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Hot/neutral reverse indicated on outlet tester, everything works fine.

Hot/neutral reverse indicated on outlet tester, everything works fine.

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  #1  
Old 07-18-12, 10:15 AM
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Hot/neutral reverse indicated on outlet tester, everything works fine.

According to my outlet tester, I have the hot/neutral reversed, but as far as I can tell I don't. The non contact voltage detector seems to indicated I have the hot line in the right position and the other wire is not hot (they are not color coded). This is a GFCI outlet (brand new) that I just wired. There are 4 wires in the outlet. I pigtailed the two "black" (again they are uncolored) wires with a 3rd wire and connected it to the brass screw terminal and did the same with the "white" wires to the silver screw. The power works at the outlet and downstream. Does this mean the problem is upstream or is it potentially a false reading?
 
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  #2  
Old 07-18-12, 11:01 AM
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According to my outlet tester, I have the hot/neutral reversed, but as far as I can tell I don't. The non contact voltage detector seems to indicated I have the hot line in the right position and the other wire is not hot (they are not color coded).
If the wires are not color coded, how did you determine which two were the ungrounded (hot) conductors and which two are the grounded (neutral) conductors?

This is a GFCI outlet (brand new) that I just wired. There are 4 wires in the outlet. I pigtailed the two "black" (again they are uncolored) wires with a 3rd wire and connected it to the brass screw terminal and did the same with the "white" wires to the silver screw.
GFCI receptacles have four terminals and all four are typically back-clamp terminals that accept two conductors each. Terminations are made by inserting the stripped wire(s) in the slots and turning the screw to tighten the clamp. Why did you add a pigtail?

One pair of terminals on a GFCI receptacle is marked LINE and the other pair is marked LOAD. The incoming power wires must always be connected to the LINE terminals. Connecting the outgoing wires to the LOAD terminals creates GFCI protection for all devices downline. Connecting the outgoing wires as the second pair on the LINE terminals limits GFCI protection to the receptacle itself. Which terminals did you connect the pigtails to?

To determine the polarity in your GFCI, plug an extension cord into a known good outlet. At the GFCI, use a multimeter set on the lowest VAC setting that is greater than 120V (often 200 VAC) Insert one probe of the multimeter into the wider power slot in the extension cord and insert the other probe into each slot in the GFCI, to see which slot reads 120V. It should be the narrower power slot. If it is the longer slot, then the hot and neutral are reversed.
 
  #3  
Old 07-18-12, 01:50 PM
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Info

I pigtailed them because this is in my living room in an old house so I am only wanting GFCI protection for that particular outlet. When I installed the outlet for multiple-location protection, it tripped constantly. I know this is indicative of a fault somewhere down the line, but I just need a working outlet in this spot for now. Theres a ceiling fan, 3 overhead lights, and 4 outlets on the circuit and I don't have the time to find the problem down the line right now. I have a non contact voltage tester and a continuity tester which I used to figure out which is the live wire.
 
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Old 07-18-12, 01:53 PM
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  #5  
Old 07-18-12, 03:50 PM
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From the page you linked to:
Most GFCIs use standard screw terminal connections, but some have wire leads and are attached with wire connectors
No, most GFCI receptacles have the dual-wire clamps I described earlier. All connections should be made using those clamps. When two conductors need to be attached to the same terminal, as is your case, they should each be stripped, cut to length, and installed in the clamp.

The rest of the information on that page seems to be pretty straightforward.
 
  #6  
Old 07-18-12, 03:54 PM
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Older GFIs had wire leads instead of the clamps.
 
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Old 07-18-12, 03:57 PM
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I pigtailed them because this is in my living room in an old house so I am only wanting GFCI protection for that particular outlet. When I installed the outlet for multiple-location protection, it tripped constantly. I know this is indicative of a fault somewhere down the line, but I just need a working outlet in this spot for now. Theres a ceiling fan, 3 overhead lights, and 4 outlets on the circuit and I don't have the time to find the problem down the line right now.
Sounds frustrating. How old is your house? Are you planning to use the GFCI protection to allow you to install modern 3-slot receptacles on an existing 2-conductor circuit?

If so, you might want to install a GFCI circuit breaker instead. Not only is that less obtrusive, they seem to be more stable - less subject to random tripping - than the receptacles.

Good luck!
 
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Old 07-18-12, 04:01 PM
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Older GFIs had wire leads instead of the clamps.
That's a point, PC. But the ones I installed in the early 1980s had the clamps, IIRC.

