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Old 12-15-2015, 04:30 PM   #1
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Hot Ground Reverse / Open Neutral


Hello,
This is my first post on this website and I couldn't find a similar thread or forum, so please forgive me if this is redundant.

I have five outlets on the same circuit that recently stopped working. (For visualization purposes, I'll refer to each outlet from left to right as #1 to #5.) Using a Snapit outlet tester, all five show Hot Ground Reverse as the problem (green light and red light), which is apparently the same as Open Neutral. I opened up all five outlets and four of the five (#1 to #4) were backstabbed, whereas #5 had the wires wrapped around the screws. #1 is the only GFCI on the circuit and located on the outside corner of my house. An online suggestion said to replace any/all GFCI outlets, so I replaced the one, but with no luck. In fact, the test/reset buttons don't even pop when pressed. For outlets #1 to #4, I removed the backstabs and wrapped the wires around the screws, but still no luck. All wires were tight when connected with nothing loose, so I gave up at the outlets.

From there, I went to my circuit breaker box to see if that was the problem. I switched another breaker around with the one in question to see if I simply had a bad breaker, but I still got the same error at the outlets. I then used a power tester on the breaker and white (neutral) for the bad circuit and actually got the tester to light up red, so that tells me the breaker is fine and power is going through it.

I went back to the outlets with the power tester and couldn't get the red light to pop up on any of the connections, but did get a very small shock when accidentally bumping the black wire. This seems to indicate that at least SOME power is getting to the outlets, but not a full charge.

The only other thought I have is that the problem is buried behind the walls somewhere with a junction box or some white wire coming loose, but I don't know how to test this. Before calling an electrician, I was hoping that someone here has some other ideas or suggestions. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:28 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HotKarl25 View Post
Hello,
This is my first post on this website and I couldn't find a similar thread or forum, so please forgive me if this is redundant.

I have five outlets on the same circuit that recently stopped working. (For visualization purposes, I'll refer to each outlet from left to right as #1 to #5.) Using a Snapit outlet tester, all five show Hot Ground Reverse as the problem (green light and red light), which is apparently the same as Open Neutral. I opened up all five outlets and four of the five (#1 to #4) were backstabbed, whereas #5 had the wires wrapped around the screws. #1 is the only GFCI on the circuit and located on the outside corner of my house. An online suggestion said to replace any/all GFCI outlets, so I replaced the one, but with no luck. In fact, the test/reset buttons don't even pop when pressed. For outlets #1 to #4, I removed the backstabs and wrapped the wires around the screws, but still no luck. All wires were tight when connected with nothing loose, so I gave up at the outlets.

From there, I went to my circuit breaker box to see if that was the problem. I switched another breaker around with the one in question to see if I simply had a bad breaker, but I still got the same error at the outlets. I then used a power tester on the breaker and white (neutral) for the bad circuit and actually got the tester to light up red, so that tells me the breaker is fine and power is going through it.

I went back to the outlets with the power tester and couldn't get the red light to pop up on any of the connections, but did get a very small shock when accidentally bumping the black wire. This seems to indicate that at least SOME power is getting to the outlets, but not a full charge.

The only other thought I have is that the problem is buried behind the walls somewhere with a junction box or some white wire coming loose, but I don't know how to test this. Before calling an electrician, I was hoping that someone here has some other ideas or suggestions. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
I would keep looking in the outlets and switches. The problem could be in an outlet that is still working. I would not reuse the old receptacles. I would pigtail the wires and use new receptacles.
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Old 12-16-2015, 07:12 AM   #3
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If it were me I would find the first device in the string. At this point I will assume it is the GFCI. I would unhook the wires from that and with a Volt/Ohm meter determine if I have power there. If I don't then the problem lies somewhere between the panel and the first device. If I have power there then I would make the connection and test onward from there using the same method.

As for the GFCI wiring...Most all GFCI devices do not use a back-stab wiring method, instead, they use what is called a back-wire method where the screw tightens down onto the wire clamp to hold it. If you wrapped the eire around this type of screw that is wrong.
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Old 12-16-2015, 10:01 AM   #4
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#1 (GFCI) and #5 receptacles have one black, white and ground wire each. #2 and #3 have two black and white wires, and #4 has three. Therefore, I'm assuming #4 is the first device?

You are correct about the GFCI back wire method and I think the same is true for all 5 of the outlets on the circuit.

I tested the power at each receptacle, including #4, which I think is the first device, and my tester did not light up.

I will try replacing the outlets themselves and pigtailing the wires in each. If that doesn't work, then I have to assume the problem is between the panel and first device. Does that seem accurate?
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Old 12-17-2015, 04:39 PM   #5
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Do you have a two wire tester?
According to your first post you have an open neutral----you need to find out why and at what box you still have a neutral---

You need a proper tester--either a Wiggy or a multi-meter---without a neutral you are stopped.
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Old 12-18-2015, 11:28 PM   #6
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Wires do not just reverse what they are doing. GFCI's are supposed to have the wires inserted into the holes on the back and then the screws tightened to clamp the wire in.

If the other outlets are standard residential outlets, the wires should be attached to the screws, with a loop in the direction to tighten the screws down. If the outlets are Commercial grade, they will have the same type of securing clamp as the GFCI.

The only other thing that could cause the false positive, is that someone did a "Boot Legged" ground, by connecting a wire between the neutral on the outlet to the ground screw.

Turn off power to tat branch and go through the outlets one by one, getting rid of the backstabbing and wire them correctly.



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Old 12-19-2015, 09:22 AM   #7
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Shut off the breaker and identify everything on the circuit. Start from the closet device and check the wiring. You can use the plug in device to check the outlets. They will specifically identify wrongly wired outlets. The switches and lights will need to be opened.
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