Electrical Wiring in the Home/Outlet problem


Thanks for you time.  I have an old house wired in the later 50's.   I was checking my kitchen outlets and noticed the neutral side was hot and the hot (short slot) was not.  So I changed out the outlets and grounded it to the metal box.  When I turned on the power and plug in the Outlet tester with the 3 lights it shows the centenlightn on bright but the lights on either side are dimly lit.  When I pulled te outlet out and checked each wire, there are 4 all black, 3 show no power and one is hot.  When I touched 2 of the dead wired together I got an arc.  I also found another receptacle on another circuit in the kitchen with 5 hot wires and one that is not hot.  All are black.  I want to put the outlets back in place but I do not know what to make of the readings.  The outlet tester indicates a hot/neutral reversed wiring situation but no matter what configuration of wires I put in the outlet, nothing seems to work.  One configuration does give me the middle light on but that's it.  It does not indicate it is grounded.  Any thoughts.  I am stumped.

The problem is probably more complicated than the tester can give you results for.  Many hot/neutral reversed readings are caused by a neutral wire disconnected.  It is feedback caused by something connected to the circuit.

Sometimes kitchen outlets are two circuits sharing one neutral. If the neutral becomes disconnected, then the two circuits are in series with each other at 220 volts.  Because of Ohm's law, one circuit will be less than 110 volts, the other will be more. It also means you can be shocked if only one circuit is turned off in the breaker box, although the two circuits should be connected to a double pole breaker.

Put everything back the way it was, and then look for a disconnected neutral white wire.  If the wires are pushed into the back of the outlets, they should be screwed to the screws on the side instead.
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Electrical Wiring in the Home

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Bob Sponaugle


Just about any home wiring question. (not appliance repair) I have done all kinds of home wiring for myself, including adding a new breaker box, etc. Please, questions from North America only. Please be specific with details.

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