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I am stumped...I have not had an electrical problem in my family room and have lived in this home for 11 years...until a few days ago. A few days ago I plugged a laptop charge cord (new and in normal condition) into an outlet in this circuit and it didn't work. I checked the breaker and it wasn't tripped so i flipped it OFF then back ON 2-3 times without remedy. Next, a single gang floor receptacle in that same circuit of 6 outlets, showed reverse polarity with my outlet tester. I checked it because for a long time the lamp that was plugged into this outlet has had a make/break intermittent connection at the plug/receptacle prong location with no concern for the outlet itself or it's wires being loose. I replaced the floor outlet (white to silver screw and black to copper with ground to green screw) thinking this could be shorting-out the circuit and the tester then showed all outlets in this circuit as OPEN NEUTRAL. I had not seen that previously and never had an issue with any outlets in this circuit...not even the outlet that first caught my attention with the laptop charge cord not powering on. I plugged the lamp in to this same floor outlet and it illuminated for 2 seconds then turned off. The entire circuit has not worked since the laptop charge cord failure.

Since then, I have checked ALL SIX circuit outlets, replaced all six receptacles using screw connections and not using stab connections, visibly checked all box wire connections (and all look very good). I then checked all other outlets in my home and all test 'Normal'. I even looked in my attics and crawl space. I looked for GFCI's that might have been tripped but all are normal (even turned them OFF then back ON). I turned my breaker for this circuit OFF then ON many times. I removed my panel door and made sure that this circuits black hot wire was screwed tightly to the breaker then followed this black wire to the romex panel entry location, located it's paired white neutral wire, followed that white wire to the panel bar it is screwed into and made sure it's connection is tight (both were affixed appropriately). I even checked and tightened ALL other wire screws on both panel bars. I was stumped...I even reversed the black and white wires in the floor outlet i installed just in case the manufacturer, Hubbell, made an error in assembly with the copper and silver screw locations. Of course, that showed reverse polarity so i returned that single gang receptacle to it's original and intended configuration (white on silver and black on copper).

End result, my family room circuit tests OPEN NEUTRAL despite my doing everything I know to do. This is a first floor room with a vaulted ceiling and no electrical outlets in this circuit outside of this one room (I tested). My crawl space, below, is clean and dry with no visible signs of wire damage. My panel screws are tight. My outlets have been replaced with new ones and screw connections were made tightly.

I also tried two different three prong testers with the same results. After reading some comments, i checked my attic where there is an attic vent fan that i know has been in disrepair for years...but it is on a different circuit and unrelated (when i turned off the family room circuit in question then tested the attic fan romex for current it is still hot)...so i assume this wouldn't relate to the open neutral family room circuit issue.

I am at a complete loss and would really appreciate any help.

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    Any chance there's a hidden junction box? The same thing happened to me and ended up being a loose connection in a junction box buried under some attic insulation. – freshop Oct 16 at 19:36
  • Try a different tester. – JACK Oct 16 at 20:49
  • it sounds like theres somthing wrong with the cable that goes back to the panel. find it and check both ends. – Jasen Oct 16 at 21:29
  • You have certainly gone "all in" with describing your problem as "open neutral", but you got that off the legend of a magic 8-ball tester, and those are whimsical at best on old work. Hence the name. I don't like them because their misleading statements make you waste time chasing non-problems. – Harper Oct 16 at 22:43
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    If you plug several loads into the circuit and turn them on, does the 3-light tester then light the red N-G light? – Harper Oct 16 at 22:48
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I have two questions.. Is there a box with neutrals wire nutted together? Second, Is there a fixture on the circuit? Ceiling fan..light... I have actually seen certain smoke detectors cause a loss of power. It seems like you covered most areas as I would have.. The only other things I could recommend would be ohm out the outlet after removing it from circuit. Test actual wires for power after removing outlet. If no power to wires then its usually left or right of bad outlet. Also if there's critters around they could have bit threw a wire. Furry tail tree rats love eating wires in the attic

  • I HAVE one box with 3 white neutrals wire nutted together. This appears to be the closest (first) duplex outlet to the panel. Also wire nutted is a white neutral pigtail to feed the neutral silver screw of that receptacle. – user108147 Oct 18 at 14:01
  • I am not aware of a fixture in this circuit. Theres a ceiling fan mounted 18' on the ceiling of this family room along with four recessed lights, each on its own wall switch, and a third wall switch that might not be used currently but might be wired in the event that a homeowner would replace the ceiling fan with a fan/light. none of these is affected by turning off the breaker and therefore are on a separate circuit. – user108147 Oct 18 at 14:38
  • I crawled thru my crawl space and only found 1 junction box. It was likely part of that circuit because i had turned the open neutral circuit off at the breaker and this junction box was off. The box contained a single romex with wire nuts and no wires exiting...it was the end of a line and i didn't find any other junction box anywhere in the crawl space. So far, i have searched my entire home, inside, outside, attic above and crawlspace below and have not found a single outlet, box or fixture that could be causing an open neutral / dead family room circuit. – user108147 Oct 19 at 14:40
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I had a similar scenario happen. I dove all in with an open neutral answer as well. I found 2 junction boxes hidden in the ceiling that both had issues, as well as various burnt wires in various spots. One wire was stapled so badly that the sheathing had come off.

The fine people here helped me figure it out and as I drove in I fojnd a myriad of other problems. The point of my answer is that it could very well be a hidden junction box in the circuit. Thermal imaging cameras some less than 200US and/or a sewer/wall camera are great tools and cost much less than a house fire.

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