Hot Ground Reverse

Reply

  #1  
Old 02-13-07, 10:09 PM
jascooper's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 60
Angry Hot Ground Reverse

I turned on my light tonight and a few minutes later it shut of. After a few minutes it came back on but the shut off again. This happened a few times then they shut off completely. The circuit breaker wasn't tripped. So I unplugged everything, and still no go.

My circuit tester says I have a hot-ground reverse. As far as I know the circuit consists of 3 pairs of outlets (one controlled by a wall switch), one inside light (with 2 switches), and one outside light (I'm not sure about the outside light, but the switch is right next to 2 of the other 3 non-working switches, and it isn't lighting, although I never use it anyway).

Where should I start looking for the problem? Should I suspect the outside light (since it's snowing out tonite)? What causes a hot-ground reverse? Bad bulb? Short? Too much load?

Thanks,

James

I just recovered from a frozen pipe last week, so this is really pissing me off. I feel like my house is falling apart.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 02-14-07, 12:29 AM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: NA
Posts: 1,065
Hot/ground reverse on a receptacle tester means you have an open neutral (white) wire. Basically you need to see what is working on the circuit and what isnt. Do that by turning the breaker off and seeing what else goes off line. Then you will have to look in the electrical boxes for a bad connection on the white wire. Receptacles that have the wires stuck into shall holes on the back (backed stabbed) are the most common reason for your dilema. these are notorious for losing connection. It is best to change the wires to the screws if possible, better yet replace the receptacle. the problem could be in a ceiling box, switch box or receptacle box, you will just have to look for the one that has the poor connection.

Heres a trick plug a radio with volume up into one of the non-working receptacles (not the switched one). Take the cover plates off the receptacles and before you look inside and turn the power off... plug your receptacle tester into them and use it to give them a wiggle and see if the radio comes on. If it does then it is probably a bad backstab at that receptacle.

Stubbie
 
  #3  
Old 02-14-07, 04:31 AM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
You need to understand that the problem could be at any junction box on the circuit, regardless of whether that location appears to be working or not. For example, at a working receptacle the neutral wire leaving the receptacle could be loose. This would cause an open (or intermittent) neutral at the next receptacle and any further ones, but not as the receptacle where the problem actually exists.
 
  #4  
Old 02-14-07, 06:51 AM
Member
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: CA
Posts: 2,041
Yes, on those little yellow testers an open neutral somewhere back the line can cause them to read out hot/ground reverse.
 
  #5  
Old 03-03-07, 09:39 AM
jascooper's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 60
Screwy Circuit Driving Me Nuts!!!

I'm reviving this thread, because althoug the problem temporarily went away, it's back and spreading...

I was having a problem that was previously limited to part of a circuit, but is now affecting other devices on the same circuit.

My basic tester (one of those yellow plug-in jobs with a red light and two yellow ones) was telling me that I have a hot-ground reverse (right and left lights illuminated). I replaced several outlets and switches with no success.

Here is what I am finding:

One of the outlets is controlled by a switch. With the switch on, the outlet indicates hot-ground reverse. With the switch turned off, all the lights on the tester are lit (there is no listing on the chart for what that means).

I got out my voltage meter, and on one of the other faulty outlets (not switch controlled), I get voltage from hot>neutral (black>white), from hot>ground, and from neutral>ground. I don't know enough about electric circuits to know if this is abnormal. But I think I shouldn't be getting voltage from neutral>ground, should I?

Another unusual thing is I have a switch that controls an outside light. Both the top and bottom poles of the switch are connected to black wires.

Please help!!!

I don't know how the circuit runs, but I can try to create a diagram of what I do know, and post it someplace if that would help.

Thanks, James
 
  #6  
Old 03-03-07, 10:15 AM
nap's Avatar
nap
nap is offline
New Member
Join Date: May 2006
Location: north
Posts: 4,163
you wil get voltage from a neut ground check if you have an open neut and there is anything utilizing voltage on that cicuit or another circuit that shares the neutral. You didn;t give us an actual reading so I am not going to go any further in a Dx.

You simple need to go to every box that this circuit passes through and remake the joints.

the switch thing;
it is normal and corrrect to have a black wire on each of the switch terminals. A hot wire is supposed to be something other than green or white. One of the blacks is the hot coming to the switch and the other is the switchleg going to the device it controls.
 
