Why Would A Neutral Wire Be Hot?(5 Reasons Explained)


neutral wire hot

What would cause a neutral wire to become hot? The neutral wire provides a return path for the current. It shouldn’t pose a threat to the consumer. If yours is clearly hot, you should investigate the situation immediately before a disaster occurs.

Why Is A Neutral Wire Hot?

A neutral wire is hot because of a wrong wire, wrong readings, open neutral and low resistance.

A layperson does not have the expertise to diagnose a problem of this kind. You are better off hiring a professional.

1). Wrong Wire

Are you sure the neutral wire in your setting is a neutral wire?

The hot wire is black whereas the neutral wire is either white or gray. But this isn’t always the case. In some places, the neutral wire is blue while the hot wire is brown. In fact, the hot wire can be gray, yellow, or even blue.

Don’t be so quick to assume that the person that wired your circuit used conventional color codes.

To identify the neutral wire,

Just touch the exposed wires with the red probe of a multimeter. The neutral wire won’t show any readings. The hot wire will give you a reading.

Until you identify the neutral wire with a multimeter, you have to consider the possibility that the neutral wire is actually the live wire. The live wire is supposed to be hot.

2). Wrong Readings

Some people assume that the neutral wire is hot because they measured the wire and it gave them a reading of 120V. This is ignorance.

Basically, the layperson does not realize that a tester can give you a reading of 120V if you place the leads between two neutral wires when the circuit is under load.

This practice is discouraged because anyone that gets in the middle of a live circuit runs the risk of receiving a fatal shock.

3). Open Neutral

Open neutral is a situation where a break occurs in the neutral wire. The neutral wire connects the panel and the line transformer.

An open neutral is dangerous because

  • It energizes the appliance you’re using. 
  • It can also start fires because the neutral wire creates a return path for the current, a break in the neutral wire will disrupt that return path.
  • The phenomenon can also cause the neutral wire to carry the same voltage as the hot wire.

4). Electrical Feedback

Electricity flows to an appliance through the hot wire. It returns to the panel through the neutral wire.

Tying all the white (Neutral) wires together can result in electrical feedback if you have a black wire somewhere on the circuit that doesn’t have a neutral wire leading back to the cable.

The current will use one of the wires you tied together to find its way back to the panel. If you touch that wire, it will shock you.

5). High Resistance In Copper Wire

Manufacturers use copper to make electric wires because it is a decent conductor with low resistance. An increase in the length of the copper wire can elevate the resistance.

This will compromise your circuit’s performance. Because your body is a conductor with a lower resistance in such a situation, touching the neutral wire would give you a shock.

Will There Be Any Problem If Neutral Wire Becomes Hot?

A hot neutral is a problem because it can shock you. A neutral wire is more likely to shock you because you don’t expect it. People know that live wires are dangerous, which is why they handle them with care. They are far more careless where neutral wires are concerned. This leaves them vulnerable to the unexpected shock that a hot neutral can deliver.

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How Can You Fix Hot Neutral Wire?

1). Fix Open Neutral

If you have a break in the neutral wire, you should call a professional. This is especially important in situations where you found a stray neutral wire that wasn’t connected to anything.

More than likely, your previous contractor left that stray wire in its current state because he encountered an obstacle, and the only way to keep your circuit operational was to leave that stray neutral wire without connecting it to anything.

A professional can identify and fix the problem. If you don’t want the neutral wire to shock the inhabitants of your home while you wait for the electrician, shut the main breaker off.

2). Grounding

If you don’t want the high voltage in the neutral to result in overheating and deadly fires, you should ground the neutral wires. Grounding the neutral wires protects the entire circuit.

3). Fix Electrical Feedback

If your neutral is hot because the loss of one of your electrical service’s legs is causing voltage feedback, you need an electrician to diagnose and solve the problem.

As a layperson, do not attempt to make the repairs yourself.

If you want to tackle the problem without help, wear rubber gloves. They will provide some protection.

Can You Use The Neutral As Hot?

You can use it as the hot wire. However, you have to mark it with colored tape to show that the wire’s purpose has changed.

The neutral wire can carry power. Many people think that the neutral wire is harmless but that isn’t true.

If people don’t know that it has become the live wire, they may mishandle it because it is white in color.

White is the color that neutral wires normally use.

Marking the hot neutral wire encourages people to handle it carefully.

Normally, What Wire Should Be Hot?

In most cases, the live wire is the hot wire. The most common color for the live wire is ‘Black’. Live wire can be any color except for Green, Yellow, and White. This is what the NEC says.

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