So I just got shocked...why?

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  #1  
Old 02-21-13, 02:15 PM
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So I just got shocked...why?

I was replacing a light fixture that's connected to a two way switch. I did NOT turn off the breaker before doing this (yes, I know, shame on me). I turned OFF both switches to the light.

Inside the light box were 3 (possibly 4) neutrals tied together with a wire nut. The light fixture's neutral was wired into this cluster. Upon removing the wire nut, I felt nothing, as expected. A short time later I touched these cluster of neutral wires only to feel a minor shock (my finger started to vibrate/buzz tremendously). The hot wire was disconnected, out in the open, touching nothing. The two light switches powering the light had not been touched. A family member turned on a light upstairs that probably was on the same circuit, so the return current could have very well went through this neutral cluster. Isn't neutral suppose to be the path of least resistance? Why would I have received a shock from it?
 
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Old 02-21-13, 02:23 PM
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The hot wire was disconnected, out in the open, touching nothing. The two light switches powering the light had not been touched. A family member turned on a light upstairs that probably was on the same circuit, so the return current could have very well went through this neutral cluster. Isn't neutral suppose to be the path of least resistance? Why would I have received a shock from it?
The neutral is a current carrying conductor although some people have a really hard time understanding this. I suspect you introduced another path of low resistance to ground when you touched the neutrals. Obviously there was either a load on the circuit or this circuit is part of a multi wire branch circuit.
 
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Old 02-21-13, 02:38 PM
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Though I can't explain the circuitry....this makes me think you actually applied power when you turned "off" the switches...
connected to a two way switch. I did NOT turn off the breaker before doing this (yes, I know, shame on me). I turned OFF both switches to the light.

If you have 2 switches controlling a light...it's actually called a 3 way switch. (I guess because a 2 way would be on and off?). So , there's no way to really turn them both off.


If you had really gotten a full 120VAC bite...it would have been more than your finger. Even those who have gotten it more than a few times (like me...because I'm a superman and don't need to turn off the breaker...right?).....it's a pretty sharp hit. Not like 5 or 10 KV (which I also have experienced...through no fault of my own!)....but it will make you jump...not just vibrate/buzz.
 
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Old 02-21-13, 02:44 PM
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Isn't neutral suppose to be the path of least resistance? Why would I have received a shock from it?
Actually the ground may provide a lower-resistance path. If you touched the neutrals while there was some potential on them and, at the same time, your hand or finger was touching, or very close to, the ground wires or the grounded fixture - voila!

Our bodies are excellent conductors.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 02-24-13 at 05:40 PM. Reason: typo
  #5  
Old 02-24-13, 01:47 PM
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I would be surprised if you sustained a shock from an intact neutral. You might get 2 to 4 volts on a neutral in a home with quite a bit of load. What could happen is that you had one of those neutral wires get loose and then present 120v thru the downstream load. that will bite.
 
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Old 02-24-13, 05:44 PM
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The grounded conductor, or neutral, is a current-carrying conductor. It's potential is the same as the hot wire(s) with which it is paired - 120V. The amperage present on the neutral at any given time varies with the live loads connected to the circuit.
 
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