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Ground wire as neutral

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Hi guys,

I am not HI, but as new home owner got a lot of help by reading and asking question from this forum. Thank you all.

Please help me with this. I hired licenced electrician to separate light fixture from fan. After job was done, I decided to replace switch with timer and discover:

Neutral wire was utilized as hot and ground wire was used as neutral. I e-mail him with question if it is not against of NEC. No answer yet.

Is it against of NEC or not?

Thank you all in advance.

Alex

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Hi guys,

I am not HI, but as new home owner got a lot of help by reading and asking question from this forum. Thank you all.

Please help me with this. I hired licenced electrician to separate light fixture from fan. After job was done, I decided to replace switch with timer and discover:

Neutral wire was utilized as hot and ground wire was used as neutral. I e-mail him with question if it is not against of NEC. No answer yet.

Is it against of NEC or not?

Thank you all in advance.

Alex

I suspect that you're misunderstanding what's going on. You're allowed to use the white wire as part of a "switch loop" between the fixture and the switch. Most of the time, there shouldn't be any neutral inside a switch box.

How many wires of what color are inside the switch box?

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Hi Jim,

I have 2 cond. wire and two switches. Now hot wire (black) through switch goes to lamp, white wire is marked as hot now and through switch goes to fan. Ground wire connected to switches at grounding screws and I assume (I will check tonight) is used as neutral and as ground in light fixture and fan.

This is quote from electrician's e-mail:"I did utilize neutral wire and used ground wire because I couldn't add more wires to that box"

photostream

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Hi Jim,

I have 2 cond. wire and two switches. Now hot wire (black) through switch goes to lamp, white wire is marked as hot now and through switch goes to fan. Ground wire connected to switches at grounding screws and I assume (I will check tonight) is used as neutral and as ground in light fixture and fan.

This is quote from electrician's e-mail:"I did utilize neutral wire and used ground wire because I couldn't add more wires to that box"

photostream

Your drawing doesn't make sense.

If the electrician is using the white wire to carry current in a switch loop, then that part is fine and specifically allowed in this circumstance.

If the electrician is using the grounding wire to intentionally carry current to make the light or the fan work, then it's wrong. If there are only two conductors plus a ground between the switch box and the fixture, then I don't see any way that this could be wired correctly.

There are two basic ways to wire a switched fixture. You can run the power to the switch box first or you can run it to the fixture box first. It's much more common to run the power to the fixture first. It would help to know which way your's is wired.

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In a properly wired switch loop the white supplies power to the switch and the black is the switch controlled hot.

You are not showing enough wires in your diagram. Where does the power come from? Are there other cables in the switch box?

Using the bare or green to carry current is improper and will impose voltage on items like metal boxes and creates a serious shock or electrocution hazard.

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I looked over my drawing. I was wrong, sorry.

Hope my new sloppy drawing will help.

Click to Enlarge
tn_201163014579_Wiring.jpg

41.68 KB

That drawing makes sense.

If that's what he's done, it's wrong. No question.

However, what he did is is a calculated risk that saved you money. He probably should have explained what he was doing and offered you alternatives. To wire the fixture properly, he'd have to pull a new 3-wire cable to the fixture and that could get expensive.

My opinion is that, even if he's willing to set aside his professional ethic, he shouldn't have done it without your agreement first. If he's willing, and you're willing, and you both understand the consequences, then you're making an informed decision. If he's willing and he doesn't tell you, then he's cheating you.

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In a properly wired switch loop the white supplies power to the switch and the black is the switch controlled hot.

You are not showing enough wires in your diagram. Where does the power come from? Are there other cables in the switch box?

Using the bare or green to carry current is improper and will impose voltage on items like metal boxes and creates a serious shock or electrocution hazard.

I think that the circuit runs to the switch box first. From there, a two-wire switch loop runs to the fixture. The client wanted separate control of the fan and the light, so the electrician incorporated the bare ground wire into the loop. I assume that the drawing doesn't show a connection between the bare ground and the neutral in the switch box.

Wrong for sure, but occasionally done by those who are too frugal to run new cables. If there's an attic above this space, it wouldn't be all that hard to run a new 3-wire cable. If there's no access, they'd have to cut up some drywall to fish in the new cable.

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He did not explain me anything. I would never agreed to do like this. I could do it myself, without hiring anybody. I discovered it last night, when decided to replace switch with timer.

I thought LICENCED electrician can't work against of NEC.

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He did not explain me anything. I would never agreed to do like this. I could do it myself, without hiring anybody. I discovered it last night, when decided to replace switch with timer.

I thought LICENCED electrician can't work against of NEC.

He's supposed to wire things in accordance with your state, county, or city electrical code, which is probably some version of the NEC. To intentionally do it differently is to break the law. (If a code has been adopted in your area.)

That aside, if you want this done properly, it will cost significantly more than whatever you paid him to swap these wires around. If I were in your position I'd call him up and say, "I appreciate that you tried to save me some money here, but I'm not comfortable with the improper wiring. I'd like to hire you to come back and do it right and I'd like you to apply what I've paid you so far to the bill."

If that doesn't work, talk to his supervisor or, if he is the supervisor, to your local electrical inspector.

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"Separate bathroom lite and exhaust fan in master bathroom, run new wire to switch".

That is from proposal/contract which I paid.

No money saved.

I fill like... Do not know.

I sent him another e-mail and asked what he thinks about it before I will take another steps.

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"Separate bathroom lite and exhaust fan in master bathroom, run new wire to switch".

That is from proposal/contract which I paid.

No money saved.

I fill like... Do not know.

I sent him another e-mail and asked what he thinks about it before I will take another steps.

Just to be clear, this shouldn't be done with a new "wire." It needs to be done with a new "cable."

Running an extra, individual wire, is, in my opinion, even worse than using the grounding conductor.

What did he charge you?

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My two bits: Doesn't matter what he charged. Customer didn't give the impression that he had agreed to a violation of law in order to save money. If that's the case, fry that dang electrician. Report him to the local building code authorities. That kinda practice deceives customers, demotes the trade and creates hazards in the premises wiring.

Just my opinion.

Marc

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"What did he charge you?"

Separate bathroom lite and exhaust fan in master bathroom, run new wire to switch.

Replace existing exhaust fan with new.(I supplied fan. Was not happy what he proposed)

Vent duct thru roof with new vent kit. $363.00

It was part of $2000 job-another bathroom and lights in two rooms.

In last e-mail he stated everything withing code but would rewire to my satisfaction.

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My two bits: Doesn't matter what he charged. Customer didn't give the impression that he had agreed to a violation of law in order to save money. If that's the case, fry that dang electrician. Report him to the local building code authorities. That kinda practice deceives customers, demotes the trade and creates hazards in the premises wiring.

Just my opinion.

Marc

True.

I was just curious as to what substandard wiring costs these days. (In case I want to get into the racket.)

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