Hot and Nuetral in receptacle puzzle challenge!!

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  #1  
Old 12-01-04, 06:57 PM
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Hot and Nuetral in receptacle puzzle challenge!!

Okay not really a puzzle I'm sure, but this puzzles me!!

I was checking an outlet on the wall to find where the power was coming into it from. The outlet I was checking was the first in line from several others, so I went to take the power and the nuetral off to distinguish which of the two sets of NM cable was the incoming power source, and which went on to the next outlet. I happen to notice that the hot, (black) wire from one sheathed 12-3 was on the hot side of the upper receptacle, while the nuetral, (white), from the same sheathed 12-3 was on the nuetral side of the lower receptacle. The wires going to the next outlet were obviously mixed as well. I've never seen this before and I'm curious if this was done for a reason or if it just happens to be a goof.

Anyone know what's up?

Visser
 
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  #2  
Old 12-01-04, 07:09 PM
Aarno
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Not an electrician here, but I don't see a problem. Black to hot and white to neutral - upper and lower connected by the unbroken tabs.

Are you sure it was 12-3?

Aarno
 
  #3  
Old 12-01-04, 07:47 PM
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Aarno nailed it. It the tabs are still in place, the upper and lower screws on the same side are equivalent, and it makes no difference if you interchange the wires.

Just a point of terminology, but black/white/bare NM cable is called 12/2, and black/red/white/bare NM cable is called 12/3.
 
  #4  
Old 12-01-04, 11:46 PM
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Thanks for the replies! I know that there is no issue with the way the receptacle is wired, in the fact that it functions okay. I just wondered if there was some interesting reason that this may have been done. As example, I know there are theories about about whether the ground prong should be up or down but I now the outlet still functions the same. Just wondering is there was some unique point of interest or something.

John, thanks for the correction regarding the 12/2!!
 
  #5  
Old 12-02-04, 04:46 AM
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Visser,

Just because a receptacle functions okay does not mean that all is okay and that it is wired properly. Making that assumption is what causes fires and kill people.

Take this example. Wiring two separate circuits through a switch box and connecting all the neutrals together, or wiring two receptacles in a single box from separate circuits but accidently switching the neutrals.

In both of those cases you will not be able to notice a problem, as long as the loads are minimum. However, the currents flowing on each circuit's neutral wires will not match the current on the hot wire. This is not a big deal until one of those neutral currents exceeds the rating for the circuit (15 or 20 amps). When this happens you have a fire waiting to happen.
 
  #6  
Old 12-02-04, 10:08 AM
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Personally, while electrically with unbroken tabs if hot is on hot side and neutral is on neutral side it doesn't really matter, I think it is a neater and more professional installation to put the incoming power pair (hot & neutral) on either the upper or lower pair of screws and the outgoing hot & neutral on the other pair. Criss-crossing them just seems like spoppy work to me, though not dangerous. On the other hand, it can confuse the next person who comes along, as it has with you, and confusion can often lead to accidents.

Juice
 
  #7  
Old 12-02-04, 01:27 PM
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Racraft,

I understand your intentions are good, so please don't take offense but I would like to clarify that I am not assuming a receptacle functions just becasue it works, which really has nothing to do with the question I had. I know that my sentence was worded this way, but I think it was taken out of context.
My sentence from my last post read:

"I know that there is no issue with the way the receptacle is wired, in the fact that it functions okay."

I was merely responding to the previous reply to me, and was attempting to clarify that I was only curious about the way this particular receptacle was wired, NOTasking anyone if they thought it was a problem. I should have elaborated that I know that one set of wires is coming to the receptacle directly from my fuse box, the other set jumps to the next outlet. So to everyone elses point, it shouldn't matter if the nuetral and hot are crossed in this situation. Do you think differently? I should point out that it really doesn't matter because I'm going to put the incoming set of wires on the top set of screws, and the other set of wires going to the next outlet, on the lower set of screws.

I think Juice is right, that it is just sloppy wiring, but I have seen this in other houses before, and wondered if there was some odd notion that any receptacle would be wired this way.
 
  #8  
Old 12-02-04, 01:38 PM
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I can think of no reason to cross the wires except for carelessness. But done this way, if the little brass tab that connects the top half to the bottom half should become compromised, though rare, all your receptacles on that circuit will drop out. If wired correctly you would be able to troubleshoot it easily, as only the top receptacle (if that's where the "incoming" pair are properly connected) will work, and the lower one and all downstream receptacles will drop out. A sharp troubleshooter will recognize what the problem is immediately, without even taking off the wall plate.

Juice
 
  #9  
Old 12-02-04, 07:20 PM
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Juice, that is an excellent point, which provides reason enough that a receptacle should never be wired this way. If someone did intentionally cross wires, thinking they had good reason for it, (whatever that may have been), the comon sense aspect that you have just brought up should have negated the theory...

I'm now pretty sure that it's carelessness, or someone thinking it doesn't matter...

Visser
 
  #10  
Old 12-02-04, 08:06 PM
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I was an engineer on the job after about 25 union electricians wired about 2500 outlets. About 10 of them had the ground and neutral wire reversed. All wires were of the proper color. After doing nothing but wiring sockets all day my brain would be busy thinking of other things while my hands were still putting wire under screws. It's easy to make a mistake even if you know better, and I know those electricians know better. A mistake is just that, a mistake. I've made those mistakes as well and caught it after I checked the socket with one of those handy plug-in testers. That's how I caught the mistakes the other guys made as well. I just caught it before they did. It's always good for a beer or two when I do.
 
  #11  
Old 12-02-04, 09:01 PM
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Another good point, Jughead. We've all done stuff like that, that's for sure! I hadn't thought about that as maybe waht happened!
 
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