Regardless, the reference never mentioned the clamps, and I think this is a device the OP just bought.
 
  #9  
Old 07-18-12, 04:30 PM
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Yes, this is an item I just bought. I don't know where the question of clamps vs screw terminals is coming from as I don't think there is any probelm with the connection the wires are making with the terminals. It has a screw that the wire wraps around and then the screw is tightened and it also has 2 holes for backstop connections which the consensus has been I shouldn't use. I have a strand of 12 gauge copper wire wrapped around the terminal as best I could get it. I plan on replacing that wire as soon as I can find some 12/1 gauge solid copper wire around my areaas it doesn't fit well enough for me to feel safe with leaving it long term, but it is making solid connection with the terminal at the moment. When I get home I will try the outlets before and after this one in the circuit and see if they are also getting a hot/neutral reversal indication.
 
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Old 07-18-12, 06:32 PM
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I don't think there is any probelm with the connection the wires are making with the terminals. It has a screw that the wire wraps around and then the screw is tightened and it also has 2 holes for backstop connections which the consensus has been I shouldn't use.
Look at it again. If your GFCI receptacle has holes in the back for back-stab (spring-loaded) connections, it is the only one I have ever heard of that does.

There should be two slots, right next to each other, behind each terminal screw. Those slots should allow the wire(s) to be let into the internal clamp. Tightening the screw should then clamp the wire(s) into place. Do you still have the box and instructions the GFCI came in and with? You can refer to those for verification.

Two more points: Your GFCI should have a "STRIP GAUGE" molded into the back, along with the LINE and LOAD designations. If that "STRIP GAUGE" is about 1/2" - 5/8" long, then you definitely have a back-clamp device. 1/2" - 5/8" of bare conductor is not enough to wrap around a screw.

Also, if you loosen any of the terminal screws and then shake the receptacle, and the screw rattles, and moves in and out of the body of the receptacle, then that is a screw attached to a clamp. Terminal screws designed for wrapping wire around are solidly mounted.

Using stranded wire, pigtailing the wires, and wrapping wire around a clamp screw are all actions that might cause the device to report "hot/neutral reversed" on a plug-in tester. So is not being sure which wire is which on the uncolored wires feeding out of the box.

Did you do the test using the extension cord yet? What did that show?
 
  #11  
Old 07-19-12, 10:23 AM
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Thanks for the advice. I guess I was confusing what a backstab connection was. When I went home, the outlet actually tested fine. The tester said everything was wired correctly. So i figure something is a little too loose and its coming in and out of place. I bought some solid 12 gauge wire and will attach it using the clamps like you suggest and use a tighter wire nut on the pigtails to get a better fit.
 
  #12  
Old 07-19-12, 10:58 AM
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I guess I was confusing what a backstab connection was.
OK. Glad we got that figured out!

When I went home, the outlet actually tested fine. The tester said everything was wired correctly. So i figure something is a little too loose and its coming in and out of place.
Either that, or maybe it's something to do with your tester. Are you using a 3-prong plug-in tester with a push button to test GFCI?

I bought some solid 12 gauge wire and will attach it using the clamps like you suggest and use a tighter wire nut on the pigtails to get a better fit.
Two questions and a comment:

1 - 12 gauge wire is for 20A circuits. Is this a 20A circuit? If it's a 15A circuit, 14 gauge would be better.

2 - Why do you need pigtails now? You said there are only four wires, and each terminal clamp is made to take up to two wires.

C - Wire splices are made by lining the wires up with the ends of the stripped insulation even and twisting the conductors together, clockwise, at least three twists, using pliers. The ends are then trimmed even and a wire nut is twisted on to insulate and protect the splice. The wire nut is not a splice connector; it is a splice cover.

This is a common misunderstanding. Those of us in the trade sometimes add to it by casually saying "wire-nut that," or "put those together with a wire nut," when what we really mean is "splice and wire-nut that."
 
  #13  
Old 07-19-12, 01:38 PM
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The GFI has back-wired clamps, not back stabs. You will be fine to use them.
 
  #14  
Old 07-19-12, 04:38 PM
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Older GFIs had wire leads instead of the clamps.
They are still made and available, but probably cost more. Would you pay more for a device with leads?

Leaded > GFCI Receptacles > Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) > Electrical Wiring Devices > Products from Leviton Electrical and Electronic Products
 
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