What is the Difference Between a Ground and a Neutral Wire?
One point for confusion rests with the often interchanged terms of Neutral and Ground. A simple rule will clarify the differences between Neutral and Ground.
Neutral can be grounded, but Ground is not neutral.
“As the neutral point of an electrical supply system is often connected to earth ground, ground and neutral are closely related. Under certain conditions, a conductor used to connect to a system neutral is also used for grounding (earthing) of equipment and structures. Current carried on a grounding conductor can result in objectionable or dangerous voltages appearing on equipment enclosures, so the installation of grounding conductors and neutral conductors is carefully defined in electrical regulations. Where a neutral conductor is used also to connect equipment enclosures to earth, care must be taken that the neutral conductor never rises to a high voltage with respect to local ground.” Underwriters Laboratories
For our purposes a neutral wire ( see table below) is separate from the ground wire.
The color code table below represent wiring conventions of the US National Electrical Code. The wiring in your home may not comply with this standard. If you are unsure if your home complies, contact a licensed electrician.