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Can I test a neutral wire?

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  • #16
    Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

    WB has a good idea. Shut off the breaker for that circuit until you find the problem. Saftey needs to come first.

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    • #17
      Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

      WW in the main panel are the grounds and neutrals (bare copper and white wires) tied to the same strip they are in many panels. If you want to check to see if the neutral is open just put a meter across the neutral and ground and check for continuity. If there is no continuity the circuit is open and you have a loose wire. No one has asked and I always believe in stereo instuctions when it comes to trouble shooting have you checked for a tripped breaker? It is rare for a wire to just be disconnected all on its own unless someone mixed copper and aluminum wire. In that case you need to use an antioxidant paste in the wire nut. Also I would not hook it up permantly but from the hot to the ground there should be 120V so with hot wire connected to the alarm try just touching the white wire on the smoke alarm to the ground and see if the detector lights up if it does you have a broken circuit on the neutral if it doesn't your problem may be on the hot side.

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      • #18
        Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

        Originally posted by wbrooks View Post
        Hard wired smoke detectors should be on their own circuit. If you do not have power at this one your break is likely at the next one up the line at the wire nut used to connect the white wires together.
        we always tie our smokes into the master bedroom lights. The reason is that if the home owner wants to turn off the somke they have to turn off the light circuit, and no one want's a dark room.

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        • #19
          Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

          On some older homes built in the late 60's early 70's, all of the connections on devices were "backstabbed". In fact several companies made devices that were "backstab" ONLY!! (no screws to attach the wires to). Now, backstabs are still available on devices, but for #14 wire only. Over the years if a backstabbed device is used daily and a heavy load is plugged in, in time the connection loosens and sparks start and the connection becomes resistive, eventually either the black or the white wire gets disconnected from the ciurcuit. Backstabbing is a poor practice and should be avoided if possible. Lou

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          • #20
            Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

            QROKING

            Amen to that. The STAB wired receptacles and switches are a fire waiting to happen. I used to have fun blasting them. We used 14-2 Romex on a private receptacle and left it out in the open. Then with it connected to a 20 Amp. breaker (I know this is bad) would plug in (2) 1500 Watt portable heaters and watch the receptacle and the wires stabbed into the back all burn up. For back wiring, I only want to see Industrial Spec or Hospital grade devices. In my house I removed all of them and currently only have side wired of the light commercial grade. Residential grade wiring devices = Crappy trouble makers IMO.

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            • #21
              Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

              Depending on where he lives the hardwired smoke detector may be a fire code issue. Not knowing the year of the house hard-wired detectors may be required, initially in the 80’s in NJ smoke detectors were required to be hard wired, later they had to be interconnected, and I believe the most recent code in NJ requires them to be hardwired interconnected and have a battery backup. The new wireless interconnected models are fine in older homes that predate the modern requirements, however they cannot be use to replace hardwired detectors. It really wouldn’t be a noticeable issue now if the detector was replaced with a battery one but when the home is sold it could come under scrutiny.

              The main issue is, is the break in the circuit leading into the existing detector, and is that a potential hazard to your home. What else doesn’t work when the breaker is off?

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              • #22
                Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

                Now that the weather is nice again, I'm gonna crawl up into the attic and figure this one out.

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                • #23
                  Re: Can I test a neutral wire?

                  I usualy troubleshoot circuits with the power on .Check power between the hot and ground or if you you have an older house , you may not have a grounded circuit .You can run an extention cord to a known working receptical . The bigger slot on the end is the neutral if the polarity is correct . A volt meter is esential in trouble shooting because a loose connection can show as a partial voltage . A neautral with a load that has a poor connection can be a fire hazard , especialy , splices not made not in junction boxes .
                  Isolate the problem circuit by figuring which breaker turns off that hot wire and what else is off . Some thing close by ( receptical , Light , switch ) or a junct in the attic ,hopefully one in a junction box . They also have a wire tracer where you hook up a signal transmitter to the wire and scan the wires till you heae an allarm .

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