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Old 01-16-2011, 02:04 PM   #1
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Circuit question


Hi everyone--

I'm new to this forum--it looks like a great place to get my questions answered, and possibly answer a few from folks.

I am not an electrician, just the basic hardware handyman type.
OK, so here's a question for you electrician folks...

The other day I helped a friend who needed to change an outlet that had acted funny (hit or miss with power when plugging something in). I opened the breaker to the outlet circuit, removed the outlet--didn't visually see anything wrong-- but decided to get a new one anyway. (The connection has two 14 gauge hots, two 14 gauge neutrals and ground, it was also a direct connection--that is, no piggybacking--which tells me its like a series circuit). I needed to go the store to get another outlet and couldn't return till the next day, so for the time being I wire nutted the hots, and electrically taped the neutrals (because I couldn't find another wire nut at time) and put them back in the box. The I closed the breaker, the hots were hot AND the neutrals became hot as well! The other two outlets I checked were all hot as well.
I called a buddy who told me I should wire nut the neutrals as well--so I looked and finally found a wirenut and hooked it up. Everything was fine after that--
There are possibly a bunch of outlets on this circuit (it's a big house w/ a few roommates), lights, etc...
So why did the neutrals become hot? Was the tape not holding the connection together? Even so, I don't get why they became energized...

Thanks for the help!

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Old 01-16-2011, 02:26 PM   #2
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Circuit question


A. How did you determine they were hot?
B. Was there any thing else plugged into other receptacles on the circuit?

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Old 01-16-2011, 02:47 PM   #3
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The neutral became hot because it was an open circuit. The power was going up the hot, through whatever device was plugged in and back out the neutral. But since the neutral was open there was no current flow and thus no voltage drop across the device. The voltage at the neutral would have measured like a hot.
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:42 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses,

So then was the hot wire going to a device/coil and inducting a voltage through it to the neutral? And my tape wasn't splicing those two neutrals together very well?

I determined they were hot w/a glow tester
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Old 01-16-2011, 05:41 PM   #5
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Circuit question


The buck stops here.

If you have a loose connection in the neutral, yes, the portion of the neutral downstream can give a hot measurement when you use a voltmeter between it and the end of the (upstream) neutral returning to the panel.

Tape is not sufficient to hold together wires that are not very tightly twisted.

A slightly better but still not correct explanation is the the device/coil is conducting a voltage through to the neutral (with a metal to metal connection), not inducting a voltage as in phantom voltage in an adjacent but not electrically connected wire.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 01-16-2011 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 01-16-2011, 05:44 PM   #6
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Circuit question


Maybe you should stick to wiring in your house only!
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Old 01-16-2011, 05:47 PM   #7
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If you were testing between the hots and the neutrals of the disconnected wires you SHOULD get a reading. There is still voltage between them even if they are disconnected from the recep.
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Old 01-16-2011, 06:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brric View Post
If you were testing between the hots and the neutrals of the disconnected wires you SHOULD get a reading. There is still voltage between them even if they are disconnected from the recep.
Only the first receptacle where the power enters will test with power if all the receptacles are removed. The receptacles act as the feed to next receptacle.

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