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Most symbols used on a wiring diagram look like abstract versions of the real objects they represent. For example, a switch will be a break in the line with a line at an angle to the wire, much like a light switch you can flip on and off. A resistor will be represented with a series of squiggles symbolizing the restriction of current flow. An antenna is a straight line with three small lines branching off at its end, much like a real antenna.
Wiring diagrams use standard symbols for wiring devices, usually different from those used on schematic diagrams. The electrical symbols not only show where something is to be installed, but also what type of device is being installed. For example, a surface ceiling light is shown by one symbol, a recessed ceiling light has a different symbol, and a surface fluorescent light has another symbol.
The environment of the installed wires determine how much current a cable is permitted to carry. Because multiple conductors bundled in a cable cannot dissipate heat as easily as single insulated conductors, those circuits are always rated at a lower "ampacity". Tables in electrical safety codes give the maximum allowable current based on size of conductor, voltage potential, insulation type and thickness, and the temperature rating of the cable itself. The allowable current will also be different for wet or dry locations, for hot (attic) or cool (underground) locations. In a run of cable through several areas, the part with the lowest rating becomes the rating of the overall run.
In a typical electrical code, some colour-coding of wires is mandatory. Many local rules and exceptions exist per country, state or region. Older installations vary in colour codes, and colours may fade with insulation exposure to heat, light and ageing.
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