possible hot/neutral wires reversed

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Old 01-05-10, 08:34 PM
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possible hot/neutral wires reversed

Hello,

I have a tennant who has complained that their computer has been fried by an electrical surge twice now within a year. They said the second time they even had a surge protector on it.

I am trying to figure this out. I am wondering if the plug they are using may have the hot and neutral wires crossed. If so, does anyone know what the effect of using a plug with the hot and neutral wires crossed are? Could it destroy an electronic piece of equipmenta like this?

Thanks
 
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Old 01-05-10, 08:52 PM
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I don't think hot/neutral reversed could cause this problem.

Having no ground or a poor ground could prevent a surge protector from doing its job 100%.

I would check the outlet with an outlet tester. One of those with the lights which show the outlet is wired OK.

If it is not wired properly, then call an electrician to fix it.

Otherwise the tenant should get a good quality surge protector, the kind which have a $10,000.00 guarantee or whatever.

If you are a kind landlord and want to keep the tenant, you can have an electrician install a whole house surge protector at the main panel. (The tenant still needs to have a surge protector at each outlet where there is an electronic device like a computer, phone, etc.)
 
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Old 01-05-10, 09:41 PM
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Thanks for the advice

Thanks for the advice Bill.

Out of curiosity, if having hot/neutral wires reversed will not fry a computer, then what are the downsides of using a plug with reversed wires?
 
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Old 01-05-10, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by nikotromus11 View Post
I have a tennant who has complained that their computer has been fried by an electrical surge twice now within a year. They said the second time they even had a surge protector on it.
Plug-in protectors do not and do not claim to protect from typically destructive surges. In fact, we engineers have traces damage to a network of powered off computers because the plug-in protector earthed a surge destructively through those computers.

Meanwhile, most computer failures are due to manufacturing defects. The naive (especially computer repairmen) are quick to blame failures on surges because they do not even know how electricity works. We often see people blaming damage on surges only because they do not know what else to blame. And because most are almost brainwashed with nonsense promoted by plug-in protector manufacturers and salesmen.

If reversed hot and neutral causes hardware damage, the computer was built defectively. Worse, static electric discharges by a poorly trained tech can result in computer failures days or months later.

Now, lets assume surge do exist. Then you also have appliances waiting to fail. The only effective protector is a 'whole house' protector. And only effective is the building earthing meets and exceed post 1990 National Electrical code. The effective protector are only available from more responsible companies such as Siemens, Intermatic, Leviton, Square D, and General Electric. The effective Cutler-Hammer protector sells in Lowes for less than $50.

If your tenant is using plug-in protectors, then he has created a minor fire hazard. Another reason for the 'whole house' protector: so that plug-in protectors are a less threat. Yes, most every fire department has seen burned plug-in protector that are a profit center; not surge protection.

BTW, even 'whole house' protectors are ineffective if you do not install the surge protection - proper earthing - must be a short ('less than 10 foot') connection from protector to earth.

Until your tenant can specify the resistor or semiconductor that failed, only then would I know why it failed. A statement about the so many who know without first learning. Most computer repairmen do not even know how electricity works. Only understand shotgunning - keep replacing parts until something works.

Is that computer surge damaged? Then reverse hot-neutral is irrelevant. Was the computer damaged by reverse wires? Then the computer was built defectively.

Another recommended that plug-in outlet tester (about $6). That usefully reports human safety problems (reversed hot-neutral). But that always important earth ground (which is not safety ground in receptacles) can only be confirmed by visual inspection. Earth: a ground essential to human safety and the only reason why any protector works.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 05:47 AM
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thanks

Thanks for the information Westom. That was very thorough. You sure sound like you know your stuff.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by nikotromus11 View Post
Thanks for the advice Bill.

Out of curiosity, if having hot/neutral wires reversed will not fry a computer, then what are the downsides of using a plug with reversed wires?
There is a "hot" wire which can electrocute you and a "neutral" wire which typically would not electrocute you.

Things like lamps will have a polarized plug which allows you to only plug something in one way. This attaches the "ring" of a light bulb socket to the large prong or neutral and the inside center connection in the socket to hot.

You are more likely to accidentally touch the "ring" of a bulb when replacing it, thus this wiring method adds safety!
 
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Old 01-08-10, 04:01 PM
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I fried a nice Sony 20" LCD monitor a couple years ago by plugging a large fan into the other half of the same duplex outlet the monitor was plugged into. The instant I turned the fan to high, the monitor died. Luckily it was still under warranty and Sony replaced it. I've since used different circuits for the same fan and the same model monitor.
 
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Old 01-09-10, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill190 View Post
There is a "hot" wire which can electrocute you and a "neutral" wire which typically would not electrocute you.
Bill, I am going to disagree with you about the neutral. It is possible to get shocked off of the neutral. All you would need would be to have a broken neutral and complete the the path becoming a neutral conductor with your body. Also opening a neutral of a multi-wire circuit would have current flowing on it. This is why multi-pole breakers are required.
 
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Old 01-09-10, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Bill, I am going to disagree with you about the neutral. It is possible to get shocked off of the neutral. All you would need would be to have a broken neutral and complete the the path becoming a neutral conductor with your body. Also opening a neutral of a multi-wire circuit would have current flowing on it. This is why multi-pole breakers are required.
I know... I was expecting a comment such as yours!

But I was trying to keep it simple and not complicate things for the OP...
 
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Old 01-09-10, 11:46 AM
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I agree Bill, but others might read this post a later date and did not want them to get the wrong idea. I would agree that to discuss the technical aspects of how this would happen is too much for a DIY forum.
 
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