On an unrelated reason I had pulled the covering of my fuse box(Moved in 2 years and was a complete remodel) and noticed that 2 of the 4 wire connections do not have the white wire ran to the bar like the rest of the connections. Those 2 4 wire go to my dryer and the water heater.

Question is, should those be connected, or is it common practice or some other reason they are just sitting not terminated in the fuse box?


3 Answers 3


Very few water heaters use the white/neutral wire(unless a /2 cable without red, white marked as hot). Water heaters are pure 240v and do not need neutral, but do use ground for safety.

Older dryers(pre 1996) did not use the ground wire. Can google 10-30 circuits, banned from being installed after 1996.

If the dryer is not using the white/neutral, but only the ground, that will be very bad/illegal/not in code, unless a rare pure 240v dryer. You are not allowed to use ground to bypass neutral.

A four wire cable is called /3. Black, red, and white. Ground is assumed to be there. A black, white, and ground cable is /2.

  • Thanks for the information! Wasn't aware most water heaters didn't use neutral. One of the few things I've never had to install/replace yet. Commented May 28 at 13:24

Maybe yes...maybe no. If you have an older 3 prong dryer it does not use a ground. If 10/3 wire was run to the dryer but a 3 prong outlet was used then the neutral could be left unattached in the outlet and the ground attached to the neutral lug... so the neutral was left unattached in the breaker box, (Fuse box). Same if x/3 wire was run to the hot water.

I would question why all the wiring was not done to code during a remodel.

  • Old dryers did not use ground. See NEMA 10-30. They did use neutral.
    – crip659
    Commented May 25 at 22:01
  • 3
    @crip659, I agree, but there is not any proof that the wiring was done to code. Not even old code. In my mind I'm seeing the 2 hot and a ground attached to that outlet. Otherwise it would not work at all. I changed my wording to reflect that. my bad.
    – RMDman
    Commented May 25 at 22:29
  • Ah ok. I hadn't thought of the dryer at the time. It is a 3 prong so you're right it wouldn't use it. The water heater is newer so figured it would, but someone else responded below that most water heaters don't use it. I'm honestly not sure what our local code is for wiring. I mean everything else I've seen in the house looks correct outside of the bathroom outlet where someone ran a wire from neutral to the ground and it kept kicking the breaker on the outlet lol. Thank you for all the helpful info! Commented May 28 at 13:21

If I'm understanding what you are saying, the last guy used 10/3 (4-wire cable black white red bare) to connect water heater and dryer.

The water heater does not use neutral. It is correct to connect black-red only and leave neutral capped off.

Normal electric dryers have 99% parts commonality with normal gas dryers, which are 120V. As such, dryers absolutely need neutral. When grounding started in 1954-1965, dryers and ranges got a waiver for awhile (until 1996) that they could continue to use non-grounded 3-wire hot-hot-neutral connections.

Of course, to a person who knows just a little bit about electrical, the washer and water heater seem exactly the same. Surely that L-shaped pin is ground, right?

So I believe "the last guy" earnestly thought dryers didn't use neutral either, and wired it same as the water heater.

However, 3-prong ungrounded dryers are mildly dangerous and do have a considerable body count, disproportionately children. Because the dryer chassis is bonded to the neutral wire, if that neutral wire so much as gets loose, it energizes the chassis of the dryer.

So, if you have 4 wires in your cable, I recommend you change the dryer socket and plug to the 4-wire type NEMA 14-30. The dryer instructions (google your model number) or even labeling will show you how to connect a 4-wire cord and to remove the neutral-ground jumper.

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