Incorrect Outlet Ground Wire Could be a Shock Hazard
Is it safe to wire the ground wire to the neutral side of the outlet? Why a Ground Wire Should Not be Used as a Neutral Wire on a Receptacle Outlet.
Ground Wire Shock Hazard
Electrical Question #1: Is it safe to wire the ground wire to the neutral side of the outlet?
John, a Homeowner in Idaho asks:
- I have and outlet with a broken neutral somewhere in the ceiling.
- I wired the ground wire to the neutral side of the outlet and it works.
- I get 120 volts.
- What are the dangers of this?
Thanks for your electrical wiring question John.
The Danger of Incorrectly Connecting a Ground Wire to a Outlet
Application: Wiring a 120volt Receptacle Outlet.
Skill Level: Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Voltage Tester or Volt Ohm Meter.
Estimated Time: Depends on the type and age of the electrical wiring and the access to the circuits and wiring to be evaluated.
Notice: Repairs to Home Electrical Wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes and installing new or replacement electrical parts or equipment may require a permit and inspections.
Why a Ground Wire Should Not be Used as a Neutral Wire on a Receptacle Outlet
NOTE: A ground wire should never be connected to replace the neutral wire. Make Sure to Avoid Creating This Dangerous Electrical Shock Hazard in Your Home, as I explain below.
- The ground wire is intended to be a non-current carrying conductor for the purpose of providing a bonded path to ground to help prevent damage to electrical equipment and to work with ground fault devices to aid in preventing electrical shock in the event of an electrical short or current to ground condition.
- By incorrectly using the ground wire as a neutral wire you are placing voltage onto the entire ground system thereby energizing all the normally grounded components of any electrical device which is connected to the bonded ground system of the entire home.
- Therefore, when any electrical device is plugged into this outlet which you have incorrectly wired, and return path voltage is produced back into the ground conductor, you are then creating a lethal electrical shock hazard throughout the entire home ground system.
- Lethal electrical shock hazards will then be created in areas such as the bathroom bathtub or shower, any sink and anywhere that a person comes into contact with the energized ground system and a less resistant path to ground.
- This condition also has the potential to harm any electronic device or equipment that is connected anywhere in the home.
IMPORTANT: With the condition of this electrical question, it would be best to immediately disconnect the incorrect wiring hazard that has been created and correctly proceed with whatever method that is necessary to repair the fault with the neutral wire, please see the following resources for further assistance.
Electrical Question #2
Paula in Michigan asks:
I have a bare wire on an outlet that acts like a neutral. If I hook the bare wire to the neutral screw terminal and the black wire to the hot the outlet works.
- Paula, From what you have described, connecting the bare ground wire to the neutral screw terminal of the electrical outlet is creating a dangerous condition in your electrical system that could cause an electrical shock hazard in your home.
- Even though this alteration appears to work, it is a dangerous modification.
- If an electrical outlet is not working properly when it has been wired normally and without modification then there is a problem within the electrical circuit wiring that will need to be identified and corrected by a qualified electrician.
More about Troubleshooting Home Electrical Wiring
Troubleshooting and Repairing Electrical Wiring
Successful Electrical Troubleshooting Methods used to solve the majority of the home electrical problems and wiring failures encountered.
More about Wiring Outlets and Grounding Electrical Circuits
Wiring Electrical Outlets for the Home
Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how wiring electrical outlets for the home are done.
Electrical Grounding Methods and Requirements
Listing of electrical codes for grounding with examples of electrical grounding codes for home electrical wiring.
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.
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