GFCI end-of-life, related to hot/neutral being swapped?


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Old 07-30-14, 11:45 AM
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GFCI end-of-life, related to hot/neutral being swapped?

The air handler for my central air conditioning system has an on/off switch wired in series so that it can be turned off (for service or emergency). Inspector says I need to add an always-on outlet to the box for code (New Jersey), so last week I tried adding a 20-Amp GFCI outlet to the box similar to the image here:

Last image before the embedded video, but my load is an air handler instead of a light bulb...
Labeled as "Power Coming In At Switch/Outlet - With Light"
Wiring a 2-Way Switch

After wiring it up, I could successfully "test" and "reset" the outlet using the buttons on the outlet or on my outlet tester. But the LEDs on my outlet tester indicated a "hot/neutral swap".

Google tells me that a hot/neutral swap means either"
1) Hot and neutral are swapped somewhere else along the line leading back to the electrical panel, or
2) My ground wire does not properly run all the way back to the panel.

I opened the box and swapped the wires, but the tester still said they were swapped. The air handler, switch, outlet, and metal box all look properly grounded as far as I can see in the nearby area.

Having run out of ideas, I closed up the box, leaving the outlet and switch wired up, even though it said "hot/neutral swapped". I left it like that for a few days so I could do more research.

Now a week later, I see that the red LED on the GFCI outlet is blinking, indicating "end of life". Basically, it now works as an outlet, but the ground fault interrupting no longer works.

Could the hot/neutral swap issue have caused the end-of-life on the outlet, or just bad luck with a faulty outlet? Basically.. how do I solve this? Maybe it was just a bad outlet, but I don't want to put in a new one just to have it also break.

Thanks
 
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Old 07-30-14, 12:17 PM
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Could the hot/neutral swap issue have caused the end-of-life on the outlet, or just bad luck with a faulty outlet? Basically.. how do I solve this? Maybe it was just a bad outlet, but I don't want to put in a new one just to have it also break.
I don't think so. What brand is the GFCI receptacle. Leviton's end-of-life design prevents the receptacle from being reset which effectively means it will not deliver power as a regular receptacle.

The important thing is that the black wire be the hot wire and the white wire be the neutral wire. You'll need a meter to determine this.
 
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Old 07-30-14, 12:50 PM
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Amazing the crap you see from alleged experts on the internet.
Wiring a 2-Way Switch
Well no such critter as a 2-way switch in North America so I'm not sure how credible the guy is though I didn't read the article. The term 2-way switch is the British term for a three way switch but the image is definitely a single location light switch (SPST) not a 3-way switch.

As your Google search showed plug in testers are not the best way to test. You should use a multimeter, preferably analog. If you show ~120 volts neutral to ground and ~0 volts black to ground then the wiring is reversed.
 
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Old 07-30-14, 02:37 PM
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Did you try and power the receptacle from the wiring in the disconnect? The disconnect is 240 volts without a neutral.
 
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Old 07-30-14, 06:18 PM
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I opened the box and swapped the wires, but the tester still said they were swapped.
I don't suppose the instructions that came with your plug-in tester told you that they are not 100% reliable and are nearly useless when troubleshooting, did they?
 
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Old 07-30-14, 08:59 PM
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Wiring a 2-Way Switch

this site has more erros than the onion. each page i looked at had a mistake. it would be funny except some people may use it for instruction. STAY AWAY!
 
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Old 07-30-14, 09:23 PM
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i agree with pcboss. if you have a neutral(white wire) and the circuit to the air handler is 15 or 20 amps you may hook a receptacle up to it.
if you have no white wire.you may have no receptacle.
if you feed a "GFCI receptacle outlet" from a 240 volt air handler the the "GFCI receptacle" will burn up.

what kind of air handler is it?
how large is the circuit breaker in the panel feeding the air handler?
is this circuit breaker a single pole or double pole circuit breaker?
 
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Old 07-31-14, 12:48 AM
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A white wire is not always a neutral. Older installations were commonly not marked as a hot conductor. Newer codes require the white to be reidentified as a hot to avoid this confusion.
 
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Old 07-31-14, 01:15 AM
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i agree,pcboss..........The message you have entered is too short. Please lengthen your message to at least 25 characters.
 
