Using an extension cord (like new, great condition), I checked a disconnected circuit attached to the same service.

First, I checked the disconnected circuit:

Hot -> Ground ~0V
Hot -> Neutral ~0V
Neutral -> Ground ~0V

All is good...

Then, using an extension cord ran from an isolated (only box on circuit - identified hereafter by (1)), I checked again:

Hot(1) -> Ground(2) ~120V
Hot(1) -> Neutral(2) ~120V
Hot(1) -> Hot(2) ~120V (I don't think this is acceptable)

Can someone explain this to me?

Okay, so based on Johnny's answer, I went and checked a few circuits nearby. Apparently, I have a lot more work to do on this. There is a third circuit involved now.

To recap

Circuit 1: Extension cord from a single duplex immediately terminated at the panel.

Circuit 2: Remote circuit with an exterior load. Supposedly on its own circuit (per the electrician that just upgraded service and load center). This circuit did operate when engaging the breaker and disengaging the same breaker terminated the load.

Circuit 3: Adjacent to Circuit 2 (well, near proximity) with a small load on a timer (as suggested by Johnny). Disengaging this circuit breaker did previously perform as expected. Engaging the breaker did reconnect service to the load and timer(as expected), however, did not supply service to the load on Circuit 2.

After reading Johnny's answer, I went and disconnected this timer and load from Circuit 3. Checking Circuit 2 again gave me the following:

Hot(1) -> Hot(2) ~0
Hot(1) -> Neutral(2) ~0
Hot(1) -> Ground(2) ~0

Neutral(1) -> Hot(2) ~0
Neutral(1) -> Neutral(2) ~0
Neutral(1) -> Ground(2) ~0

Still confused.

Also, not sure exactly how this was missed by the electrician, but I digress.

  • What problem are you trying to solve? – Tester101 May 8 '15 at 12:23
  • Are there any devices on the first (disconnected) circuit? If so, the ungrounded (hot) conductor of that circuit is grounded through the load. – Tester101 May 8 '15 at 12:27

The first two, hot to ground and hot to neutral are normal and what you'd expect.

Voltage showing on from the hot to hot leg may not be a sign of any problem -- Voltmeters have a very high impedance, so any load at all on the other circuit can provide a path to neutral that will appear as 120V to the meter. This could be a lamp, a "smart switch" or outlet, a small night light, a cell phone charger, pretty much any load at all.

| improve this answer | |
  • I am using a low impedance meter. Fancy $500 job. Also this circuit is only supposed to have one attachment. I was going to move the junction box (where the wire from the panel supposedly terminates before penetrating the structure) before enclosing the original point where it was located. Had the extension cord nearby, got curious and here we are. – Gabriel May 8 '15 at 4:12
  • BTW, I did disconnect the load side of the wire (extending from j-box beyond structure) before taking the readings. – Gabriel May 8 '15 at 4:17
  • +1 for pointing me in the right direction. Please see my edit (still not resolved) – Gabriel May 8 '15 at 4:57

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