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As the title says, I encountered an outlet yesterday in a house that has been rewired. I have re-set all the boxes in the house (they were out by about 1/2 inch as the owner was going to install sheetrock over the bead board) except this one and encountered no problems until now. The outlet is a three prong grounded outlet and all the wiring is between 5-10 years old. The box is an older steel box.

When re-installing the box after doing some wall repair, I discovered the outlet was wired odd. The hot was correct but the ground wire was attached to the neutral post. The neutral wire was insulated with tape and not hooked to the outlet at all. It goes into a 15 amp breaker. The outlet has worked great for a year and a half - I have used this room as a saw room and run table and compound miter saws through that outlet. What was the reason for this wiring? If I wire it correctly what problem should I look for?

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    This is certainly not ok. It's possible your neutral is broken somewhere in the circuit, and they did this to "fix" an open neutral. – mjohns Jul 25 '15 at 12:49
  • Can anyone provide an NEC citation? (I'm having a similar, uh, discussion, with a co-worker, and I'd love a reference.) 250.24(A)(5), maybe? – Aloysius Defenestrate Jul 25 '15 at 16:07
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate That sure looks like the right provision. Why not offer it as an answer? – bib Jul 25 '15 at 17:03
  • @bib -- I'm good with wood, but still very much learning in the land of voltage, so couldn't possibly back up my answer with a solid understanding... – Aloysius Defenestrate Jul 25 '15 at 17:13
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This is NOT okay.

Use a multimeter (or voltmeter) to test the grounded (neutral) conductor, to see if you're getting the proper voltage between it and the ungrounded (hot) conductor.

If it tests okay, wire the receptacle up the way it's supposed to.

If not, you'll have to trace back through the circuit, and try to figure out what's wrong.

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I have no internet at this location (rural) and had to leave before I had an answer to the question. I replaced the box and the outlet. I wired the outlet normally - hot to hot, neutral to neutral, ground to ground - and then used a polarized non-grounded plug to test it. Everything worked fine but, since I did not have the question yet answered I flipped the breaker and left it off until I returned here. I'll check the voltage - can I just do it from either side of the outlet or do I need to remove it? I wrapped the terminals with electrical tape before reinstalling it.

If the outlet was functioning with a non-grounded plug, what does that say of the neutral wire? Current could not have been flowing from the hot to earth as before, could it?

  • Well, hooked the Fluke to the outlet after wiring it and everything checked out. What possible reason would they have had to have wired it the way they did? – Davis Jul 26 '15 at 23:54

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