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Old 07-31-14, 06:50 AM
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Thank you all for the suggestions. The GFCI receptacle that I am using is by Hubbell (Hubbell Incorporated). I confirmed this morning that the outlet still provides power, even though the LED indicates end of life and the test/reset functionality no longer works. The tester still reads "hot/neutral swapped".

The air handler is powered via 12-guage 3-wire romex cable (black/white/bare), which I interpreted as hot/neutral/ground. Even if the hot and neutral were swapped somewhere, I believe I should be able to solve that problem by swapping the connections on my outlet. I don't have a multimeter to test, it's on the birthday wish list. Since that didn't work, I assumed I have a false ground on this circuit.

The GFCI that I am using is rated for 20 Amps, so I figured it should work fine with the switch and air handler, which are powered from the electrical panel through a double-pole 20 Amp breaker.

If that web page in inaccurate, can someone please point me to a wiring diagram that I can use as reference? On which shows how to wire up the following:
- wiring in from panel: 3-wire romex
- wiring to load: 3-wire romex
- wire single pole switch to control load
- wire GFCI outlet independent of the switch

Thanks.
 
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Old 07-31-14, 07:08 AM
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If the GFI is fed from the two pole breaker it is most likely 240 volts, not 120 .
 
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Old 07-31-14, 09:00 AM
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The tester still reads "hot/neutral swapped".
A tester which we have said multiple times is not always accurate so to keep using it accomplishes nothing. You need a $8-$15 analog (not digital) multimeter.
The air handler is powered via 12-guage 3-wire romex cable (black/white/bare)
That is two conductor Romex not 3-wire.
and air handler, which are powered from the electrical panel through a double-pole 20 Amp breaker.
Then you only have 240 volts at the switch and can not install a 120 volt receptacle. If all is as you described and the black and white wire of the Romex are connected to the breaker you need to run a new cable for the receptacle.
 
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Old 08-01-14, 08:30 PM
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Hi Ray. Yes, you are right.. I keep harping on what my plug-in tester said, but you and others have made it clear that this is the wrong tool for the job. I believe that the best course of action is to run a new cable for the receptacle. There is other wiring in the attic (for lights, or feeding other areas of the house). If I can find one that is feeding something conventional (thus would be 120V), and isn't already drawing too much current, I will move my receptacle. Thanks.
 
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Old 08-01-14, 08:47 PM
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I believe that the best course of action is to run a new cable for the receptacle.
It is the only course of action if the existing circuit is 240 volts.
 
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Old 08-01-14, 08:53 PM
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Yeah. I had considered the amperage when selecting the outlet, but P = VI, so I was forgetting half of the equation.
 
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Old 08-02-14, 04:48 AM
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As a point of information, a conventional duplex ground fault circuit interrupter receptacle unit for lights and small appliances may be fed by either a 20 amp (breakered) 12 gauge 120 volt circuit or a 15 amp 12 or 14 gauge 120 volt circuit.
 
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Old 08-02-14, 05:19 AM
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a conventional duplex ground fault circuit interrupter receptacle unit for lights and small appliances may be fed by either a 20 amp (breakered) 12 gauge 120 volt circuit or a 15 amp 12 or 14 gauge 120 volt circuit.
That conventional GFCI receptacle would have to be 15 amp rated in order to be to be fed by either a 15 or 20 amp circuit. A 20 amp rated GFCI receptacle must be fed by a 20 amp circuit.
 
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Old 08-04-14, 02:11 PM
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I hooked up a multimeter and found that Neutral (red wire on multimeter) to Hot (black wire on multimeter) was 240V. And that Hot to Ground was about 1.2V. So I think this means:
1) I do have my hot and neutral swapped
2) Maybe I don't have a proper ground, or maybe 1.2V is reasonable once I fix issue #1.
3) Most importantly, I hooked this receptacle up to a 240V line. So not only did it burn up my GFCI protection, but I would have a lot of trouble if I plugged in a power tool that's expecting 120V.

Course of action: Remove this receptacle and throw it away. Install a new receptacle somewhere else in the attic connected to 120V.

Question: Does code require that an outlet in an unconditioned attic be GFCI, or is a standard outlet sufficient?

Thanks all.
 
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Old 08-04-14, 08:12 PM
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If you read 240 volts between your hot and neutral as you called it it was not a neutral but a hot. Not all whites are neutrals.

You should have read 120 between the hots to ground.
 
 

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