How to Locate an Electrical Wiring Problem
Wayne in Washington asks: I have a very unique problem in a home where on a 20 amp circuit the bare conductor is carrying the positive or hot side of the 120 volt and the black conductor is acting as the ground and the white is the neutral.
Electrical Question: How can I trace an electrical problem where the bare ground wire is the positive or hot side of a 120volt circuit, and the black wire is acting as the ground?
- I have a very unique problem I am familiar with electrical have been in the field for about 13 years mostly residential.
- My issue is in a manufactured home on a 20 amp circuit where the bare ground conductor is carrying the positive or hot side of the 120 volt, and the black conductor is acting as the ground, and the white is the neutral. However in the service breaker panel all circuits including that 20 amp circuit seem to be wired normally and working normally, the circuit in question included.
- I have pulled apart numerous receptacles and switches that are involved in that circuit and I’m finding that each one is giving me a plus on the bare conductor, and a ground as the black conductor.
- I have a solution to the problem which involves tracing down the origin of the circuit and simply cutting it off and rewiring from the panel but I’m hoping maybe you could help me and give some insight if you have any experience in this area.Any tips or anything would be a great help I appreciate it, Thanks!
This electrical wiring question came from Wayne, an Electrician in Walla Walla, Washington.
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Wayne.
How to Locate an Electrical Wiring Problem
Application: Troubleshooting an Electrical Problem.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor, or Certified Electrician.
Electrical Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Voltage Tester, and appropriate Safety Gear.
Estimated Time: Depends on the personal level experience, ability to work with tools, install electrical circuit wiring, and the available access to the project area.
Electrical Safety: Identify the electrical power source to the , turn it OFF and Tag with a Note before working with the electrical wiring.
Electrical Wiring Parts and Materials: Electrical parts and materials for the should be approved for the specific project and compliant with local and national electrical codes.
Electrical Codes and Inspections: Installing or changing home electrical wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes as adopted in Walla Walla, Washington. A permit and inspections may also be required.
See more about Home Wiring for Washington
Electrical Problem in Home Wiring
This electrical wiring project is about Electrical Circuit Problem in a Home.
Electrical Circuit Problem
- Wayne, From what you have described I would first check to make sure that since this is a modular home, which I believe falls under the same codes as a mobile home, the main panel system wiring should not have the neutral and ground bonded.
- I know this may sound strange, but the last one I wired (here in California) had to be set up this way (a true 4-wire system at the main panel), and the inspector checked to make sure there was no continuity between the neutral and the ground everywhere in the home. The reason why is that most of these homes have a grounded metal structure that can become energized when the neutral is bonded to the ground system, because as we know, the neutral will have voltage on it when the circuit is being used.
Now to help locate this problem:
- I would locate the first junction box, or outlet on this circuit and disconnect the branch wiring that feeds out from that point. This way you can test the circuit up to that point.
- If everything is OK there, then locate the next j-box or outlet and do the same test. Continue the process until you locate the problem, or the section of the circuit that is faulty. Make the necessary repair, or replace the faulty section of the circuit as needed.
Wayne’s Followup – What He Found
- Hey Dave, thank you for your timely response, much appreciated. I did locate and fix the issue, I found a 2 gang switch box above one of the receptacles that was reading as reverse hot and ground.
- There was a green wire nut with sloppy makeup in this 2 gang and I found my black to that the insulation had been nicked and was connecting with the ground bare conductor sending the feed backwards. Thank you.
- Also what you were talking about with the grounding bonding system on the modular homes was correct the same code applies here in Oregon.
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