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Old 06-02-2007, 10:58 AM   #1
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


Project is to replace all the switches and outlets in a home just purchased by our Daughter and Son in Law. Fifteen year old home and some outlets were damaged and/or inoperative. Install GFI's where not mandated at the build date. Kitchen had GFI's but bathrooms did not, for example.

My favorite tool has been a GB Electrical Receptacle Tester & Circuit Analyzer GRT500A through all the project circuits. I check the circuit before doing any work and check the work as I move along. Test the GFI's too.

Final Project Circuit, #2 Bedroom and Guest Bath. I've run into problems...
I receive an Open Neutral reading from the tester on four outlets in the bedroom downline from a correctly working outlet. The ceiling fan in the bedroom has power but no Neutral and does not operate.

I receive a Hot / Neutral Reversed indication when I turn on the Bathroom lightswitch with bulbs in. That switch sends power down one of the bundled Neutrals, in a bedroom box, HOT resulting in the Hot / Neutral Reversed. I don't understand why. (There is a functioning GFI in the Bath but it is part of an adjacent Bathroom circuit.)

#2 Bedroom has five outlets, including one upline and operating correctly. Two switches; one a switched outlet (operating correctly) and a Ceiling Fan (Hot but no Neutral) Bathroom has two switches, those being a light above the sink and an exhaust fan (both switches Hot but no Neutral). I have disconnected the jumpers to the remaining three bedroom outlets to simplify testing. These three outlets, when seperately powered by a test line, function correctly.

Testing each hot to neutral gives no reading in the bedroom and bath for outlets and switches. Testing each switch and oullet from hot to ground gives a good reading. (I'm excepting the working upline outlet and switched outlet.)

All the outlets and switches are wired using the push pin access in the back. I've uncovered no extra wires, added outlets or anything else crazy.

I have exhausted my skills. I have a multimeter and reasonable knowledge, but don't know what to look for regarding the Hot / Neutral Reverse down the neutral line when turning on the bathroom light. That combined with the Open Ground brings me to a standstill.
I'd appreciate some help.


Last edited by Shirtpocket; 06-02-2007 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 06-02-2007, 12:06 PM   #2
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


Have you checked for a loose neutral wire at the receptacles that are working properly? The pushin connectors are notorious for giving poor connections, usually at the last working outlet in the circuit.

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Old 06-02-2007, 12:53 PM   #3
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


I routinely clip the end off a wire and peel back insulation to expose new wire before inserting into the pushpin receptacle. I install a good grade outlet and have had no problems to date....famous last words. I will amend the process starting now.

I have gone so far as to unbundle the neutrals and discovered the hot being transferred down the neutral. I am at a total loss why I would lose the neutral on the balance of the circuit for the outlets, lights, fans. Equally, I am puzzled why the Hot / Neutral Reverse.

Giving it some additional thought, I may have to unbundle the hot leads and treat each leg as a seperate circuit until I am able to isolate the problem. I'm sure it is right in front of me but where? Drawing out the circuit wiring from memory, the functioning outlets may come from the same bundle and so I am puzzled as t what I am looking for. The Bedroom and Bath wiring is bundled in a deep box behind the bedroom wall switches.

I'm not afraid of work but I'm looking for the most direct path to results. My work is very neat and I routinely label my wiring so as not to make simple mistakes. I have verified my assembly but there must be a broken wire or poor/non-existant contact in the circuit.

I'm still looking for additional information. I created the problem so I would like to feel I can undue my error.

Thanks for your input.
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Old 06-02-2007, 01:04 PM   #4
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


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Originally Posted by Shirtpocket View Post
I have gone so far as to unbundle the neutrals and discovered the hot being transferred down the neutral. I am at a total loss why I would lose the neutral on the balance of the circuit for the outlets, lights, fans. Equally, I am puzzled why the Hot / Neutral Reverse.

Giving it some additional thought, I may have to unbundle the hot leads and treat each leg as a seperate circuit until I am able to isolate the problem.
Now why would you want to go and do this??? Do you know where each wire is going? Can you trace each wire?
How do you know "the hot [is] being transferred down the neutral"? How do you know it is not a switch loop?

If you are unsure of what you are doing you should NEVER take splices apart!
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Old 06-02-2007, 01:35 PM   #5
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


i know what I am doing...I just may have done something without intention and I'm looking for some advice before I "gut the cow".

It is not a switch loop.

There are no splices.

I will know where every wire goes. I am looking for advice for those with more experience wih a similar problem.

I just assembled a bucket full of tools to finish the job but I'm hoping I can avoid a total disassembly and assembly of the circuit. I'd rather do only what is required. i can afford to calL an electrician but would prefer to learn from the experience.

