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# Neutral spliced to ground?

#1
08-24-05, 08:46 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Virginia
Posts: 95
Neutral spliced to ground?

In my continuing explorations of the wiring in this garage of mine, I have the following situation with a three-way switch:

The 12-2 from the breaker comes into the first switch box. The black is connected to the switch.

The 12-2 going to the light has the white connected to the switch and the black connected to the switch. The ground is connected to the white wire from the breaker box.

In the second switch box, the white and black are connected to the switch, and the ground (which is ultimately connected to the white from the breaker panel) is connected to the white from the light. The ground from the light is connected to the ground from the switch beside it.

I believe that in the breaker box, the white and ground are connected. However, can they be connected in the manner described above? I know how a three-way switch is supposed to be wired, and that's why I am a little concerned here... Thanks!

#2
08-24-05, 09:12 PM
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Can you post how the rest of the wires are run, ie number and colors of wires in each switch box and at the fixture?

What you have is not correct.

#3
08-25-05, 04:41 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Virginia
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Originally Posted by pcboss
Can you post how the rest of the wires are run, ie number and colors of wires in each switch box and at the fixture?

What you have is not correct.
Switch box one has six total: white, black, ground from breaker & white, black, ground going to second switch

Switch box two has six as well: white, black, ground from the first switch and then white, black, and ground to the light.

The lights after the second switch are wired correctly.

Since it would be extremely difficult to run 12-3 from the first switch, they rigged the white and black wires between the switches to be the red and black whites. The ground wire only between the switches serves as the neutral. It is grounded to ground wires from another circuit in the switch boxes. Kind of like a poor man's three-way circuit.

I wasn't sure if this was an okay practice. Otherwise, I will get it rewired with the other parts of the garage. Thanks for the help.

#4
08-25-05, 04:45 AM
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This is NOT ok and should be changed. A ground carrying current is a potentially very dangerous thing!

#5
08-25-05, 05:59 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Oregon
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I totally concur with Speedy, this should be replaced.

Just a minor FYI; the situation that you describe is not neutral spliced to ground, but instead the _bare_ wire in a bit of romex being used as the neutral for a circuit which requires three conductors. The bare wire should only be used as the equipment grounding conductor. This is a clear code violation, but not automatically 'broken'. As long as neutral and ground are actually separated everywhere, then your electrical system will function properly.

But it would be pretty easy for this _uninsulated neutral_ to touch the sides of the box, and pretty easy for someone working on the circuit to get confused and wire-nut all of the bare wire together, or for the romex sheath to get damaged exposing the bare copper wire. Any one of these failures could mean neutral current flowing through your equipment ground system, which is 'broken' and dangerous.

Please note: By not broken I am not saying that this is safe or good, I am simply saying that it will function correctly electrically. Most of the electrical code is not about making things work, but instead about keeping things safe when they break.

-Jon

#6
08-25-05, 08:22 AM
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Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Unfortunately this dangerous practice is too common by people who are one wire short for what they want to do and are too lazy to run another wire. Some electricians have even talked themselves into believing that it's okay. It's sad.

#7
08-25-05, 04:42 PM
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Some one either changed the original setup or had not 12/3 wire. You need to change that cable from a 12/2 to a 12/3.

#8
08-25-05, 06:51 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Virginia
Posts: 95
Thanks for the help. The switch was in the laundry room by the door leading to the garage (since it used to control an outdoor light before the garage was added on.) I cut off the feed to the switch and relocated it to the other side of the wall in the garage. It will be easy to put in some 12/3 to the other switch in there since all the wiring is visible.

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