  #7  
Old 03-03-07, 10:26 AM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
Follow my advice. Check every box on the circuit. If you do not know what is on the circuit (too bad, but your own fault), you will have to check every box in the house.

Move any back stab connections to screw terminals. Redo any wire nut connections with new wire nuts. Use your tester and verify proper voltage.

Be persistent and eventually you will find it.
 
  #8  
Old 03-03-07, 10:30 AM
nap's Avatar
nap
nap is offline
New Member
Join Date: May 2006
Location: north
Posts: 4,163
ya, what Bob said.

I forgot about the back stabbers.
 
  #9  
Old 03-03-07, 08:44 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
I believe that you chose not to follow the advice given you either because it didn't make sense to you, or you didn't understand it. Nevertheless, it was the correct advice. You don't need to do any more tests, and we don't need any more information. If you need more help about how to follow the advice, let us know what about that advice you don't understand.

Good luck.
 
  #10  
Old 03-07-07, 08:46 AM
jascooper's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 60
Unhappy Clarification Needed

Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
I believe that you chose not to follow the advice given you either because it didn't make sense to you, or you didn't understand it. Nevertheless, it was the correct advice. You don't need to do any more tests, and we don't need any more information. If you need more help about how to follow the advice, let us know what about that advice you don't understand.
I did not choose not to follow the advice I was given, but you should understand that I'm not entirely sure what is supposed to be checked. I also don't understand why it is my fault if I don't know exactly what's on a circuit.

I've already replaced 3 outlets and as many light switches, and although I could replace every light fixture, switch, outlet or junction, it seems like I shouldn't have to do this if there are other ways to eliminate certain devices.

For example, one outlet has two sets of wires going to it (I assume that power is going through the outlet to something down the line). Can I leave the wires disconnected and eliminate whatever the power was going to as the source of the problem?

Do I have to rewire light fixtures in my testing in addition to all the outlets and switches?

Is there anyway to test continuity from one location on the circuit to another? Since I don't know where the circuit runs, is there a way to 'blueprint' the circuit while I'm doing all this?

Is the neutral wiring specific to each circuit (circuit breaker) or could the problem be outside the circuit in question (i.e. something that doesn't turn off with the circuit breaker)?

I may have to get an electrician to help me out, but I'd at least like to make sure I've done everything I can before doing so.

Thanks, James
 
  #11  
Old 03-07-07, 09:13 AM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
The way to find out what is on a circuit is to shut off the breaker and then see what is now dead. Your first post implied that you know which circuit breaker that is ("The circuit breaker wasn't tripped.") If that isn't the case, then plug your tester into one of those receptacles that indicates the hot/ground reverse and shut off breakers until all the lights go out on the tester.

Once you've done that, then you can rework the connections in every box without power.

You may need to rewire the light fixtures too, but I'd leave them until last.

You can test for continuity (using a multimeter set on the ohm scale), and you can "blueprint" a circuit that way. However, it would be very time consuming (probably take you a few days).

Yes, if you have two black wires and two white wires connected to one receptacle, and if that receptacle is not controlled by a switch, then you can assume that power is coming in on one cable and going out on the other. If you disconnect all wires from that and leave them disconnected and then turn the breaker back on, you can therefore deduce that whatever was previously working fine and is now dead is downstream from that receptacle. A downstream problem does not usually cause this problem on receptacles upstream from it.

The neutral wire should be specific to each circuit. If somebody who didn't know what they were doing starting running wild, that may not be the case. But it almost always is. Note that a multiwire circuit has two hots and one neutral, but that is only one circuit.

I've also seen this problem caused by a failed GFCI.

So keep at it and you will prevail.
 
  #12  
Old 03-07-07, 09:13 AM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
James,

Whenever someone move into a new house, apartment or condominium, one of the first tasks to be performed is to completely map out what is on each and every circuit in the house. As I stated before, this information is necessary at a time like this. In other cases it could save your life.

Unfortunately houses do not come with owners manuals, and most people would not read them if they did. If you did not perform this task it is either because you did not know that you should, or because your were too lazy to do so. I will have some sympathy for you in the former case, and absolutely no sympathy in the latter case.