Regards

Last edited by Shirtpocket; 06-02-2007 at 01:36 PM. Reason: TYPO
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Old 06-02-2007, 01:47 PM   #6
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There are no splices.
Then what are the neutrals you "unbundled".
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Old 06-02-2007, 02:35 PM   #7
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


First of all, we may be saying the same thing but come from two different backgrounds. In the Submarine Service I was taught to say BUNDLE when referring to a group of things fastened together for convenient handling. In this case I am referring to the eight Neutral wires bundled in a large Scotch wire nut

When I refer to a SPLICE, I am suggesting to unite (as two ropes) by interweaving the strands. In this instance, a wire that may have had a section SPLICED in due to damage.

Just minutes ago I did discover a SPLICE, so I stand corrected. In the bath, the previous owner relocated the bathroom light by splicing an additional length of Romex to the wiring in the wall light box and ran said wire behind the drywall to a taller location using no box. Surprise..suprise as he spliced the black to white wires and then properly attached a new lighting fixture. Could this be the source of my HOT /GROUND REVERSAL?

I've got things quite disassembled at the moment into seperate components looking for something out of the ordinary that I did not cause. I'd apprecate any feedback you can offer.

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Old 06-02-2007, 11:48 PM   #8
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Pete, when shirtpocket says "splice" he is thinking of something like a western union splice (soldered). although, shirtpocket, any tap can be referred to as a splice.
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Old 06-03-2007, 01:22 AM   #9
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Hot / Ground Reversed & Open Neutral


Hi shirtpocket

I'm a little confused what you have going on. Your post says hot ground reversed and open neutral..... but you post open ground and hot /neutral reversed.

First if you are getting a "hot / ground reversed" then in modern wiring using nm-b cable (romex) this is almost always an open neutral that causes that reading. If you remove all loads from that problem circuit you should only get an open neutral indication.

If you had a switch that was sending power down a neutral (remember a neutral is never connected to a switch) you would have an instant opening of the breaker or blown fuse. If that isn't happening then you haven't quite got the wiring understood. If you have things disassembled to the point where you cant remember how the original wiring was connected you may have to ohm out the cables to see what goes where.

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Old 06-03-2007, 07:15 AM   #10
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Any two or more wires joined together is a splice. If you "bundle" several neutrals and join them with a wire nut you have just spliced all the neutrals.

The reason for the hot/neutral reverse with the lamps in the bathroom is because you likely do have an open neutral somewhere and the load is back feeding the open neutral(s).
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Old 06-03-2007, 08:37 AM   #11
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Make sure all this is on 1 circuit. (Sounds like it, but a good idea to make sure)
It will mess your mind up to try troubleshooting 2 problems thinking it is 1 (Trust me! )
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Old 06-03-2007, 08:40 AM   #12
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These are the two conditions I am experiencing. Let me reset the physical layout. Two rooms, one circuit. #2 Bedroom and its adjoining bathroom. In the bedroom there are five outlets, one switched outlet, and an overhead ceiling fan. Four outlets and the fan show an open neutral. The fifth outlet is a split with the top half being switched and the bottom being a straight outlet (both check OK). In the bath, you have a ceiling exhaust fan and a light above the sink. (There is a GFI which is on another circuit.) The hots, neutrals, grounds bundle/splice in a deep box behind the double switch plate in the bedroom.

Now...in the bedroom...Four outlets and the ceiling fan show an open neutral. One outlet / switched outlet combo check out OK. In the bath the light and exhaust fan show an open neutral

If I enter the bath and switch on the light, the tester shows hot / neutral reverse for the four bedroom outlets and fan as well as the bathroom light and exhaust fan. The one bedroom outlet / switched outlet combo continue check out OK.

I'm looking for a procedure to correct the Open Ground. I'm looking for an explanation and plan to correct the bathroom light forcing a Hot / Neutral Reverse.

Please accept I am not an electrician and therefore may use an unfamiliar term. I'd like to solve the problem and learn from the experience. I'd appreciate a punch list of what to check and how to correct the problems. I'll do the work and you all get the credit....

Last edited by Shirtpocket; 06-03-2007 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 06-03-2007, 09:44 AM   #13
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Check that split-wired swiched outlet. Make sure the tab on the neutral side isn't broken off. Only the tab on the hot side should be broke.
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Old 06-03-2007, 11:14 AM   #14
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Speedy...I'm with you on this one. Swich legs are hot and they are sometimes white.
But open neutral seems to be the case. He's just going to have to find it.
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Old 06-03-2007, 05:03 PM   #15
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Check that split-wired swiched outlet. Make sure the tab on the neutral side isn't broken off. Only the tab on the hot side should be broke.
JohnJ0906 Yes....both tabs are broken...That would break the Neutral! An oversight on my part. As the outlet is installed upside down...I broke both tabs in error...shame on me! The Open Ground begins at that point.

I'm getting back on this tomorrow am and I'm hoping that ends the Open Neutral.

Now why am I having the Hot / Neutral Reverse when I switch the bathroom light on? Does it have anything to do with the Open Neutral which now may be resolved?

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