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Old 01-26-2009, 09:38 PM   #1
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neutral zap


I was changing out a standard receptacle to a GFCI, shut off the breaker and I kept on getting zapped by a neutral wire. There was 2 blacks (1 line and 1 load), one white and one continous while that was looped around the screw. Why would I get a zap from touching the neutral?

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Old 01-26-2009, 10:10 PM   #2
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neutral zap


The gfci was being fed by a muliti wire circuit. To prvent this from happening in the future, you will need to turn off the other breaker using that neutral.

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Old 01-26-2009, 10:13 PM   #3
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neutral zap


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Originally Posted by timchi29 View Post
I was changing out a standard receptacle to a GFCI, shut off the breaker and I kept on getting zapped by a neutral wire. There was 2 blacks (1 line and 1 load), one white and one continous while that was looped around the screw. Why would I get a zap from touching the neutral?
Because even if the outlet you are wiring is not live the neutral can have return current carried threw it from any other loads on the same neutral down the line. It can be very hard to make sure there is no current flow threw a neutral. Safest way would be turn off the main. Or at least use a voltage tester from the neutral you plan on touching across to ground and make sure it is very little before touching.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:18 PM   #4
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neutral zap


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The gfci was being fed by a muliti wire circuit. To prvent this from happening in the future, you will need to turn off the other breaker using that neutral.
I've also seen neutrals from different circuits tied together that would do the same.
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Old 01-27-2009, 12:36 AM   #5
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neutral zap


Checking voltage won;t tell you whether the neutral is carrying current -- unless there's a huge long run back to the panel and you can check voltage against some conductor that has a much shorter path back to your ground rod (and even then it'll be hard to interpret). OTOH, and someone should yell at me for suggesting this if it's unsafe, just touch the neutral to the ground at the outlet and see if you get a spark. Even if there is current in the neutral, the voltage difference between neutral and ground will be very small and you'll see a "fat white quiet " spark instead of the "narrow blue noisy" one you would get from touching hot to ground (which I DON'T recommend). This difference in the spark is due to the much lower power dissipation between neutral and ground vs hot and ground (much less voltage difference).

And yes, you've just happened onto a multiwire circuit (two hots sharing a common neutral) or a crossed neutral somewhere or a neutral/ground fault somewhere or ??? These are a pain to track down but at least the latter two are problems and need to be fixed eventually.
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Old 01-27-2009, 08:13 AM   #6
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neutral zap


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The gfci was being fed by a muliti wire circuit. To prvent this from happening in the future, you will need to turn off the other breaker using that neutral.
A double pole breaker forces you to turn off the other breaker, and makes sure it is the correct one.

Most double pole breakers are fairly reasonably priced and many of us agree they are a good idea in a residential setting, as they ensure both legs of a MWBC get energized at the same time.

It might be worth it to have an electrician comes in for a few hours and identify what you have on MWBC's and install double pole breakers for them.

Jamie

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