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Old 04-23-2013, 10:38 AM   #1
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


After the wall switch was replaced (the switch activates the outlet) and we checked the outlet with a voltmeter, there was low voltage coming out of the outlet when nothing was plugged in. Is this normal, or should we call an electrician? Thank you.

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Old 04-23-2013, 10:53 AM   #2
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


how much voltage is 'low'?

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Old 04-23-2013, 11:05 AM   #3
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


The type of voltmeter he used was the two-prong type with a light bulb, so I can't give you a number, but the bulb was dimmer than when the switch was on.
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Old 04-23-2013, 11:16 AM   #4
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


Did you use a lighted switch (switch lights when off)?
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Old 04-23-2013, 11:43 AM   #5
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


No, not a lighted switch. The wall switch I'm talking about is a plain old toggle switch that activates one outlet six feet away and below it.

Although, for what it's worth, there are two other switches next to the switch in question. The total three switches are covered with a three-switch face plate. The other two switches activate a hall light and an outside light....
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:04 PM   #6
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


You can't tell what kind of voltage is present without a meter.

Plug a lamp into the receptacle and see if it works.
You may be reading phantom voltage.
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:10 PM   #7
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


I didn't know there was such a thing as phantom voltage. Is that good, bad or neutral? If you would be so kind as to explain it to the point of whether I need to call an electrician or not, I would be so grateful.
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:20 PM   #8
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


Most cases phantom voltage is neutral.
It is merely induced voltage from another source, in close proximity that you are reading.
When the circuit you are testing is turned on, the phantom voltage is usually cancelled.
Phantom voltage will disappear when a load is applied.
Have you plugged a lamp in to find out if the receptacle work?

Plug the lamp in, turn the lamp on with the switch off, then test with the test light again.
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:36 PM   #9
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low voltage from outlet when nothing's plugged in it


Dang it, I wasn't sure what I was dealing with when the guy replaced the switch and the outlet still had "voltage," so I wouldn't let him connect both wires to the new switch. Only one wire is connected now, and the other one is dangling so I can't check it with a lamp. I will have him come back and connect the other wire and then test it as you have suggested.

Once I plug the lamp in with the switch off and test it with the meter, the voltage should be cancelled, right?

----
The receptacle was working sometimes and sometimes it wasn't, which is why we changed the switch in the first place. The switch was about 50 years old. We did check the receptacle after the switch was replaced with the test light, and the light was bright, but we were testing it by moving the switch manually rather than having the face plate on and toggling it, if that matters any... Thank you so much.

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Last edited by DIherself; 04-23-2013 at 12:46 PM. Reason: addendum
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