Hot Ground Reverse

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  #1  
Old 11-07-05, 11:34 AM
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Hot Ground Reverse

Hi Gang,

I made a new 20-amp circuit for my remodeled porch. After I got all of the outlet receptacles connected, I tested them using one of those polarity testers that you plug into the receptacle. For three outlets it reported a 'Hot Ground Reverse' error. I double-checked this and confirmed that the ground wire was indeed hot. So then I isolated the problem to one outlet and here is the issue: one of the neutral wires was not making contact with the other neutral wires under the wire nut. If I inserted the tester into a downstream outlet and touched that loose neutral wire to the others, the tester went 'correct'. When I held that loose wire away from the others, the tester went 'Hot Ground Reverse'.

Obviously, I connected the loose neutral wire problem and it is OK now. But I am worried that something else might be amiss. I can't understand how a ground wire could be hot because of an unconnected neutral wire. I am worried that someone might get a shock if a neutral wire wiggles loose at some time in the future.

Thanks for any ideas.

Steve Prescott
Minneapolis
 
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  #2  
Old 11-07-05, 11:48 AM
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The ground wire doesn't become hot when the neutral is removed. The problem is that the tester is confused. There is only so much that can be done with three little LEDs, even multicolor ones.

If your tester came with better directions (or if it did come with better directions and you read them) then you would have known this in advance.

I congratulate you on having found and correctly fixed the problem.

A better tester to use is a two wire tester. With a two wire tester you could have quickly determined that you had power on the hot wire (by testing the hot with the ground) and that the neutral was open, by testing the hot and the neutral.
 
  #3  
Old 11-07-05, 12:50 PM
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Hot Ground Wire

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the reply. I went down and re-tested with the 2-wire tester. If I disconnect the neutral wire at the problem outlet (as explained in the first post) here are my results at a downstream outlet:

Hot to Neutral: Nothing
Hot to Ground: Tester lights up
Ground to Neutral: Tester lights up

The fact that testing Ground to Neutral makes the tester light up makes me think that the ground is hot. If it is, I wonder what could be causing it? If there are exposed wires crossing somewhere, then it seems to me that connecting the loose neutral wire would not make the 'polarity tester' go to a 'correct' reading.

Steve
 
  #4  
Old 11-07-05, 12:58 PM
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Your ground wire is not hot. I bet the light is not quite as bright as it is when you measure from hot to neutral on a working receptacle, or from hot to ground.

Try this. Unplug everything and remove all loads between the hot and the neutral on the downstream side of the circuit and try your test again. What do you see between the neutral and the ground?
 
  #5  
Old 11-07-05, 01:29 PM
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Hot Ground

When I connect the ground and neutral on the downstream outlet, the tester is as bright as when I connect and hot and neutral on a normally functioning outlet.

However, if I touch the ground post, I do not get a shock. I am wearing rubber-soled shoes. Not sure if the shoes would make a difference.

On the last test you recommended, I'm not sure what you meant but I disconnected the remaining outlet that is downstream from the one I am testing and I got the same results.

I did this test: I plugged a 3-pronged extension cord into a good outlet. Then I stuck one end of a 2-wire tester into the ground part of the extension cord plug. I touched each post on the 'test' outlet with the other end of the 2-wire tester. The tester did not light up when I touched the ground post (good news). It did light up when I touched it to either the hot or neutral posts.

Am I home free? If you have any thoughts, I would be interested in what causes the funny test results.

Thanks again for everything.
 
  #6  
Old 11-07-05, 01:47 PM
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Your ground wire is not hot and never was. You do not have anything to worry about. Your tester is being fooled.

I wanted you to unplug all loads from the donbstream receptacles. They can and will interfere with a test. Your neutral wire is floating. What you are reading is misleading. When you have one wire that is open your are subject to misleading readings.
 
  #7  
Old 11-07-05, 02:15 PM
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Thanks

Thanks Bob. I really appreciate it.
 
  #8  
Old 11-08-05, 04:18 PM
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Steve(numbers)---You will learn over time, if you work with electricity long enough, that some very bizarre things can occur regarding electriciy. One of those things is what 'backfeed' can cause. Ever see a house that has lost one of it's 110 legs of the 220 house current? You go to like turn on the stove and lights in the house go orange. Stuff like that. I know from experience now, when people tell me these bizarre tales, to go right to the panel box and check to see if the house is getting 220.
 
  #9  
Old 11-08-05, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by SteveP55419
When I connect the ground and neutral on the downstream outlet, the tester is as bright as when I connect and hot and neutral on a normally functioning outlet.

However, if I touch the ground post, I do not get a shock. I am wearing rubber-soled shoes. Not sure if the shoes would make a difference.

On the last test you recommended, I'm not sure what you meant but I disconnected the remaining outlet that is downstream from the one I am testing and I got the same results.

I did this test: I plugged a 3-pronged extension cord into a good outlet. Then I stuck one end of a 2-wire tester into the ground part of the extension cord plug. I touched each post on the 'test' outlet with the other end of the 2-wire tester. The tester did not light up when I touched the ground post (good news). It did light up when I touched it to either the hot or neutral posts.

Am I home free? If you have any thoughts, I would be interested in what causes the funny test results.

Thanks again for everything.
You should be good to go. Problems like this is why a lot of new wirng is done without daisy chaining the circuit through the outlets. Finding the loose screw can be a real PITA . Instead of daiy chaining through the outlets connect the wires in the back of the box and bring out a pigtail to the outlet. I believe this is required in Canada now.
 
  #10  
Old 11-09-05, 06:48 AM
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Jimmie,

Thanks for the reply. They are all pigtailed. The loose wire was hidden under a wire nut.

Steve
 
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