Switches wired to neutral instead of hot

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  #1  
Old 06-04-14, 04:18 PM
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Switches wired to neutral instead of hot

My house was built in 2004 and I have now discovered, while adding a room, that all of the switches are breaking the neutral. From what I've been reading, the switches should be wired hot. Was this a common practice at the time? Should the electrical inspector have caught that? Should I have the switches rewired?
 
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Old 06-04-14, 04:29 PM
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I've seen that before. You don't have to rewire anything. I've never switched the neutral leg myself & probably never will.
 
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Old 06-04-14, 04:31 PM
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May be what's called a switch loop and someone missed remarking the white wire with black tape.
Google switch loop and checkout some of the pictures.
 
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Old 06-04-14, 04:46 PM
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Thanks! It does appear that it is the neutral that is switched. I have full voltage at the lights even with the switch off. Plus, when tearing out the sheathing for the addition, I can see that some exterior lights have a continuous black, while the switch leg runs off the white.
 
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Old 06-04-14, 04:59 PM
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Putting the switch for a light or receptacle or other portion of a building circuit is incorrect now. It may have been permitted in the past but that would have been long ago, like prior to 1940.

The circuit will still work.
 
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Old 06-04-14, 05:39 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

It does appear that it is the neutral that is switched. I have full voltage at the lights even with the switch off.
That was not allowed in 2004 and is wrong !
 
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Old 06-04-14, 08:00 PM
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Switching the neutral has never been allowed, but is frequently found on old knob & tube wiring. I'd be asking myself that if all the neutrals are switched, what else is wrong. In my opinion, switching the neutral is not something most inspectors would catch.
 
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Old 06-05-14, 05:41 AM
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Correction... house was built in 1994, which I would say still doesn't excuse the issue.
I must assume, that while it is incorrect, it must not be that big of a deal if the inspector isn't concerned enough to check it. I do know he was very concerned about adding additional outlets in locations I can't get to and have never used in 20 years.
 
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Old 06-05-14, 06:51 AM
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You can leave it the way it is and, at your leisure, correct the easiest examples one at a time.

One example: Raw power (e.g. as 14/2 Romex) comes into switch box and switched power continues on to light. Incoming black wire nutted to continuing black. Whites connected to switch.

Label* and undo the connections. Wire nut the two white neutrals together. Connect the black wires to the switch.

Note that the switched power lead connected to the black or gold (as opposed to white or silver) light fixture or receptacle terminal must not be white.

Complicated example: You find out that the black wire was the neutral, (with zero volts measured between it and ground and the white wire measured 120 volts to ground). Don't quickly move some wire nuts around. You will need to verify for sure which wires run where. The steps needed to fix this are too wordy to show right here.

* Get into the habit of labeling wires before taking them apart, with enough detail that you could put them back the way they were. Many molehills turn into mountains when wires were taken apart without labeling.
 
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Old 06-05-14, 12:34 PM
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Thanks to all! I appreciate all hints, suggestions and comments.
 
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Old 06-05-14, 04:00 PM
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Thanks! It does appear that it is the neutral that is switched. I have full voltage at the lights even with the switch off. Plus, when tearing out the sheathing for the addition, I can see that some exterior lights have a continuous black, while the switch leg runs off the white.
How are you testing this? If your using a non-contact voltage tester they give false positives all the time. It is likely a switch loop. They tied the black to the hot and used the white as a switch leg, or vice versa. Having a constant hot at the light fixture is a dead give away of a switch loop.
 
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Old 06-05-14, 08:21 PM
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Neutral have not been switched for probably 50 plus years. Someone is way behind the times.
 
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