Last Updated on September 9, 2022 by John Robinson
Every 120-volt wiring circuit has one white neutral wire. The purpose of this wire is to complete the electrical circuit back to the panel up to the transformer. The disconnection of this wire can at times be dangerous. While this incomplete connection would not allow your device to work, it is certainly possible for you to get a shock. An open neutral is still energized.
An open neutral comes into being when there is a break in the neutral wire responsible for connecting the panel with the line transformer. One of the commonest effects of an open neutral can be the dimming and brightening of your house lights for no plausible reason. It is also possible for some lights to get too bright and burn out.
Consider the dangers of an open neutral
When a break occurs in the main neutral connecting the panel with the line transformer, the hot wires still remain energized. The electrical current flowing through one hot leg wouldn’t find a return leg through the neutral wire. This current can flow to the ground or flow through another hot leg.
The danger of this situation is apparent in the fact that all the circuits in the house then become 240-volt circuits. This happens because of the direct connection of two hot wires. The load of one leg would affect the consequences of the other. All the lights connected on the leg with more power would get brighter while the lights connected on the leg with more load will get more dim.
This situation is very dangerous because some devices can get overheated and even start a fire. It is recommended that you call an electrician as soon as you encounter such a situation.
The trick lies in finding the open circuit
If you figure that one or the outlet isn’t working, it is possible that you may have an open hot neutral. An open hot could cause all the connected devices to be dead. While the outlets may not be working, they would still be energized. You can utilize a plug-in tester to check for the presence of an open neutral.
In case a series of lights tests positive for open neutral, there’ll be a disconnection in the device closest to the panel. Your tester would fluctuate between open neutral and normal when you wiggle it between a disconnection. It is possible for some light with an open ground to still function but it could also give you a shock.
One way to spot an open circuit is by turning down the power and finding whether the neutral wire is continuous with the bond wire in any portion. A perfectly wired electrical circuit will have continuity. In case this circuit isn’t continuous, you’ll have to figure out why.
The service neutral is generally bonded to the ground in most homes. You cannot directly visualize this connection owing to its location inside the road transformer or your meter base. It could even be secured inside your panel with a bonding strap. Under no circumstances should you remove the main cover on your panel.
Switching down your main breaker will not stop the power in the panel’s main side. This power can only be switched down by contacting your power provider and making them disconnect your service.
A receptacle testing tool is by far an easy way of testing for an open circuit. This way is also very economical and a large number of receptacles can be quickly tested. In case you find out that your double slot receptacles come without a grounding pin slot, your entire electrical wiring setting might not be appropriately grounded and may require rewiring as a solution.
Know How to fix open neutral
The solution essentially lies in replacing the receptacle outlet device or making changes in the wiring. You must expect a one hour to two hour service charge for minor labor and minimal materials. A normal electrical outlet will cost you around $2-3 whereas a GFCI outlet could cost over $20. Although, every electrical contractor bills differently.
Your final cost will be influenced by the level of difficulty, the time spent, and the materials equipped in resolving the issue. The resolution of this problem begins when you spot it. The outlet box and the jumper are attached to the receptacle ground terminal with the help of a bonding wire. This bounding wire is often absent in old homes. This would essentially require a renovation of the house rather than just new wiring.
In case you are not able to renovate or install new wiring, you must replace the outlet with a good GFCI ground fault circuit interpreter.
Understand the installation of a GFCI receptacle to an open outlet
The GFCi receptacle can be conveniently wired as the initial circuit device. This would ensure adequate protection for the GFCI load side outlets. The initial outlet would be duly protected by ground fault.
The line side of the power is also known as the incoming wire. Its purpose is to connect to the GFCI line terminals. The GFCI has load terminals that connect with the wires that leave the outlet box. These also connect to the remaining receptacles of your room.
If all the receptacles have been wired correctly, the testing of the GFCI would miscalculate the power supply going to all the receptacles of the branch circuit. The power to a screwed up GFCI can be restored with the help of the reset button.
Spot whether there are wiring issues with the quick connect
An open neutral could also result because of a poor connection. There are generally two ways on every receptacle to terminate an electrical wiring. By one method, you can remove the wire insulation from your wire. You can then attach a curled bare copper wire hook. This coiled copper wire hook can be tightened around the set screw of the device.
You can also remove the wire insulation and then attach the naked copper part into quick connect terminals in your plug’s rear portion. This is amongst the most obvious reasons for an open neutral. This is why push-in connections are not considered very reliable.
Problems in quick connects lead down to mistakes in proper installation. If the quick connect is not able to appropriately hold the wire, it will remain loose inside the terminal. It is also important for you to remove a certain portion of wire insulation. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be sufficient naked copper to hold within a quick connect terminal.
An adequate connection depends upon a relatively small-sized spring tensioned clamp. The grip of the quick connect can be inspected by a slight pull on the wires after turning off the power. The wires can also be removed from the push-in quick connect. Although, multiple layers of addition and removal of the wires would wear down the clamp that holds them in place. This could also result in a loose connection that would eventually result in a failure of the device.
A better way to make a wire and receptacle connection is by utilizing the terminal screws. In case you figure out that the wires get easily pulled from the quick connect terminals, the electrical outlet will have to be replaced.
There could be a split receptacle outlet
Split receptacle outlets are generally present above kitchen counter tops. They are adequately split to allow more utilization of power than is generally used by appliances in the kitchen. A tab joins the two hot terminals. The creation of a split receptacle requires you to break this tab. Any inadequacy in this procedure could result in a problem.
This eventuality could be quite dangerous because two high voltage lines will be shorted together. Such a mistake can only be corrected by a professional electrician. Any miswiring could result in a fire.
Your receptacle outlet could sustain burn marks. You might also spot cracks due to excessive heat in plastic. It is recommended that you don’t try to correct these portions. It is suggested that you replace these electrical outlets. Such a faulty receptacle should be discarded so that you never face the same problem again.
An outlet with an open neutral can result in a severe electrical accident and damage any electrical devices that may be plugged in. You may not be able to make these corrections on your own. It is suggested that you hire a professional electrician.
Once you find an open circuit, you must leave it on the electrician to spot the cause and correct the underlying issue. An open neutral could be detrimental to your safety. While the devices might not be working, they could still be energized/ to avoid any serious injury, you must report such a problem to a trusted electrician at the earliest and get it fixed.
If you are not experienced in this arena, you must never attempt to correct such an issue on your own.
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