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Old 12-18-2008, 09:04 AM   #1
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


I hired an electrician to install a low volt ceiling light fixture (transformer is in canopy of light fixture). When the electrician was screwing the canopy mount to the 3/4" wooden ceiling, the screw went through the wood ceiling and struck the common wire that was on the top side of the wooden ceiling. The screw cut the common wire and afterwards, there was no current coming to the light fixture. It would be a huge job to get to the wire to fix it properly because it is above the 3/4" wood, buried beneath 10" of rigid foam insulation, under a finished roof (it's a SIP panel). The electrician 'fixed' the problem by using the ground wire as the 'common' in the wall switch box and abandoning the original 'common' wire that he accidentaly cut. My question, is this a safe way to do fix the problem? My electrician said it was. Any help would be appreciated. Cut wire in Cave Creek.

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Old 12-18-2008, 09:16 AM   #2
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


Absolutely not!
A ground wire cannot be used as a current-carrying wire.
Due to the damage to the conductor, the installation is a hazard, and needs to be redone. You should call him back, or get another electrician to fix the situation immediately.
How do you even know that he didn't also damage the hot wire?

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Last edited by KE2KB; 12-18-2008 at 09:41 AM.
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Old 12-18-2008, 10:31 AM   #3
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


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Originally Posted by KE2KB View Post
Absolutely not!
A ground wire cannot be used as a current-carrying wire.
Due to the damage to the conductor, the installation is a hazard, and needs to be redone. You should call him back, or get another electrician to fix the situation immediately.
How do you even know that he didn't also damage the hot wire?
X 2. I'm not sure I would want this electrician back, but this needs to be fixed ASAP!
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:32 PM   #4
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


Was the guy actually an electrician, with a license? I doubt it. Probably some hack.
Regardless of that, if he charged you for the installation, and it will not pass an inspection (which it will not), the person who did the installation is liable for damages.
I don't know how far you want to go with this, as far as getting a refund.
You may open up a can of worms that will squirm around for years.

I would hire a true, licensed electrician to fix the problem. This is an extremely hazardout situation.
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Old 12-18-2008, 01:05 PM   #5
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


See if there is a way to remove the fixture and enlarge the hole around the ceiling box since it appears than running a new romex isn't possible. Try to get access to the area where the wire is broken and install a junction box. Then use your skills to make a new trim plate to cover the enlarged hole and reinstall the fixture or something along those lines.
Using the bare wire for the grounded leg (common) is defeating your ground fault protection and putting current on that bare wire that is intended for equipment ground. The electrician may have also used the bare for equipment ground as required at the fixture. this puts neutral current on the bare (a no no) and also provides ground fault protection but is not a safe practice. Another issue is if the circuit breaker panel for this branch circuit is a sub panel with isolated neutral then you have just energized the equipment ground of the feeder to the sub-panel. So the danger is current on a bare wire (equipment ground) when it isn't expected to be there. Things will work just fine but under the right circumstances this could be a shock hazard.
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:04 PM   #6
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


Large, decorative fixture rings are available. Some as much as 2 feet in diameter.
I would suggest that a hole would be cut in the ceiling where the damage has occurred!
A junction box installed and new piece of cable be spliced to the damaged one!
A blank cover woukd be installed on the junction box.
Then, using a decorative ring, the junction box would be covered over!
Accidents do happen, but pro's don't try to cover up. Your 'electrician' should be willing to make this repair, without a labor charge. At least!
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:16 PM   #7
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


Wildie,
If I understood your post right:
"A blank cover woukd be installed on the junction box.
Then, using a decorative ring, the junction box would be covered over!"
You cannot cover over a junction box; it has to be accessible. Did I misunderstand your post wrongly?
B
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:36 PM   #8
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


I think it's OK as long as no part of the building needs to be removed in order to access the box. I don't think the decorative or fixture plate should be considered a part of the building.

Code states:

314.29 Boxes, Conduit Bodies, and Handhole Enclosures
to Be Accessible. Boxes, conduit bodies, and handhole
enclosures shall be installed so that the wiring contained
in them can be rendered accessible without removing
any part of the building, or, in underground circuits, without
excavating sidewalks, paving, earth, or other substance that
is to be used to establish the finished grade.
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Old 12-18-2008, 03:37 PM   #9
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


Quote:
Originally Posted by bob22 View Post
Wildie,
If I understood your post right:
"A blank cover woukd be installed on the junction box.
Then, using a decorative ring, the junction box would be covered over!"
You cannot cover over a junction box; it has to be accessible. Did I misunderstand your post wrongly?
B
It has to be accessible, not necessarily visible!
I envision that the ring would be held in place by the fixture and would drop down if the fixture were to be removed!
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Old 12-18-2008, 03:37 PM   #10
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Is using a ground wire as neutral wire safe?


That's correct the fixture ring does not make the junction box inaccessible. For example if i have a flush mounted jb on a wall that is drywalled and put a blank cover on it. I can hang a picture over it and be fine. I cannot however cover it with a permanent repair of the drywall. Large ' goof ' rings as wildie is talking about are great ways to handle a situation like we are talking about here.

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