Electrical Questions? Ask an Electrician Online.
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If you have the black wire on the gold screw, and the white wire on the silver screw, with the bare wire on the green screw - the outlet is wired properly. With it wired as described, a reading of "Hot/Neutral Reversed" on your tester is likely an indication of a loose neutral wire. It's probably loose at the previous box. If it comes from an upstream outlet, that is where I would check for a loose white wire. If it's in a splice, make sure none of the wires in the splice are loose or broken. If you find any outlets connected via the small push-in holes on the back, it is recommended that the connections be redone, using the screws on the sides of the outlets.
I will have to go next door and check the outlet to see if it is loose. I will be back...
OK, I'll wait for you.
It will be 20 min at least
Since it will be that long, are you open to having me comment further in a couple of hours?
I am on my lunch break (a very late lunch today), and I really need to head out and finish my workday. I have a couple of very small calls to take care of. I should be back here by 4 PM or so. It's a little after 2 now. In case you didn't view my profile, I work full time for a local electrical contractor. In case you are in a hurry, I have asked another expert to keep an eye on this question while I am away.
I just tightend the ground wire screw and now it comes out hot when I plug it in!!
Thank you for your patience. Can you clarify what you mean by your last post?
I took the outlet out and made sure the screw on the ground wire was tight. I then put it back into the box put on the cover, turned the electricity back on and now it reads hot! on the tester! I thought I had it!! I still get hot and neutral contacts interchanged.
Do you know where the other end of the wire (that feeds the affected outlet) is?
Yes - it is coming out of a box that has 4 lines coming from it. Then one line goes to a box that is older. If I trace it all back to the electrical panel will it be grounded from the panel hook-up or should each "outlet" be grounded?
They will only be grounded when all of the ground wires are connected to each other, and to the ground wire coming from the electrical panel.
Perhaps a better way to say it is this - Any metal part that is in contact with the ground wire coming from the electrical panel, is grounded when in contact with that ground wire (from the electrical panel).
Ok - I quit for tonite, but the info you have provided will help me in the morning. Thanks. If not, I plan to bring in a pro to check the lines if they do not end up reading grounded. I am in Concord, NH - any suggestions. Where are you guys?
We are electricians who live in various areas of the US. I am in Indiana, another is from Michigan. Three are from Florida, one is in New England, one in PA. We work as electricians, and work here "on the side". Question for you...
Do any of the lines from the box with 4 sets run underground? Particularly, the portion of the circuit that you are getting bad readings from?
I cannot tell. The lines run from a celler and then into a part of the house that is on dirt. Why?
It's not uncommon for direct buried wire to fail after being in the ground for a long time. Sometimes, it only takes a few years. It seems to depend on soil factors, such as rocks, acidity, etc..
You are most welcome. If you call in a pro, as you suggested you may do, he should be able to find the problem fairly quickly.