Loose neutrals in a house can easily cause house fires and are not always detected until it is too late. Why isn’t there main “smart” breakers that not only detect loose neutrals / phase imbalance and blow main breaker.


Are you suggesting to detect a loose neutral in final subcircuits, or on the incoming mains?

Loose neutrals in final sub-circuits will generally cause series arcing, which should be picked up by AFCI breakers1. As the fault is confined to one circuit, there is no reason to trip the main breaker.

AFCIs aren't mandatory everywhere for cost reasons, and because they are quite prone to nuisance tripping where there is no fault.

Detecting over or undervoltage in the incoming feeder is possible. Some more critical commercial sites in areas with frequent power outages have this protection, which is usually used as a trigger to switch to generator power. Typically a separate relay would be used, which could be combined with a shunt trip device.

Loose neutrals on the feeders are not necessarily any more likely to cause fires than a loose phase. Damages are typically only to equipment overvolted.

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  • AFCI Is now mandatory on most dwelling work Also gfci to very few basic single pole breakers these days, – user101687 May 24 '19 at 7:11
  • Please correct me but If neutral on the feeder is loose/old/rotted, ground rod of the home will take over as a pathway and if cable or anything is bonded to the ground rod this could cause cable equipment to burn up and could cause a fire. Sure if you know what to look for, dim lights, lights burning out, phase imbalance, but seems there is a safety missing from spec. We've had homes in our neighborhood catch fire from this. Seems to be more common on under ground services. – Justin May 25 '19 at 6:08
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    It's much worse than that. The ground rod and soil makes a rather poor neutral, which means the 2 legs are in a tug-of-war, and neutral voltage drifts all over the place, damaging equipment. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 25 '19 at 19:13

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