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Why a New 240 Volt Circuit Produces 120 Volts

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Correct Incorrect Circuit Voltage: There are some electrical panels which do not have a standard configuration which will produce 120 volts instead of 240 volts, this is one of those types of panels, but there is a solution.

Electrical Panel and Circuit Breaker Types

Electrical Question: I pulled 10/3 wire from my panel to the dryer unit and installed a 30 amp breaker.  I’m getting 110 on each leg but get nothing when crossing them. I already replaced breaker and get the same thing.

This electrical wiring question came from: Joe, a Handyman from Tewksbury, Massachusetts.
Additional Comments: very informative

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Joe.

How to Correct Incorrect Circuit Voltage

There are some electrical panels which do not have a standard configuration which will produce 120 volts instead of 240 volts, this is one of those types of panels, but there is a solution.
Joe, you’ll need to re position the circuit breaker in the panel because you are not attached to separate buses. This has to do with the type of circuit breaker you have and the brand of the electrical panel.

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7 Responses to “Why a New 240 Volt Circuit Produces 120 Volts”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Miguel,
    From what you have described, the installation of the new units may not have been properly connected, or there may be a tripped circuit breaker. Before the installing technicians leave the job they should test each unit to ensure proper operation. If it is found that there is a voltage problem with the electrical service then you should contact your local electrical utility provider and describe the condition so they may check the electrical service to the home.
    Thanks for sharing your project with us,

  2. Miguel says:

    I had a situation earlier today with a wall oven and a counter top stove. They were working before but I had them replaced with new ones. I see it’s not wired great at all, but it worked and now it won’t give out the power I need. I have tested with a meter all the way back to the main breaker and still will only show 120volt to each hot leg but will show 0volt when I go across both hot legs (L1 and L2).
    Could the problem be from the meter coming from the service? Who should be responsible for that?
    How would this problem be fixed?
    Thank you so much for your help.

  3. Rick says:

    Hi Dave, you were right. Testing the two leads on the 240 circuit showed that it was bad. I replaced it and the heater still didn’t work. When I took the thermostat apart I saw where one of the wires had been scorched. So it was only transferring 120 to the load. Replaced that and it all works fine now.

    Thanks for the advice Dave. You’re the best!!!

  4. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Rick,
    You have tested the circuit and show 120 volts, however the circuit may not be producing 240 volts. The circuit wires of Line 1 and Line 2 need to be tested with a voltage tester to see if there is in fact 240 volts. From what you have described, my guess is that you are not getting 240 volts. If this is true, then I would repeat the 240 volt test at the circuit breaker for each baseboard heater. If the circuit breakers are not producing 240 volts then there is a problem with the panel or the electrical service that supplies power to the panel.
    More information about : How to Troubleshoot Home Electrical Power Problems
    I hope this helps,

  5. Rick says:

    Hi Dave. My electric baseboard heater wouldn’t turn on this season. I tested the thermostat, and both ends of the unit to confirm that the circuit was working on and off properly and receiving power. Thinking something must be wrong with the element, I installed a new unit, but I had the same problem. The baseboard heater was receiving power but producing no heat. I pulled the panel and voltage tested both breakers on the 240 circuit and each was registering 120 volts. I then tested the black and white wire in the unit by putting the black lead into each wire nut, grounding the red lead and each wire was registering at 120. I’m stumped and need your advice. How exactly do I confirm the unit is getting 240 volts? And if it isn’t, where could I be losing it in the circuit?

  6. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Darleen,
    As stated on your new washer dryer combo, it does in fact require a dedicated 220 volt circuit. Also note the amperage of the circuit that is required as this too is extremely important. In most cases a combo washer dryer unit will require a 30 amp 220 volt dedicated circuit, however there are some stacked laundry units that require a circuit and receptacle for each separate unit, typically one 15 or 20 amp 120 volt circuit for the washer and one 30 amp 220 volt circuit for the dryer. Consult the installation manual for complete and specific instructions about the required circuit for your specific make and model washer and dryer combo unit or stack laundry units.

  7. darleen says:

    Hi Dave, I have an old washer/dryer combo that says 120 volts required. I am about to replace it with a new washer dryer unit that says 220 volts. Will I need to upgrade my electric for the newer machine?