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    ChrisJ said:

    Mad Dog_2 said:

    Ive worked with very good electricians that PURPOSEFULLY made their wiring enigmatic and confusing for the next guy. Job security? Boredom?  Mad Dog 🐕 


    We have a word for people like that.
    It starts with an A and ends with an E.


    Adorable 🤔🤔???

    Absolutely!
    And there's no shortage of a......adorable people in this world.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    STEAM DOCTOR
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 2,007
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    Of course. Every time one of my fellow New York drivers does not like my driving, they will not fail to roll down the window and remind me how adorable I am!! But certainly agree with you @ChrisJ. Have the misfortune and the challenge of following up on the adorables on a regular basis.
    ChrisJ
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,159
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    Wire numbers+ letters, (tic testers/sniffers), legends in a boiler room for schematics, wire numbers, multi conductor cables and wire in one inch 3 ring binder notebooks with plastic sheet protectors for the person following you and keeping a copy for yourself, avoid using orange (International Grounding) for separate a ground wire like the plague.


    hot_rodLarry Weingarten
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,545
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    Thanks, guys. 
    Retired and loving it.
    mattmia2
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,518
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    Well said. When I reread something again in the book, I feel like a light bulb goes on. It is definitely not a one and done book.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    BobCMad Dog_2ttekushan_3
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    As far as reversing the colors in a cable for a switch, if the power cable comes into a light fixture then the white neutral would feed the light fixture....the hot black of that cable would tie to the white in the cable that goes down to the switch. Both ends of that cable should be marked with sharpie/paint to denote that it is a hot wire.

    The black coming from the switch would then feed the light fixture.

    The intent of this is so that only a black would supply the fixture as hot.

    If two whites went to the light then one would not know which was hot.

    It is important that the white/neutral connect to the shell of an incandescent socket so even if the switch is turned on you are exposed only to the neutral if you try to unscrew the bulb.

    The hot would be the center of the socket and you would have to stick your finger well into the socket to get a shock. (yes, this has happened ;) , there are people seeking the Darwin award)

    This has been such for almost 100 years trying to keep people from being electrocuted.
    neilcbburdMad Dog_2
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
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    No Sharpie needed.
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
    JohnNY
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,109
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    I think I've had 5 copies and recently bought Revised.  I always keep one up.in Catskills Deer Camp, one in the 🚚 truck, one in the home office, one in the Office-Office.  Two fell apart.  Mad Dog 🐕 🤣 
    STEAM DOCTOR
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,109
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    That book, The Lost Art, has an other worldly magic to it.  No..I'm not taking LSD....ha ha...It's like a trusted Old Friend.  I have a few other books 📚 in my life that I've  read, that I was totally enthralled on every page, and that became part of my soul.  This is one of them.  Its THAT good.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    BobCSTEAM DOCTORLarry Weingartenbburd
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 663
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    My original autographed copy lives in my brief case. My later spiral bound Revisited copy is within arm's reach on my bookshelf.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,591
    edited May 2023
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    That book was immensly helpful to my career. I bought it to prepare myself to install my boiler correctly, eventually. But in reality, It helped me stand out when interviewing 14 years ago for my current job of maintaining 2000 horsepower worth of boilers (4) in a brand new facility. Several months into this job, the 500 pound Burnham IN5 I ordered online landed on the receiving dock.

    My boss looked at it and asked, " youre going to install your own boiler? In your house!?! Are you kidding?"
    I said, sure! Why should you trust me to work our boilers if I cant work on my own? You wouldnt take your car to mechanic who doesnt work on his own car, would you?
    bburdLarry WeingartenMad Dog_2
  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 522
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    When you look and don't see,or listen but don't hear , it's time to open The Book and get reacquainted with those that came before you..the Dead Men .... Written by the Teacher 😉
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
    SlamDunkMad Dog_2
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,231
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    JUGHNE said:

    As far as reversing the colors in a cable for a switch, if the power cable comes into a light fixture then the white neutral would feed the light fixture....the hot black of that cable would tie to the white in the cable that goes down to the switch. Both ends of that cable should be marked with sharpie/paint to denote that it is a hot wire.

