What We Cover in this Article:

  • What is a Name Plate on Electrical Equipment
  • How to Read a Name Plate and Identify Electrical Requirements
  • Where to Find an Electrical Name Plate on Equipment
  • Why Name Plates are VERY Important BEFORE Turning On Power

What is a Name Plate for Electrical Devices

A name plate is by far the most important piece of information an electrician should be using to verify what that piece of equipment needs in terms of Voltage, Amps, Phase, and Number of Conductors.

Vacuum Cleaner Name Plate
This is an example of a name plate on a vacuum cleaner. It shows Voltage, Amps, Hertz, and even model number and serial number for support. (Often you can find a contact phone number, too!)

Even though we electricians are given an equipment schedule, spec sheets, and electrical panel schedule, the name plate is the ULTIMATE form of identification of what that electrical equipment requires.

(However, sometimes we don’t have access to a name plate as the equipment isn’t delivered yet on site! So we must rely on those other forms of equipment data to plan as much as possible).

Any electrical device REQUIRES a name plate.. I explain below where to look for them.

Clothes Washer Name Plate
This is a standard clothes washer name plate. It shows amps, voltage, and hertz. Since it’s just single phase (120 volts), it is not showing in-depth details like if it’s single or three phase, as 120 volts is assumed as single phase!

PRO TIP FOR ELECTRICIANS…

As soon as equipment is delivered on your jobsite, the wisest thing you can do is VERYIFY that the name plate lines up with your various information you have been given in your equipment schedule, spec sheets, and electrical panel schedule.

In other words, before ordering your wire, make sure what the equipment’s name plate says so you can order the right number of conductors, wire size, and prevent costly mistakes!


How to Read a Name Plate to Identify Electrical Requirements

Not all name plates are the same.

It all comes down to the type of equipment the name plate is on.

A TV for example is very basic in terms of power requirements, but things like motors a name plate is INCREDIBLY important, as it will often break down phase, voltage, amps, hertz (frequency), and other very useful things to know.

Since motors are much more demanding than basic electronics, this is why it’s very important to pull the right wire size, and have the proper circuit protection (circuit breaker or fuse), as motors can QUICKLY be a source of fast damage or fires.

Refrigerator Name Plate
A small refrigerator name plate on the back of the fridge. Showing Voltage, Hertz, Amps (Current), and Wattage.

The main things we electricians NEED to know about a name plate when it comes to pulling wire is:

  • The correct VOLTAGE.. to make sure the electrical load has the proper potential.
  • How much AMPERAGE (Current).. this is to make sure the wire can handle the amount of amps (it’s all about protecting the wire so it doesn’t overheat!)
  • How many NUMBER OF CONDUCTORS.. some equipment needs two wires, some needs three, and some need four.. the wiring diagram can help with this, or looking for PHASE on the name plate.
  • How many PHASES.. some motors are single phase (two wires), some are three phase (three wires).. make sure you know before you pull your wire, sparky! 😁

In addition to this information on a name plate, there’s other valuable details depending on your situation:

  • Serial + Model Number.. you can easily look online, or contact a wholesaler, to find that broken part.. even if the equipment is out dated (it’s a HUGE lifesaver).
  • Contact Number.. sometimes there’s a direct 1-800 number to contact the manufacturer..
  • Wiring diagram.. this can be used to verify questions you have about the equipment, or if adding special equipment IN ADDITION to a motor.. (like a soft start, for example).
  • It contains many things for other trades like PRESSURE.. that aren’t fully necessary for electricians.

Where to Find a Name Plate on Equipment

Now.. finding a name plate is not easy sometimes, but they are usually in common spots within certain equipment. I’ll give you some tips for finding a name plate to help speed you up.

  • On the FRONT of a Device (Open the Door.. or on a Stove, the bottom pull out tray)
  • On the BACK of a Device..
  • Inside the Electrical Connection Compartment Cover
  • If in doubt, find the model number, search online, and FIND THE MANUAL!

I will explain these more in-depth:

Most of the time, name plates are on the front of equipment. Sometimes you have to open the door, and it’s right inside. It is a heavy-duty sticker showing voltage, amps, phase, and sometimes wattage.

Dryer Name Plate
You can see this is a dryer name plate, showing it is able to run on single phase (240V – 2 Hot Wires) or three phase (208V – 2 Hot Wires) by the different voltage designations. It also shows a “4 wire connection”!

So the first place to start is on the front! (On a stove, try the bottom pullout drawer!)

If a name plate is not on the front of the unit, the next place to look is on the back (which sometimes sucks, cause you now have to move the unit around, or slide it out of position).

There is a very high chance it can be on the back, IF it’s not on the front.

If it’s not on the back, you MAY have to open the electrical connection compartment cover, and it MAY be in there. (You’ll want to turn off power to remain safe here).

If there is no name plate on the device, you’ll want to try to find the EXACT model number so you can search up the electrical device online, then try and find the manual on the manufacturer’s website which will tell you the electrical demands for that piece of equipment.

DO NOT JUST “WING IT”. Electricity does not mess around.. if that equipment is designed for specific specifications, and you don’t provide them, be ready for a bang, smoke, or a very bad sounding motor, which will reduce the life of the unit!


Why Name Plates are VERY IMPORTANT BEFORE Turning On Power

Range, Oven, or Stove Name Plate
This is an oven name plate that was hidden at the bottom front of the unit, AFTER pulling out the bottom tray. It is showing how many WATTS the oven draws.. so make sure your wire is sized correctly!

All electrical equipment that gets plugged into the wall, or directly wired with a home run, REQUIRES a name plate.

If you can’t find the name plate, then read through my finding a name plate section.

As mentioned, as electricians, very often the equipment like motors and panels aren’t yet shipped to the jobsite. We need to use our electrical prints to figure out how to prepare for equipment.

And to be VERY WISE.. AS SOON as the equipment shows up on the jobsite, make sure to check the name plate, because the name plate is the final verdict. It doesn’t matter what the equipment schedule, spec sheets, and electrical panel schedule says, the name plate is what matters.

If there is a discrepancy between any of these prints, a quick email to the electrical engineer is a great place to start. (Remember, email is the most powerful way to document your story.. a phone call is not!)

I hope you enjoyed this name plate article. You can leave a comment below..

Or.. check out some funny electrician jokes! 😂