Strange reading from outlets (poor ground andinverted neutral?)

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  #1  
Old 01-02-20, 07:29 PM
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Strange reading from outlets (poor ground andinverted neutral?)

Hello,

First of all, I would like to let you know I am sort of a beginner, so please forgive me for any imprecision.
I've just remodeled the living room, and when trying to update the outlets and switches, I realized that the wiring is a bit strange (see picture below).
In particular, I get strange readings from my outlet tester: the central (neutral to hot hole) light is on and the two on the sides are dim.
To my understanding, with the central/neutral to hot light lit and the neutral to ground light dim, it probably means reverse polarity and poor ground (see What Your Outlet Tester Means), but having also the hot to ground light dim got me confused and I have no idea of what it could be.

Could anyone kindly suggest what the possible problems is/are, and what to do?

EDIT: I initially used wrongly the term receptacle instead of box
EDIT 2: I disconnected the ground wires from the outlet in box 3 and the switch in box 4, to bring the system exactly as it was initially, and outlets in box 1 and 2 show correct lights but not 3.

Additional info:
-The large squares in the diagram, indicate the electric boxes with the outlets in them.
-In box 2a, all the black wires are tied together and the same is for the white ones, with additional wires going to the outlet in 2a and in 2b.
-In the diagram, I've ignored the ground wires, since they are all connected. Initially, receptacles 3 and 4 did not have the ground connected to the outlets, but even after connecting them, the strange tester lights remain.
-Box 4 has a double switch: one controls an outdoor lamp, one the outlet in receptacle 3.
-Box 2 is split in 2a and 2b since from the original one, an additional was added on the other side of the wall.

Thank you again for the help and suggestions.
Best,
Clemens

P.s. please forgive the low quality drawing

Name:  Living room wire diagram.jpg
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Last edited by clemens1; 01-02-20 at 08:00 PM. Reason: reoriented/resized/ picture
  #2  
Old 01-02-20, 07:55 PM
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1A looks correct.
2A and 2B look correct.

The receptacle in 3 is currently not powered. You can add a jumper to the black splice and connect it to the top receptacle screw.(shown in purple) You would remove the jumper clip on the hot/brass side and this would give you one receptacle always live and one switched.

At 4...... you need to connect the hot wire to the switch so that both switches are powered. Then the red goes on the opposite side just like the black/lamp wire.

Name:  Living room wire diagram.jpg
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If you don't want the receptacle at 3 to be half switched..... ignore the purple wire.
 
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Old 01-02-20, 08:12 PM
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Thank you for the super quick reply, I really appreciate it.
The odd thing is that the outlet in box 3 is actually powered.

Also, I've just realized that in trying to simplify the diagram, I skipped an outlet after box 2, that I thought was just simple loops around the screws (one hot and one neutral), but I've now realized it is actually like 2a and 2b, let's call it double2a and double2b, but while the tester gives correct lights on box 1 and box double2, it does not in box 2 and 3.

If too confusing, I could redo the drawing and upload it
 
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Old 01-02-20, 08:24 PM
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If the two screws on the left side of the switch are tied together (common) then the red wire will be always live.
 
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Old 01-02-20, 08:35 PM
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Thank you. The double switch is a Leviton Decora, installed out of the box, without doing anything to it.
I also wanted to add that the outside light is a sensor activated one, although I use it as a regular one.

The strange thing is that some outlets get the funny reading, some don't, alternating.
Box 1 OK
Box 2 strange tester lights
Box double2 (not in diagram, but wired as box 2) OK
Box 3 strange tester lights (no ground connected to outlet).
Additionally, just for more complete info, box 4, the switch is not connected to the ground.

It's getting a bit late here, but tomorrow, a bit earlier than this time, I will try to post a more precise diagram.
Sorry for the confusion.
Best,
Clemens
 
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Old 01-03-20, 06:29 PM
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Hello,

I finally managed to check better and make a better drawing.
Please see the image below. The black rectangles are boxes (all metal), the solid triangles are screw connectors, the green dots are the "ground screws" in the metal boxes, the green scribbles are the ground wired twisted together.

Notes

1. All plugs work, as well as the outdoor light (moving sensor), controlled by one of the switches in Box 5.

2. In Box 1, as in the diagram, the ground wires are not connected together (1 was attached to the ground screw in the metal box, the other to the ground screw in the outlet). When this is the case, the outlet tester (Sperry) shows central (yellow) light lit and the side ones (red on the left, yellow on the right) dim for all outlets.
When I twisted the ground wires together, I got proper test result (or at least so it appears from the tester) in the outlets in box 1 and 3, while box 2 and 4 still have the central lit/sides dim result.

3. Box 2b, is actually an unclear situation, since from there a light in the kitchen, as well as everything in the garage (from a switch controlling both an outlet and the garage door opener). I will eventually need to crawl under the roof to check what's actually happening. My suspicion is that there is a box, with one cable going to the kitchen lamp and the other going to the switch in the garage.

Thank you for your patience and help.

If needed, I have also a regular electric tester, which I usually use for car repairs, but I would need some guidance to ensure proper testing procedure.
 
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Old 01-03-20, 10:14 PM
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Box 4 won't work. It is either always on or dead. The switch won't do anything to box 4. The common point for power on the dual switch is on one side and the two switched outputs are on the other side. Either two blacks need to be swapped or the red needs to move depending on which side is the common.
The black wire from box 4 should be on the common.

The rest looks to be wired correctly.
 
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Old 01-04-20, 06:47 AM
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Thank you.
Through all your comments, I am starting to understand a bit better, and through the process, I am learning. And luckily, now that the weekend is here, I can focus more.
I've replaced many of outlets and regular switches when remodeling, and read the B&D wiring book various times, but never actually replaced a double switch before.

Now I realize I actually misrepresented the drawing on box 5.
The electricity arrives to the double switch on the right side (where there is the tab to remove in case the switches control two separate circuits, in my case the tab is there since it is all one circuit).

Here is the actual situation.

Thank you all again for your help. I really hope to be able to solve the situation before the new week starts.
 
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Old 01-04-20, 09:27 AM
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If it is wired as pictured it will work and box 4 will be a switched entire receptacle.

Some of the receptacles don't show a ground connection in the drawing but I normally don't even discuss grounds. They just all connected together, to metal boxes and to ground screws on all devices.
 
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Old 01-04-20, 10:07 AM
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Thank you.
Just to make sure I understood correctly, the outlet in box 4 is correctly wired, so it is controlled (on and off) by the switch, right?

And in box 2 and 4, the outlets are not connected to the other grounds. This is likely to be the reason for the strange tester readings, right?

And in this regard, since I will be soon connecting the missing grounds, what's the best way to piggy the ground connector to the ground screw of the outlet? Can a thicker wire (slightly lower gauge) be used?
I don't have the same one at present, but if needed, I'll go get some.

Last question, should the ground on the double switch (box 5), be also connected to the rest of the ground?

Thank you,

Clemens
 
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Old 01-04-20, 04:50 PM
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Hello everyone,

I'm happy to let you know that now everything works well.
I can control both the outlet and the outdoor light with the switches, and all the outlets all give good results with the tester.
I got some 14 gauge wire and used it to make pigtails to connect the outlets that were not, to the ground.
Do you think I should perform additional tests, just to make sure, or do you think it is enough as it is?

Thank you again for your help and patience, I've learned a lot in the process.

Best,
Clemens
 
 

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