I have a black white and bare wire. When I check with a volt meter black to white (neutral) I get 92 volts. Then I check black to bare (ground) I get 122. I'm wiring in a fluorescent fixture. So the 92 volts won't start the lamps. But when I use black an bare the lights come on. Is it OK just to use the bare (ground) as a neutral. It works. There's no one to touch the fixture. Appreciate some input. Fire was main concern.

3 Answers 3


The ground is just for safety, it is not to be used as part of the circuit, so a big no.

Should get the same voltage between neutral and ground to hot, ~120 volts.

If you are only getting 92v on neutral, then good chance there is a loose and/or bad neutral connection on that circuit and should be found and fixed.



It is NEVER okay to use neutral as ground, or vice versa. They serve two completely different functions.

The purpose of neutral is to carry current back to the source. It carries current, and can be hot in some situations. It is insulated for a reason.

The purpose of ground is to provide a safety shield against faults. This includes faults in the hot AND faults in the neutral. When a fault occurs, ground directs the fault current back to the source in a safe manner until a breaker or GFCI can trip and shut off power.


I get it. You look in your electrical panel and see neutrals and grounds landed on the same bar and you think "that's wasteful". It's not - there's a lot going on there actually.

No, because a single wire break will energize every ground in your house!

You keep thinking you can contain the risk to only the light branch. That is wrong. Once you use ground as neutral anywhere, it isn't ground anymore. It's neutral.

And as you have witnessed for yourself, neutral can have a high voltage. That's why it has insulation. When a neutral wire gets a loose connection, the neutral is raised to 120V (or 230V in Europe!) everywhere on the far side of the break. Now you see why you don't want to use your grounds as neutral!

Just fix the loose neutral

The only reason you're even having this conversation is you don't have a foggy clue how to find or fix a loose neutral wire. Well, that's fixable.

Here's the secret. Code requires every splice to occur inside a junction box, and every junction box must remain accessible without taking apart the building or messing with the building finish. And, 99% of wire problems happen inside junction boxes.

Very few junction boxes have nothing on them. Most have lights, switches or sockets. So finding these junction boxes is as simple as shutting off the relevant breaker and see which switches, lights and sockets lose power. Then follow a little intuition as far as their route from the panel to the dead location.

The break is either at the last good connection (on the outbound wire) or at the first had connection (on the inbound wire).

If the whole circuit is dead, look in the service panel itself at the neutral bar. People always forget to look there.

Now, why are you seeing weird voltages on neutral? That's because you are using a Digital Voltmeter (DVM) to measure it. Those are highly sensitive and pick up "phantom voltage" on the wires. The phantom voltage is insignificant and the moment you hook even the tiniest load to it, it disappears.

  • 2
    I found loose neutral wires in a junction box in the same series. Problem solved. Correct 122 volts on the black to ground and across to nuetral. Neutral to ground nothing. Just like it's suppose to be. Thanks alot for your help. I really appreciate it.i feel alot better now. No fire risk.
    – D. LINN
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 22:59

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