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Old September 18th, 2004, 04:01 PM
BDP BDP is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2004
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Default Hot Neutral on Wall Outlet

Should a wall outlet ever read 120V between neutral and ground?

After several days of periodically having no lights, lights flickering, very bright lights, and a smoking microwave, I checked my wall outlets with a DMM. The problem seems to be a light switch and dimmer switch and several wall outlets.

With both light switch and dimmer switch on, the wall outlet reads 120V / 6 amps between neutral and ground and 230V/12A (hot-neutral).

For LS on/DS off, I read 120V (neutral-ground) and 230V (hot-neutral).

For LS off/DS on, I read 22V (neutral-ground) and 40V (hot-neutral)- voltage drops slowly over ~ 1 min.

For LS off/DS off, I read 107V (neutral-ground) and 11V (hot-neutral).

Other outlets are < 1 V between neutral and ground

I'm sure this will require a professional- just want to make sure I didn't oversee something. Also, we have alot of ants- could they do this??
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Old September 18th, 2004, 04:08 PM
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mdshunk mdshunk is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 4,199

This is a classic loose neutral scenario, in my opinion. Check in your service panel and tighten all the neutral connections on the neutral bar. Also tighten the service neutral lug, if you can. I suspect that the circuit that you're having trouble with is a multiwire circuit (ie., leaves the panel in a cable that contains a black, red, white, and ground. With the black and red being on two different breakers), which may have a loose neutral. The other end of this multi wire cable may have a loose neutral wire nut also, where the cable splits out into it's two respective circuits. Use the "search" tool above and search for the term "loose neutral". There have been several threads on this in the past which will prove very useful to you.

By the way, you should not have 120 between neutral and ground. Often, there's a few volts, but only a few. A great voltage (up to 120) pretty much identifies the loose neutral problem.
"Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool"
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