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Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

Posted by mikezusa (My Page) on
Mon, Sep 30, 13 at 16:39

Found 3 outlets on a circuit that tested hot and neutral reversed with a plug in tester. Without thinking further I turned off power, found that the wires were on the wrong screws and I remade the connections on new outlets. All 3 tested correctly after that with both plug in tester and multimeter. Too easy.

Good enough you say. Well, I got to second guessing myself and though how blatant of a screw up that was. I can see whoever wired the room may get one wrong but every outlet in the room??

Is there something Im missing here? A problem downstream or elsewhere on the circuit that would explain why the outlets were wired that way in the first place? If the polarity tests correctly now at the outlets, then can I just chalk it up to another idiot mistake I found in my house and go on my way?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

New house or an older one?
The receptacles in that room were all probably installed or replaced by the same person, one who may have been half asleep or just clueless.

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

Or the person was unknowing. But if that is the case, one would expect more randomness in the installation. When I find any such problems, the nagging thought becomes "What problem have I not yet discovered?"

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

Its a 50+ year old house. And Busdriver, that is exactly what I was thinking.

At some point 2 prong outlets were replaced. I was just concerned the reveresed polarity might have had something to do with grounding issues.

Each of those outlet boxes (metal boxes mechanical ground) only had the 2 wires in them. No pigtail, no feeding thru.

So all 3 boxes would be fed from a junction box in the ceiling (the celing fan perhaps?)

Hows is this likely wired?
And do you think I missed the bigger picture somehow?

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

At 50+ years, you might have knob and tube. That wire feeding the box could be spliced off the main run (no box just tape).

Absent knob and tube, it could just be that they're all home run to some common point (ceiling box or someplace in the basement).

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

A 50 year old house was built in the late sixties or early seventies, and knob and tube was long gone by then. I would be much more worried about the possibility of aluminum wiring, which was used quite a bit in the 70's.

My neighborhood was built in the thirties and forties and they had already switched to metal flexible cable. Your wiring is old and may take some screwy paths, but its probably still okay if its either romex or metal cable. The swapped outlet wiring is probably just due to a handyman who did not understand the significance of the polarity.

When I purchased my house it had only had five or six breakers (which may have been glass fuses originally) and the wiring takes some very interesting paths. The wiring looks original, but it appears they just ran the most direct path through the house and started wiring things together.

I have one circuit that includes lights in the basement, outlets and lights in the kitchen, and outlets and lights in the 2nd floor bedroom. It wasn't a big issue until we realized that if the refrigerator came on while my wife was running her blow dryer in the bedroom it would trip the breaker. I finally had to run a new circuit up to the bathroom, since the only outlet had was one that was built in to the light fixture.


RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

Of the installations that I have seen, all the knob and tube in my area is from before 1935.

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

FYI house is late 50's copper (TW) in chicagoland all metal boxes, mechanical grounding 100A service.

Not saying that has anything to do with reversed polarity! ;^)

RE: Second guessing myself - Hot/Neutral Reversed.

As far as I know, Chicago has long required that all wiring be in conduit. The labor unions love it!
My involvement with Chicago involves driving on Lakeshore Drive at 5:30 in the afternoon.

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