I live in Italy. I would like to know whether American Wire Gauge (AWG) is used in Europe for electrical wires that run within homes, or whether Europe usea different standards. Does each country in Europe use its own standards for home electrical wiring or is AWG somewhat of an international thing?



3 Answers 3


Europe is "metric", meaning it is uses the IEC 60228 standard gauges. Common wires at local store thus are 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.5, 2.5, 4, 6 square mm. In my experience, the 0.75 to 2.5 sq mm range is carried by even small stores.

Historically, the British use[d] their own SWG but this changed roughly when they joined the EU; Brexit will apparently not change anything in this regard... for the subtle reason that the EU-wide standardization body in this area (namely CENELEC) technically is not an EU institution... so the UK is still a member of it after Brexit.

The colors of wires used in European power cables (e.g. brown, blue, red/green) come from CENELEC HD-21 and HD-22 documents, recently merged as EN 50525. The same standard specifies the types of common power cables that you see in stores, e.g. H05VV-F etc. (Note that the latter CENELEC standard begins with a 5, not a 6, which means it is a regional European standard, not an incorporation of a IEC standard, like the metric gauge one.)

Finally, "home electrical wiring" involves much more than wire gauge or the color of wires. Generally, there are two sets of standards those of (US) NEC and those of IEC. Legrand has a map of roughly where they apply (reproduced below). Going into more detail is far too elaborate for this Q&A format; for further information, refer to the document I extracted this map from.

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  • The Brits use the IEC system BTW, and that includes wire gauges Oct 10, 2017 at 22:18
  • @ThreePhaseEel: yeah, what I wrote previously was rather misleading. I've updated the info on UK. Oct 10, 2017 at 22:48

As far as I know, Europe (or pretty much the whole world other than USA/perhaps Canada) uses the wire cross sectional area in square millimeters as the standard for wire sizing.


AWG is used in North America, the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, some of the Carribean, etc. The color code is white or gray for neutral (hots everything else but green), and the voltage is typically 240/120 split phase.

Everywhere else it's metric wires dictated by square millimeters of cross section, i.e. 1.0 ( which is very small by North American standards), 1.5, 2.5, 4, and increasing 50-60% per size from there. Color codes are generally harmonizing toward light blue for neutral, brown for the first hot, and voltage is 220-240V single phase derived from 3-phase wye.

Ground is green, green/yellow, or bare everywhere.

When the USA gets into the big stuff we use circular mil, which is a circle 1/1000" diameter. That is to say, 1 million cmil (1000kcmil) is a wire 1" diameter.

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