shorted neutral

silver356bNovember 17, 2013

My pantry light kept shorting when turned on. With an ohm-meter, I traced the short to somewhere between the wall switch and the breaker. At the switch, I measure no resistance between the white and the ground, on the bundle going back to the breaker. What are my options? I heard that there are infrared cameras for tracing shorts. Also, the house is three years old with no recent work. How could this have happened? Thanks.

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Ron Natalie

There's not typically any resistance between the white/neutral (also officially called....the GROUNDED conductor) and ground. It eventually gets connected to ground. 100 foot of wire shouldn't have resistance of more than a few HUNDREDTH of an OHM.

An infrared camera isn't likely to show much.

What do you mean the "light kept shorting?"

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 10:29AM
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You say " At the switch, I measure no resistance between the white and the ground". I'm confused. Am I not to assume there is a white wire connected to the switch being used as a hot switch leg?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 1:00PM
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Ron Natalie

You said NETURAL. A NEUTRAL is always eventually connected to the ground (perhaps with not a low enough impedance to be useful for safety, but your meter should pretty much show a short).

Not ALL switches are switch loops. And you never mentioned SQUAT about switch loops. Further, the feed to a switch from a switch loop if it is going to use the WHITE wire should have the WHITE wire connected to the HOT.

If you connected your meter while the power was on, you're likely to damage it trying to measure resistance with 120V across it. If the power is off, you might still read pretty close to a short. A 60W incandescent bulb is only a couple of hundred ohms. A CFL or some sort of low voltage fixture can read a dead short for DC (which is what your meter on resistance is measuring).

You've still not explained what the problem is. What are you observing before you start screwing around with the meter? Is the light going out? Is the breaker tripping?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 2:02PM
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Thanks to all that responded. Perhaps I jumped to conclusions.
1. Every time I turn the light on, the breaker trips.
2. I removed and checked the light fixture, and it checks OK, nothing is shorted.
So, to start over, how do I start to troubleshoot the circuit? Thanks,

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 2:41PM
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Ultimately the diagnosis may be visual. Inspect the boxes and "contents" at the fixture and at the switch.
Have you operated the switch with the breaker ON and the fixture removed? Caution: energized exposed conductors are involved.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 2:54PM
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take the light fixture down and turn on the switch. Does the breaker hold? If so the fixture is the problem, if not you have a wiring issue between the switch and fixture (switch leg)

Not to be rude but from your posts you don't seem qualified to troubleshoot/fix this issue. How would it be an issue between the switch and breaker if it holds when the switch is off?

Please call someone.

This post was edited by hexus on Sun, Nov 17, 13 at 16:27

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 4:13PM
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Problem fixed. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 6:18PM
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...a wire nut had come off in the fixture box. Yikes!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 6:28PM
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