Old 04-16-04, 12:07 PM
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What is the difference between Ground and Nutrual and what are the functions and uses of each?

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Rich Moreland
Old 04-16-04, 12:29 PM
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"Ground" is an ambiguous term. I will assume you mean the bare wire that is connected to your receptacles and switches and fixtures. That is properly called the Equipment Grounding Conductor (EGC).

"Neutral" is also a term with a precise definition that does not really apply to the white wire attached to your receptacles and fixtures. Nevertheless, so many people use that term for the white wire, I will too.

The neutral is a current carrying conductor. It exists to complete the circuit of the hot wire. Without a neutral, you have no circuit and thus no power.

The EGC does not carry current in normal operation. It's purpose is to carry enough fault current in the event of a malfunction to trip the breaker. For sensitive electronics such as a computer, it also provide a reference voltage.

The EGC is at ground potential at all times, except in the event of a fault. The neutral is "near" ground potential most of the time, and only at ground potential when the circuit is dead or unused.

There are dozens of common misconceptions about the EGC and the neutral, and these misconceptions often lead people to do dangerous and stupid things.

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