    The black coming from the switch would then feed the light fixture.

    The intent of this is so that only a black would supply the fixture as hot.

    If two whites went to the light then one would not know which was hot.

    It is important that the white/neutral connect to the shell of an incandescent socket so even if the switch is turned on you are exposed only to the neutral if you try to unscrew the bulb.

    The hot would be the center of the socket and you would have to stick your finger well into the socket to get a shock. (yes, this has happened ;) , there are people seeking the Darwin award)

    This has been such for almost 100 years trying to keep people from being electrocuted.

    @Alan (California Radiant) Forbes's drawing makes perfect sense to me. I guess you're saying his method makes the light socket threads hot as opposed to the base center and that's less safe. Hmmm.

    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Alan's drawing does make perfect sense, IF the power supply cable comes into the switch box.

    And his drawing will connect the black to the hot lead of the fixture and the white to the white/neutral lead (threaded shell) of the factory leads that come with fixtures.

    The situation I stated above was IF the power supply cable came into the light fixture junction box with another cable dropped down to the switch.

    In this scenario then the switch cable would have the functions of the black and white reversed and thus should be marked with the dreaded "Sharpie".

    Power supplies are often run around the attic and enter the light fixture JB with a switch leg dropped to switches. This often results in less material and labor.

    The most time involved in typical house wiring rough-in is making up joint connections.
    If most of the joints are concentrated at the ceiling box then that cuts down on time.
    The disadvantage is working off a ladder.

    I believe this is correct. If not then there are a lot of mis-wired houses done by me since 1967. ;)
    JohnNYhot_rodAlan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    JohnNY said:


    @Alan (California Radiant) Forbes's drawing makes perfect sense to me. I guess you're saying his method makes the light socket threads hot as opposed to the base center and that's less safe. Hmmm.

    Both a code violation and significantly less safe. Neutral must be connected to the shell.

    There are also numerous rules about identifying the grounded and ungrounded conductors. Painting or taping it not white or gray when you use a pre made cable for a switch loop is a code requirement.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
    edited May 2023
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    Keep in mind,
    Even if every wire was the same color anyone doing electrical work should be able to figure out which wire is hot and which isn't.

    Telling the difference between ground and neutral could be more difficult of course but not impossible.

    We use color codes to try and make things fast, easy and as fool proof as possible.
    Even then, some have issues.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    ChrisJ said:

    Keep in mind,
    Even if every wire was the same color anyone doing electrical work should be able to figure out which wire is hot and which isn't.

    Telling the difference between ground and neutral could be more difficult of course but not impossible.

    We use color codes to try and make things fast, easy and as fool proof as possible.
    Even then, some have issues.

    Colors are also necessary to identify multiple circuits in the same enclosure or even just different phases of the same circuit.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    mattmia2 said:

    ChrisJ said:

    Keep in mind,
    Even if every wire was the same color anyone doing electrical work should be able to figure out which wire is hot and which isn't.

    Telling the difference between ground and neutral could be more difficult of course but not impossible.

    We use color codes to try and make things fast, easy and as fool proof as possible.
    Even then, some have issues.

    Colors are also necessary to identify multiple circuits in the same enclosure or even just different phases of the same circuit.

    100% necessary?
    Or, just make life a lot easier?

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
    edited May 2023
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    The National Electrical Code is often called the "Book of Exceptions".

    As far as colors/marking goes, neutrals must be white, gray or white with trace color.
    (but if larger than #6 may be colored tape or paint ID)

    Grounds are green or bare, usually.

    Hots can be any color......except the wild/high leg of 3 phase Delta systems must be orange...IF it is accessible in a J-box that contains a neutral conductor. So all wilds must be orange (usually), but not all oranges are wild......voltmeter time.

    (Because that would give you a 200 to 225 volt to ground, that is why it is "Wild" leg, and makes short work of any 120 VAC device you might plug in if you use that leg. This has been proven....not by me...but by usually carpenters trying their hand at wiring.)

    The code "suggests" color combinations for different phases of 120/240 and another for 480/277 systems.
    So far still only a suggestion.

