Insane electrics - reversed ground?


  #1  
Old 06-20-03, 06:46 AM
bartbrn
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Insane electrics - reversed ground?

The previous owner who wired this house was an engineer. Unfortunately, he wasn't an ELECTRICAL engineer, so I've been trying for ages to straighten out his wiring mess.


The one that's really got me stumped:


I'd never seen this before -- I'm no electrical engineer either -- but instead of having GFCI outlets in the two bathrooms and around the kitchen sink, this guy used regular outlets, all tied to a single GFCI circuit breaker in the breaker box, instead. Weird enough, but (I thought) easy to fix. A friend (a contractor) and I replaced all the bath and kitchen outlets with GFCI.


Problem is that now, using a Sperry three-light (red, yellow, yellow) outlet tester, one -- and only one -- of the new GFCI bath outlets shows as "hot/ground reversed." The wiring all seems to be correct -- checked and rechecked a half-dozen times. Any help?


Also, I have a number of unlabeled wires (what joy) hanging out of wall and ceiling outlets. They're all capped and taped, so I'm not going to fry myself, but can anyone offer any shortcuts to mapping these babies out? I know how to map from the circuit breaker to the end of the wire, it's the hanging wire sets to lights, outlets and switches that are my problem. I take it there's no shorter way than doing a continuity check on each and every one?


Thanks for your help.


Bart Brown

 
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Old 06-20-03, 07:18 AM
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It is general practice, when saving $$$, to wire GFCI protection from a single GFCI located at the beginning of the circuit. The solution is to rewire the first GFCI, so the downstream circuit is connected to the line side of the first and each GFCI. This eman the device only protects itself, and downstream GFCI's only protect themselves.
The hot/ground reversed is a very dangerous condition, and if true, should trip the breaker (if there is truely a ground). It is a matter of detective work to figure it out.
For unknown dangling wires, assume they are live. When uncapping them, check for voltage from the wire to a known good ground connection. If hot, then conenct a recept with a radio plugged in and turn off breakers till the radio goes off.
If the dangling wires are dead, then you will need a speacial tester to induce a voltage/signal on them to trace them.
 
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Old 06-20-03, 08:56 AM
bartbrn
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Insane electrics - reversed ground?

Ron writ:


>> It is general practice, when saving $$$, to wire GFCI protection from a single GFCI located at the beginning of the circuit. The solution is to rewire the first GFCI, so the downstream circuit is connected to the line side of the first and each GFCI.
I'm not sure I understand this exactly -- "downstream" I assume are the consecutive GFCIs going AWAY from the breaker box (we replaced the GFCI breaker at the box with a regular breaker). I'm also unsure what you mean by "line side."


>> This eman the device only protects itself, and downstream GFCI's only protect themselves. The hot/ground reversed is a very dangerous condition, and if true, should trip the breaker (if there is truly a ground). It is a matter of detective work to figure it out.
Yes, I thought it wasn't a good thing -- as we're working on other stuff, and not having this circuit live hasn't been a problem, I just keep it off. However, your observation "if there is truly a ground" is well-taken: sometimes the tester indicates a hot/ground reverse, sometimes it doesn't, and it's never tripped a breaker.


So, I guess the thing to do is verify all the wiring from the box to the last GFCI -- please explain the "line side" and downstream stuff assuming I'm a total dummy (and I am).


Thanks for your help


Bart Brown

 
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Old 06-20-03, 11:56 AM
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A GFCI receptacle has the ability to protect itself and other receptacles. If the GFCI is the first receptacle in the run then all the other receptacles would then be downstream. The term line refers to the terminals on the GFCI. This is the terminal that the line (HOT)wires go to. The other terminals are the load terminals and they are the ones that the "downstream" receptacles are connected and thisis what protects them. The GFCI sould be labled on the back and if wired incorrectly it wil not work properly. The instructions will provide important info as to how many downstreamreceptacles it can safely protect, and it will also contain wiring diagrams that should help also.

There clear as mudd
 
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Old 06-20-03, 12:14 PM
J
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First of all, you set about to "fix" something that was perfectly correct in the first place. My primary advice to you would be to put it all back the way it was before. The GFCI breaker is just fine. There is no reason at all to replace all the receptacles with GFCI receptacles. It's a complete waste of money.

Second, when a tester reads "hot/ground reverse" it is always a false indication of an open neutral. If you turn off all the wall switches and unplug everything from all the receptacles on this circuit, your tester will then correctly read "open neutral".
 
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Old 06-20-03, 01:17 PM
bartbrn
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Insane electrics - reversed ground?

Thanks for all the info, and the explanations of the wiring.


I'd prefer NOT to go back to the original configuration, as we've already installed the GFCI outlets (turns out theres actually only on that particular line -- the final device downstream is the pair of upstairs bathroom wall sconces.


The reason we went to fixin' what should have been right in the first place was that (for reasons we do not yet understand), neither the outlet nor the upstairs wall sconces worked. There was certainly real, live electricity going INTO the outlet (guess how I know!), but nothing plugged into the outlet worked, and neither did the wall sconces -- so the feed wasn't going anywhere.


Now if I can figure out the rest of the guy's amateur-hour wiring (obviously, I'm not much better!)...


Thanks again


Bart Brown

 
  #7  
Old 06-20-03, 02:11 PM
J
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Hot/neutral reversed is often really an open neutral wire. I am thinking you have an open neutral and a neutral/ground connection other than at the main disconnect.
Did you remove the original gfci breaker? Did you connect the neutral the went to the breaker to neutral bus in the panel.
 
  #8  
Old 06-22-03, 01:44 PM
shogun
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HI Bart:

When you originally checked the outlets that didn't seem to work when something was plugged into them, did you check for voltage from the black wire to the white wire or from the black to a ground. If you checked from hot to ground and not from hot to neutral you still may have an open neutral connection. This would keep any device plugged into the outlet from working. If you did in fact have a grounded hot in the circuit you would definatly be having problems with the gfi's tripping. hope this helps and good luck.....
 
 

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