Duplex Receptacle Question

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Old 06-05-11, 04:00 PM
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Duplex Receptacle Question

Situation --> Bought a house (50+ years old) and found one room had no power. Checked all breakers - None tripped - Checked with multimeter all looked good. Crawled around under house and found another subpanel? with a tripped 20A breaker. Reset it and room had power again. However, got one of those yellow testers and plugged in into a duplex receptacle. When plugged in one side, all is okay. Plugged into the other, sparks fly to the ground and take a few seconds to burn out and the breaker trips !!

Took the cover off to take a look and was going to replace it but I am a little confused by how it is wired. I am not an electrician, just a DIY'er so need some advice on the following ....

I see the black wire going to one of the brass screws (It is looped around the screw in one piece), I see the white wire going to one of the silver screws (Looped around again - Not two pieces but one solid wire) and I see the bare ground going to the green ground screw. However, I also see a small section of bare ground wire wrapped around from the other silver neutral screw to the other ground wire!! Is this usual and would this be the cause of the sparking etc? If so, why would one side seem ok but not the other? Just looking for advice!!! Thanks for any help!

 
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Old 06-05-11, 04:11 PM
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I am not an electrician but have some DIY experience and this setup seems to be a bit FUBARed. The ground should not be connected to the neutral screws at all. Where do the neutral and hot wires go after the loop? Back out of the box to somewhere else? If so the proper way to wire an outlet like this is to use a pigtail. You would cut those wires so you have two ends for each. Then take a third wire and wire nut all 3 together. The third wire them goes to the screw on the outlet. There is normally a tab between the two screws that connects them. If that is broken off, that could be why one outlet works and the other doesn't.

The person who did this did not know what they were doing. This would make me very suspicious about the rest of the wiring in the house.
 
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Old 06-05-11, 04:18 PM
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You have a dangerous and non code compliant bootleg ground. The bare wire must be removed now.

If so, why would one side seem ok but not the other?
I can't tell from the photo, is the link between the silver screws missing?

I would consider every receptacle in the house suspect till checked.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 06-05-11 at 07:06 PM. Reason: To reflect more information.
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Old 06-05-11, 04:55 PM
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What was done is called a bootleg ground and can be very dangerous. It was probably done either to create the impression that a receptacle was grounded or to replace a failed neutral connection.
 
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Old 06-05-11, 06:09 PM
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Thanks for the replies - The breaker is off and I will get it replaced as soon as I can ... This circuit looks like a much later addition to the house within an alcove. I have checked a lot of other receptacles around the house and they all look to be wired correctly... Just looks like this one that is crazy!

What I don't understand is WHY this was done - There is a proper ground wire connected to the ground screw... Why did whoever did this feel the need to add ANOTHER smaller piece of wire from neutral to ground???

Oh well, Just glad it has been found so I can get it fixed !
 
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Old 06-05-11, 06:46 PM
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You're telling us there is a 3 wire cable entering the receptacle box?? Why on earth, indeed, would they extend the grounding wire to the neutral?
 
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Old 06-05-11, 07:03 PM
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Bootleg neutral off the ground either because the neutral failed or the link between the two silver screws is missing. I don't see the link in the picture but I couldn't see clearly.
 
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Old 06-05-11, 07:09 PM
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Guys, look at the picture closer. The tab between the two neutral screws has been removed. I am also not sure why this was done but it is wrong for sure.
 
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Old 06-05-11, 07:27 PM
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To make something so dangerous to someones life in order to save less than $1.
 
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Old 06-05-11, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
To make something so dangerous to someones life in order to save less than $1.
Heck, they could have pigtailed the neutral. This gets the DR award for today.
 
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Old 06-05-11, 08:52 PM
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Widowmaker...
What does DR Award stand fro?
 
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Old 06-05-11, 09:21 PM
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DR Award = Dumb Repair Award.
 
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Old 06-06-11, 07:24 AM
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Got it! Thanks!
....................
 
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Old 06-06-11, 10:36 AM
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The bootleg ground still does not explain why anything would spark when plugged in there. Was it possible the receptacle was loose in the box and by plugging something you caused the receptacle to short to the box?

This subpanel in the crawlspace warrants some more investigation too. I almost wonder if the white isn't a neutral and this is a bootleg 240V or multiwire circuit. Do you have a multimeter tester that can measure AC voltage (usually a 0-250V AC scale)? If so, carefully measure between black and white, white and bare, bare and black and report back.
 
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Old 06-07-11, 09:59 PM
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I agree with other guys posted here first thing first get rid of bootlegged ground jumper then get the voltmeter and check the voltage to make sure you are reading 120 volts for this appation.

Black to White will read 120 volts

Black to Ground ( Bare ) will read 120 volts *

White to ground will read 0 ( zero ) volts *

* only if you have good ground connection if bad it will read diffrent.

And also check at your breaker / fuse box location to verify this is a legit 120 volt set up if other type of connection please report back here ASAP to let us know then we will assist you the proper way to deal with it.

And last thing before I forget anything else is that double check the conductors in that handybox to make sure they are not pintched as well.

Merci,
Marc
 
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