An electrician left this in my attic with the circuit breaker on. You can see my non-contact tester lighting up. All the neutrals are capped, and the three hot wires are sticking straight up, exposed.

Is this dangerous? It was like this about 2 weeks before I crawled into the attic for other reasons and noticed.

The electrician is planning to return in a couple more weeks to complete the kitchen wiring, this is just after the rough-in. exposed live wires in attic

  • 6
    Very very dangerous, and completely unacceptable.
    – Matthew
    Apr 10, 2018 at 4:04
  • 3
    And those may not be neutrals. Apr 10, 2018 at 4:08
  • 3
    the electrician should be reported to the employer if he/she works for someone .... there may be a licensing bureau that you could contact
    – jsotola
    Apr 10, 2018 at 4:43
  • 2
    Yes, it's considered dangerous to have exposed hot wires. Doesn't matter whether the neutrals are capped... Apr 10, 2018 at 9:50
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    Another Chimer .. Yes Dangerous! Neutrals Maybe not! Especially if the electrician left it that way with the black wires free .. I would not trust anything to be proper .. and he is coming back to wire up your kitchen ?? Maybe you might want to find a different electrician.. just saying if they leave it unsafe like that what else will they do ??? or not do ??
    – Ken
    Apr 10, 2018 at 10:08

3 Answers 3


Just a minute. Be careful assuming those are hot wires. Non-contact voltage testers are notoriously over-sensitive and will read the whole box as hot if there's just one wire inducing voltage onto the others. I see that one of the black wires has a cap on it. He may have just disconnected several that he was working on that he didn't want to become hot. It's rare to have several different Hots all in one box. Usually, though not always, there's just one.

I use one of two different tricks with a tester like that to determine which wires are actually hot in a big cluster of wires.

1, isolation method: You can dampen sympathetic signals by using your free hand to grasp the wire you want to test by its insulation a little further down from the bare end. A finger and thumb is all you need. Hold it away from the other wires and now lay your tester on it again. If it is hot it will still indicate, if it is not a hot wire it should appear dead.

2, Reduce sensitivity: lay your index finger on the opposite side of the tip of the tester when testing individual wires in a box. This usually will give 90% more accurate results and cut way down on false positives.

I know that box looks bad being uncovered and wires splayed out like that, but I still think your electrician left it safer than it appears. He probably thought he would be the next person in the attic, which was a wrong assumption, but I just don't think that he would have left hot wires wide open like that. If still in doubt, you can get a multimeter and test the bare ends of the wires for voltage against the equipment grounding conductors (all bare), or against the neutral.

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    Further research indicates you’re right. The one black wire that is capped was line, and the others are load. The whole box is “safe” at least during rough-in. Apr 11, 2018 at 2:17

As told most probably those hot are disconnected and no-touch tester is reading a false positive: easy way to discover is to measure wit a multimetre set to AC the voltage between bare ground or neutral and the exposed wires. Better reading can be obtained with this kind of test-light: test light. Touch with your finger the top 'metal plate' and touch with the tip the wire you think is hot.


It seems to me that this person is trying to find a dead circuit. All to often when you open a box you will need to find the main hot wire.

Since there are 4 black wires and 4 white wires, more than likely one of the black wires are hot and the others are circuits leading to lights or receptacles.

Having someone below the ceiling to check the lights and receptacle plugs while you're in the attic is necessary to complete the job sufficiently.

All to often there will be one hot (black wire ) connected to a light circuit and the others go to the receptacle plugs.

Usually, when I run a three or four-legged circuit I will cut off a least 3/4 of the insulation to ensure that the wires will connect properly inside the wire nut.

Looking at the picture I noticed the ends of these wires are really short, so I can only guess that maybe there are two hot wires located inside the box that are tied too different circuits.

If I was going to leave the box open and couldn't complete the circuit, I would make sure that all of the wires are covered with a wire nut.

Using a line voltage detector also will work outside of the box checking for wires covered with insulation.

When I check for dead circuits I usually switch off the breaker and have someone below the ceiling to check: first for voltage, not all receptacles within a room are connected with the same breaker. You may also find that a receptacle has been split into two different circuits. Such as the top of the receptacle continues to go around the room to complete the circuit and the bottom part of the receptacle operates a lamp with a switch located on the wall.

If there is no voltage then check for continuity within the circuit, where the box is located above the ceiling I will connect the black and white wires together to make a continuous loop to see where the wires may be connected below.

This person below the ceiling will check each receptacle and light to see if they are getting a continuity reading.

Hope this helps.

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