I recently replaced a 20a simplex receptacle with a new 20a simplex Decora receptacle. I checked everything at the new 20a receptacle with a multimeter and here are the results:

Power on

  • Hot to neutral = 126.8
  • Hot to ground = 128.9
  • Ground to neutral = 4.764

Power off

  • Hot to neutral = 12.28
  • Hot to ground = 11.08
  • Ground to neutral = 5.535

Is this a phantom voltage or is this indicative as a loose neutral?

Other things:

  • receptacle is self grounding (brass clip on the "tongue," so I removed the insulators from the screws
  • receptacle is in a wiremold surface mount box
  • there is 14awg THNN running behind the 20a receptacle in raceway to an ungrounded receptacle
  • the ungrounded receptacle is on a circuit with four other receptacles and two ceiling fixtures (one pendant, one DC ceiling fan)
  • the aforementioned circuit (before the raceway connection) lacks a ground wire but I assume is grounded through conduit because I have verified conduit running behind the plaster with my own eyes (also every other outlet I've checked has an equal reading hot-ground and hot-neutral)

With both of the circuits off, the 20a receptacle reads:

  • Hot to neutral = 4.623
  • Hot to ground = 4.536
  • Ground to neutral = 0.107

The ungrounded outlet reads: 0.034

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Beware: modern day voltmeters can be so sensitive they can read voltages just from wires being next to each other. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to participate here. Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 20:46
  • Hold on, is the ground actually continuous all the way back to the panel?? Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 21:09
  • Well, it's a sub panel in the condo unit itself. But there is conduit running out of it. All the new wiring (one room only) has ground running to the neutral bar. i.redd.it/ddy5m4ztvda31.png
    – user105280
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 22:47
  • Oh. Ground and neutral are separated. Green wire guy doesn't know where he is, those should terminate to panel chassis not N. Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 0:23
  • Plugging in a resistive load like a heater or incandescent lamp would help eliminate phantom voltage readings since it will absorb that.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


It's strange how these forums meant for getting answers to Qs so rarely just. get. a. direct. answer.

your question: "Is this a phantom voltage or is this indicative as a loose neutral?"

Answer: Most likely just a "phantom" voltage.

More info: There's a lot that could account for those few volts. Most consumer grade meters have some level of error, not much, but enough to contribute to reading a few volts. Most branch circuits deriving from a building power system in a condo complex will have a higher degree of "noise" for lack of [not really lack of, Just no point in getting technical or trying to "flex" as many do on these sites] a better word, moreso say than a single family home. Also branch circuits of long distance from their source of power have what is called voltage drop and this can develop a small usually harmless voltage between the neutral and ground.

TLDR: I would not worry about the readings you're getting at all.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.