    Also "suggests" keeping the same color thru out the building for each circuit or phase.

    But if you need just another 50' or so to finish up and run out of the favored color, it is a good time to clean out the truck of those short rolls of copper. So that happens and everyone is aware of it.

    Actually the more colors the better....."lets see I have a blue, red, yellow in this pipe (with neutrals as needed), the building is finished, there are 20 hidden conduits I see going to other JB's, I will look for a pipe that has this random color combination in it." Logical right?

    The color coding ends at equipment with factory wiring, they have their own colors....if any.

    A boiler control box with some form of flame guard system might have 30-40 black wires entering it.
    They are numbered wires and most of the numbers are lying in the bottom of the control box.
    And a bunch of hacked up connections have been done.

    So in updating the flame guard control, I rewire all the controls with colored wire.
    There is the chance to use up all short pieces of 14 gauge stranded colors that have acquired.
    PC7060
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    JUGHNE said:

    The National Electrical Code is often called the "Book of Exceptions".

    As far as colors/marking goes, neutrals must be white, gray or white with trace color.
    (but if larger than #6 may be colored tape or paint ID)

    Grounds are green or bare, usually.

    Hots can be any color......except the wild/high leg of 3 phase Delta systems must be orange...IF it is accessible in a J-box that contains a neutral conductor. So all wilds must be orange (usually), but not all oranges are wild......voltmeter time.

    (Because that would give you a 200 to 225 volt to ground, that is why it is "Wild" leg, and makes short work of any 120 VAC device you might plug in if you use that leg. This has been proven....not by me...but by usually carpenters trying their hand at wiring.)

    The code "suggests" color combinations for different phases of 120/240 and another for 480/277 systems.
    So far still only a suggestion.

    Also "suggests" keeping the same color thru out the building for each circuit or phase.

    But if you need just another 50' or so to finish up and run out of the favored color, it is a good time to clean out the truck of those short rolls of copper. So that happens and everyone is aware of it.

    Actually the more colors the better....."lets see I have a blue, red, yellow in this pipe (with neutrals as needed), the building is finished, there are 20 hidden conduits I see going to other JB's, I will look for a pipe that has this random color combination in it." Logical right?

    The color coding ends at equipment with factory wiring, they have their own colors....if any.

    A boiler control box with some form of flame guard system might have 30-40 black wires entering it.
    They are numbered wires and most of the numbers are lying in the bottom of the control box.
    And a bunch of hacked up connections have been done.

    So in updating the flame guard control, I rewire all the controls with colored wire.
    There is the chance to use up all short pieces of 14 gauge stranded colors that have acquired.


    Wait.
    So with #12 and 14 wire you're not allowed to mark neutral with tape etc?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    No, not if you get caught..... >:)

    #6 and smaller must be the white, gray or trace for it's continuous length to be a neutral conductor.

    Or IF it is a factory approved within equipment with UL etc, then do what you want.
    mattmia2ChrisJ
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    #4 and larger wire is mostly only manufactured with a black jacket or bare, that is why there is the exception for field identification.
    ChrisJ
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Years ago #6 white would typically come only on 500' rolls...for me anyway.

    I can get cut lengths now, that continuous color requirement is only a few code cycles old.

    That was a lot of copper in stock for occasional use.

    So on occasion some white tape might get used if in a secluded J-box.

    Or you rip open a length of 6-2-G to salvage the white and use the black elsewhere.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    JUGHNE said:

    No, not if you get caught..... >:)

    #6 and smaller must be the white, gray or trace for it's continuous length to be a neutral conductor.

    Or IF it is a factory approved within equipment with UL etc, then do what you want.

    I guess I got lucky.
    When I installed my generator I used, I think blue for neutral, wrapped with white tape on each end.


    It's 6 gauge, but I didn't realize there was a minimum for that rule at the time.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    So you got away with it, that happens.

    On occasion, for short runs, I have even upsized to #4 for neutrals so I could just use the tape.

    Oversizing neutrals is even advised sometimes because of harmonics.
    PC7060ChrisJ