Receptacle using ground as neutral

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  #1  
Old 04-25-14, 11:47 AM
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Receptacle using ground as neutral

. Everything is currently working as it has always worked. My washing machine is on a dedicated 20 amp circuit. I wanted to change the 15 amp receptacle to a 20 amp. I hit the breaker then went up stairs and checked for power with my wireless tester. It beeped. After flipping through a few breakers I realize the light is also on this same circuit. I had to pop two breakers to have all the hots fully cut. One red wire hot was connected to the brass screw. Two separated white wires were connected to the silver screws. Only one of the white wires was hot. The brass bridge on the receptacle was intact. I am having a major malfunction understanding this. A receptacle can have only one hot? I can pull everything back apart and take photos if that will help.
 
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Old 04-25-14, 12:45 PM
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hit the breaker then went up stairs and checked for power with my wireless tester It beeped.
Not unexpected given they are notorious for false positives. Always use an analog multimeter to verify.
I wanted to change the 15 amp receptacle to a 20 amp
Why? Do you actually have an appliance with a 20 amp plug?
Only one of the white wires was hot.
If you used a non contact tester you don't know that yet.
A receptacle can have only one hot?
Yes, almost all receptacles have one hot cable. If there is a second cable it is almost always load and not hot. Are the two breakers next to each other? Does one breaker have a red wire and one a black wire? If so you may have a multiwire circuit. While the wiring seems suspect nothing indicates you have a ground used as a neutral unless there is a bare wire connected to a neutral screw. Are there other wires in the receptacle box?
 
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Old 04-25-14, 12:55 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

Did I miss something? I don't see any mention of a ground wire, let alone one used as a neutral.

Only one of the white wires was hot.
While a white wire can be used to carry ungrounded current in certain circumstances, none of those seems to be present here. How did you determine that there was ungrounded potential on one of the white wires?

I realize the light is also on this same circuit. I had to pop two breakers to have all the hots fully cut. One red wire hot was connected to the brass screw.
It sounds like the lighting and the receptacle for the washing machine are fed with the two hots and one neutral of a multiwire branch circuit, or MWBC. If so, the two breakers should be vertically adjacent to each other and they should have had their handles tied together so that turning one off would have also turned the other one off.

My washing machine is on a dedicated 20 amp circuit. I wanted to change the 15 amp receptacle to a 20 amp
Why? Is it a single receptacle or a duplex receptacle? Are you planning to install a single receptacle?
 
  #4  
Old 04-25-14, 06:23 PM
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Man, you guys nail this one. First time using one of those no contact testers. I have a meter as well. This all started when I painted the room and needed to change the cover plates. I peeked inside the box and saw everything was back stabbed. '
I was thinking that a duplex receptacle needed to be 20 amp if it was alone. But that is only if it is a single. Thanks.
I need to post a picture of the inside of my panel, I would like to clean things up a little. I saw two hots going into one breaker on a 37 year old Murray panel. I am going to spend some time on google trying to understand more of what everyone is talking about. Will post back.
 
  #5  
Old 04-25-14, 08:17 PM
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Fifteen amp receptacles are allowed on a 20 amp circuit provided that the entire circuit has at least two receptacles -- that is, a minimum of one duplex or two round singles.

This can still be the laundry circuit if all of the receptacles are in the laundry area.
 
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