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Old 05-09-2014, 01:58 PM   #1
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Ground wired to neutral. Why?


My friend had drywall added to his basement walls. While doing this, he upgraded to a new (larger) electrical panel and had new outlets installed in the drywall (with new electrical wire). He and his girlfriend were using their laptops recently - each plugged into a different outlet - and when one of them touches the other's laptop, they get shocked.
I pulled one of the outlets out of the wall and found that whoever did the wiring did this: They cut off a couple of inches of ground wire from the romex, took that piece, wrapped one end around the ground screw and backwired it into the neutral side of the outlet.
Why would someone do that? Why not just connect the ground wire to the ground screw? Now the ground is connected to the neutral wire!
Also, now that they cut off the ground wire, I wouldn't even be able to fix it for him.
The people who did this were "craigslist pros", but wouldn't anyone who has done wiring before know to connect the ground wire to the ground screw? I must be missing something. Can someone tell me what's going on?
Also, when I push the outlet tester into the outlet, it says it's wired correctly. How could it say that when the ground is connected to the neutral?
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:01 PM   #2
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So the ground coming into the box isn't connected to anything? Just cut short and left sitting there? Is there enough to pigtail to it? Ground and neutral are usually connected in the panel.

It sounds like the neutral is connected to the ground screw, but the ground wire isn't connected to anything, correct? This is the ground screw in a metal box or the ground screw on the outlet?
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:10 PM   #3
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Yes, the ground wire in the Romex is cut short and just left sitting there. Then that small piece that was cut off was used to connect the ground screw on the outlet to the neutral side of the same outlet (backwired). It is a blue plastic box. The ground wire in the Romex may be long enough to pigtail, but it would be tight.
Is there a way to upload a pic?

Last edited by Calidoggie; 05-09-2014 at 02:12 PM. Reason: Being more specific
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:10 PM   #4
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Also, when I push the outlet tester into the outlet, it says it's wired correctly. Are you getting 2 yellow lights or just center.

Yes, the ground wire in the Romex is cut short and just left sitting there. Then that piece was used to connect the ground screw on the outlet to the neutral side of the same outlet (backwired).
Oh then they technichly it is grounded. I don't know if a tester would pick that up or not.

Last edited by Robpo; 05-09-2014 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:10 PM   #5
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It's called a bootleg ground. Usually, it is done in older homes that are wired with two wire romex without the ground. It gives the appearance of a ground (because the neutral is ground bounded at the panel). So it fools the tester and allows a device that must have a ground to function.

But it is highly dangerous and against code.

I don't understand why it would be done if this is new wiring. And if they did it, the bigger question is what other things did they do that you have not discovered.

Get an electrician in there ASAP. Your friends should not use those outlets until they are fixed.
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:12 PM   #6
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Makes no sense. It was more work to this stupidity than to just wire it correctly. This is only on the one outlet or all of them? Maybe they cut the wire by accident and figured this would fool a tester so it was good enough.
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:21 PM   #7
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They did this to all the outlets. And it gives two yellow lights when tested. I agree that it was more work to do it this way than to do it correctly. Maybe they are so used to working with old houses without ground that they just automatically did this.
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Old 05-09-2014, 02:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calidoggie View Post
My friend had drywall added to his basement walls. While doing this, he upgraded to a new (larger) electrical panel and had new outlets installed in the drywall (with new electrical wire). He and his girlfriend were using their laptops recently - each plugged into a different outlet - and when one of them touches the other's laptop, they get shocked.
I pulled one of the outlets out of the wall and found that whoever did the wiring did this: They cut off a couple of inches of ground wire from the romex, took that piece, wrapped one end around the ground screw and backwired it into the neutral side of the outlet.
Why would someone do that? Why not just connect the ground wire to the ground screw? Now the ground is connected to the neutral wire!
Also, now that they cut off the ground wire, I wouldn't even be able to fix it for him.
The people who did this were "craigslist pros", but wouldn't anyone who has done wiring before know to connect the ground wire to the ground screw? I must be missing something. Can someone tell me what's going on?
Also, when I push the outlet tester into the outlet, it says it's wired correctly. How could it say that when the ground is connected to the neutral?
Here's my guess,

The tester doesn't know the neutral isn't the ground. Both ground and neutral go the same exact place in the panel, the difference is the ground shouldn't be carrying any current. What happens is when you place a load on the circuit there is a slight voltage drop across the neutral and that difference is what you're feeling.

As to why someone would do that I have absolutely no idea but it's not safe.
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