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Old 01-08-2012, 02:19 PM   #1
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


This question is, I think, different from the others I found here about "using bare ground wire for neutral." In those, I think people were asking about sharing the ground and neutral function on the same wire, or connecting them somewhere. I'm not.

My situation is: I need to add a second light to a light that is on a three-way switch. (The two lights are to go on or off together at all times.) Due to circumstances that are long, elaborate, and I think unrelated to the real question, I find myself with an option for a properly routed hot wire, but without a corresponding neutral one.

There is however, a physical piece of romex that runs between them, for which I could fully disconnect the ground wire and have it dedicated to just the run between the two lights. (I have a solid ground opportunity for the new light separately). Then I could theoretically utilize that isolated length of ground wire inside the romex sheeting for my neutral.

I would tape the bare ground as it emerged from the romex sheathing at each end carefully with white tape and label it as neutral. Electrically, the circuit design would be completely proper. The only difference in the physical connections in the circuit would be that the new neutral wire wouldn't have its own sheathing inside the romex as the black, white, and red wires do.

The concerns I would have, and the best mitigations I could propose, are:
1) Issue: If there were sufficient load on that leg of the circuit, the bare-wire-inside-romex neutral might create heat issues that a true neutral, with it's own white sheathing, wouldn't have. Mitigation: The installation calls for just the single 75-watt lighting fixture to utilize this neutral, which might not be a worry, though I'd check into that too.
2) Issue: Future owners or electricians might be mislead or confused by nonstandard use of the ground wire. Mitigation: I would include folded documentation of the wiring kluge in the light fixture for future owners who might get the idea they want to add a row of halogen track lights at that end of the circuit.

With all that said, clearly the right thing to do is to rip out some sheetrock and run a new proper wire. But if the lack of insulation inside the romex isn't an issue for a neutral, I'd still consider the kluge.

But I'm looking for experienced eyes to say "Yeah, you should do it right, but theoretically there's no reason not to do what you propose" vs. "No, it flat out won't work or is dangerous for _____ reason that you haven't thought of."

Thoughts? Thanks, Allen

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Old 01-08-2012, 02:21 PM   #2
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


Use of the bare wire for a neutral is a definite no-no. Never. Jamais. Nunca.
Not "Well, hardly ever."

The 2011 National Electric Code requires that cables going to switch boxes include a white neutral conductor to avoid the situation you describe.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 01-09-2012 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 01-08-2012, 02:33 PM   #3
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


As stated you're not allowed, I believe the only cable that can have a bare neutral is till the main disconnect.
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Old 01-08-2012, 03:53 PM   #4
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


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As stated you're not allowed, I believe the only cable that can have a bare neutral is till the main disconnect.
In general, existing installations of 3-wire SE cable for dryers and ranges can be used, and have a bare neutral also.
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Old 01-08-2012, 05:40 PM   #5
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


NO you are not allowed under any circumstance to use the ground as the neutral. There are certain circumstances that in the past allowed the use of the neutral as a ground but not the other way around. Those exceptions have been eliminated and no longer permitted.

Run the proper cables and do the job correct or call someone who will do it correct.
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Old 01-08-2012, 05:54 PM   #6
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


Last time someone used the bare ground as a neutral on a 3-way circuit, it made news headlines, due to child got killed touching a metal garage door, while standing on wet pavement

Not to say the same sequence of events would happen, but there is a reason why a bare copper is not intended to be a path for electrical current.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:35 AM   #7
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


Quote:
Originally Posted by SD515

In general, existing installations of 3-wire SE cable for dryers and ranges can be used, and have a bare neutral also.
Yes get with the times were not in 1996
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:46 AM   #8
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


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Yes get with the times were not in 1996
Yes get with the times...learn the Code.

I said 'existing installations'.
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:54 AM   #9
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


Quote:
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Yes get with the times...learn the Code.

I said 'existing installations'.
Ok your right
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:50 PM   #10
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


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Last time someone used the bare ground as a neutral on a 3-way circuit, it made news headlines, due to child got killed touching a metal garage door, while standing on wet pavement

Not to say the same sequence of events would happen, but there is a reason why a bare copper is not intended to be a path for electrical current.
Amazingly I know a so called electrician that did this very thing in a church. He used the bare ground in place of the neutral on a 3 way he was trying to get working. He bragged about it after he did it. As if he was smart to think of this. I warned him and tried to explain the two wires were not one in the same. I got the same old response that they are joined at the panel nonsense. I have always wondered how long it would take for someone to discover this and correct it? I hope it is discovered before someone gets hurt. It has been like this for years. I have no idea of what church and have not seen the guy either.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:06 PM   #11
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


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Originally Posted by J. V.

Amazingly I know a so called electrician that did this very thing in a church. He used the bare ground in place of the neutral on a 3 way he was trying to get working. He bragged about it after he did it. As if he was smart to think of this. I warned him and tried to explain the two wires were not one in the same. I got the same old response that they are joined at the panel nonsense. I have always wondered how long it would take for someone to discover this and correct it? I hope it is discovered before someone gets hurt. It has been like this for years. I have no idea of what church and have not seen the guy either.
You call him an electrician?!?!?!?! I don't think he deserves even a "so called electrician" status
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:01 PM   #12
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


I found one of these in my furnace wiring. Furnace wasn't starting and I was having trouble figuring out the wiring. This is an older unit with no electronics. I finally took all the wiring out. 120v and 24v. Then started putting it back. Discovered that one of the fan control/limit switches was no longer in use so I removed it and its remnant wiring. But the working fan/limit unit just didn't make sense till I realized that they had wired up one section of 12/2 w/g using the ground as a neutral with the insulated pair being used to switch a hot on and off. And it wasn't even needed if they had just taken about 60 seconds to think through what needed to be done.
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Old 01-10-2012, 06:09 PM   #13
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
Last time someone used the bare ground as a neutral on a 3-way circuit, it made news headlines, due to child got killed touching a metal garage door, while standing on wet pavement

Not to say the same sequence of events would happen, but there is a reason why a bare copper is not intended to be a path for electrical current.

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Old 01-10-2012, 07:44 PM   #14
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Unused ground lead as neutral?


Better version show how http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQiMr...eature=related

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