But either way, you need to know what is on the circuit that is having problems.

You must check every box on the circuit in question. This means every receptacle, every switch, every light fixture. One of them has an open wire. It will probably be obvious when you find it.

When you check, move any back stabbed connections on receptacles or switches to the screw terminals. Back stabs are the round holes in the back of the switch or receptacle where a wire is pushed in. These are notorious for failures.

Remake any wire nutted connections. Use brand new wire nuts and make sure that all the wires are properly inserted and secure when you apply the nut.

Make sure that all screw terminal connections are secure. One wire per screw. If necessary make and use pigtails, which are short pieces of wire, to make eliminate multiple connections to the same screw.

When you are doing your testing there are some things you can do to make it go faster. Check nearby receptacles and lights first. Depending on the age of the house and on what room you are talking about, it is likely that the receptacles in the room and/or lights in nearby rooms are on the same circuit. However, it is unlikely that receptacles in the kitchen, for example, are involved.

Forget about testing continuity. it is dangerous to do with ac power, and the readings only mean something if you know how to take them and how to interpret them.

The only time that neutral wires are shared between circuit is when a multi-wire circuit is involved. Whether you have this or not is immaterial.

If you do not wish to do this yourself, you can call an electrician. An electrician will probably be able to find the problem faster than you can. This is because he or she is familiar with how wiring is run and knows exactly what to check for. But understand that he or she will do exactly what we have told you to do. He or she will check the junction boxes looking for the open neutral.
 
  #13  
Old 03-07-07, 01:05 PM
jascooper's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 60
> If you did not perform this task it is either because you did not know that you should, or because your were too lazy to do so. I will have some sympathy for you in the former case, and absolutely no sympathy in the latter case.

Then a little sympathy is in order. I didn't have the slightest idea that I should have mapped out my circuits. I thought it should have gone by common sense. Boy was I wrong!

After going through all the outlets that weren't working or stopped working when I shut down the breaker, I moved to fixtures and appliances. I pulled the dishwasher and the neutral wire (the white one, right?) was kind of frazzled and in bad shape. I hooked up the dishwasher temporarily to the hot side and it is working, so that may be the source of my problems.

So now for my questions as to how to restore things to meet code:

There is not enough slack in the main wire to hook all three sets of wires (the power going in, the power going out, and the dishwasher power) together in one junction box. Can I install 2 boxes about a foot apart and use a piece of cable to splice the 2 boxes together, and then run the DW hookup into one of the boxes?

Rube Goldberg installed the dishwasher and simply cut the power cable and twisted everything together (3 wires held together with wire nuts for each of the hot, neutral, and ground sets). I'm lucky the house didn't burn down.

If I can't replace the main cable, will the 2 junction box scenario work and satisfy code requirements? One box would simply hold two attached sets of wire. The other box would contain three sets of wire (in, out, and DW hookup). Is this acceptable practice, or is there something I'm unaware of that I should be using?

Thanks for your help, James

Hopefully when it's hooked back together, the outlets and lights which are now dead will return to life.
 
  #14  
Old 03-07-07, 01:49 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
Time out.

Obviously a kitchen is involved here. This gets into many , many requirements.

What are ALL the receptacles, lights, switches and appliances involved here?
 
  #15  
Old 03-09-07, 04:54 PM
jascooper's Avatar
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 60
Smile Got my juice back!!!

Well, I have my power back. I do know why, but the circuit for my bedroom passes through the kitchen, and is used to power one 24 watt fluorescent fixture. None of the other outlets, fixtures or appliances are on the circuit (except for the dishwasher which was spliced into that circuit). I thought it was tied into a kitchen outlet, but apparently not.

Anyway, I hooked up the wiring properly using junction boxes with nothing exposed. I'm lucky, the way it was hooked up before, that the house didn't burn down.

I think there are still things that need correcting, as one of the lights on the bedroom circuit is outside (shouldn't that be on a GFCI circuit)?

Anyway, thanks for the help trying to trace the problem. I don't think even an electrician would have known to look at the dishwasher (other than the fact that it stopped working soon after the bedroom went out).

James
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
'