# Both sides of outlets are hot?

• posted on April 5, 2004, 1:31 am
I have a puzzling question:
Our recently purchased apartment house is wired with two wire Romex cable -- hot and neutral, no ground.
All of the outlets are two prong.
I tested the outlets using a pen-type tester -- the kind that can sense the current without having to actually contact the wire.
When I tested the outlets, both sides came up hot.
I thought this was odd -- so I tested the outlets at my house, which has more modern wiring (grounded) and sure enough, one side read hot, the other nothing.
So what's happening at the apartment -- why would both sides of the outlet read as hot?
I'd say that the tester is possibly picking up voltage from the hot side, except that in my home wiring, it doesn't do that.
Thanks,
John
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on April 5, 2004, 1:52 am

I'm going to guess that there is a short somewhere that is not a complete short. In other words, there is a wire touching something that is touching something like a pipe somewhere. This could be a dangerous situation.
Unplug everything from *all* the outlets and test again. Turn off all the fuses and see if the meter is running and, if not, t-shoot by turning the fuses on one at a time. Etc. You need to find this problem before it starts a fire.
This is all my _opinion_, of course. I'm not an electrician. If you can't find and fix the problem yourself, I suggest you call in a pro.
Mike
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on April 5, 2004, 2:05 am
I would guess that there is a high resistance connection in the line between the low side of the outlet and where it is tied back to the box. This is not giving you a good ground. If you want to see how much voltage is there, measure with a meter from the low side of the outlet to a water pipe, but don't touch any ground while you are touching anything plugged into the outlet. If you are not experienced in electrical repair, you would be wise to call an electrician. More fires are caused by high resistance connections than by shorts. A short will usually blow the fuse or trip a breaker. A bad connection will sit there getting hotter and hotter.
Bob

<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on April 5, 2004, 9:58 am
John Gold wrote:

rck may be right about the high resistance connection. However those testers are rather sensitive and it is possible they are just giving a false positive.
Testing using an old analog meter from the neutral to the neutral/ground at the box should tell you want is happening.
--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on April 6, 2004, 9:14 am
John Gold wrote:

The capacitance type tester you are using is going to be so inaccurate as to be useless in the application you describe. In a system with no ground wire, it is not unusual for a neutral wire to pick up enough voltage to set off the detector. Many things can cause two wiring systems to give different results with that type of tester, not the least of which is the mere presence of the ground wire in the cable. The quality of the system ground can also be a factor, as can whether the hot and neutral wires run together (as with NM cable, for instance) or not (as with knob and tube wiring). To make a useful measurement you will have to establish a connection to the system ground and use a real voltmeter. You might be able to use a cold water pipe as the ground reference if it is truly well grounded.
--
Best regards, Tony
http://dotznize.com/electric
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on April 10, 2004, 9:23 pm

[neutral wire appears to carry current]

I've used this method-If there is a grounded outlet in the house, in the kitchen or bathroom, run an extension cord from it to the outlet you want to test. Use the ground side of the outlet and then measure the voltage on the hot and neutral sides.
chales
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 2:27 am
replying to John Gold, Jill wrote: Lost power in kitchen. Light is still working but outlets are not. Have older home with fuses. Changed fuses. Several outlets are not working in other rooms. Called an electrician. He checked fuse box and said everything there is OK but I should do upgrade. When he checked outlets with tester, both sides are hot ( positive). Asked me if anyone did anything anywhere in house. No. Says somewhere there's a wire touching another to cause so many outlets to be like this. I have a renter, who claims no one did anything. Could it be a false reading? Any ideas? I'm on a fixed income and worried about the cost to find the problem.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 6:10 am
On Mon, 30 May 2016 05:44:01 +0000, Jill

You have an open neutral.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 4:01 pm
On Monday, May 30, 2016 at 2:11:05 AM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Yes, sounds like it. An open neutral between the outlets and the panel would do it. If the electrician couldn't diagnose that, I'd get another electrician. Could be as simple as a loose wire in one of the outlets.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 6:24 am
On 5/29/2016 10:44 PM, Jill wrote:

How is he determining that both sides are hot? Do you have three-wire outlets (i.e., the "smiley face" sort with a round "earth" ground pin)?
Unplug *everything* on that branch circuit. Retest to see if there still *appear* to be "both hots".
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 7:23 pm

If the house is over 70 years old, it is quite possible that you may have to spend a few bucks to make things right. To find the problem takes time. The remedy may be expensive as the existing wiring may not be usable.
Some areas of the country offer cheap or free basic home repairs to qualifying homeowners. Check with your city or county for such guidance.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 6:54 pm
It's been 12 years, let's hope the OP has figured things out by now!!!!
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 30, 2016, 7:02 pm
On 5/30/2016 11:54 AM, snipped-for-privacy@att.net wrote:

Perhaps John's post was 12 years old. But, ES shows Jill's followup to have originated yesterday evening: Date: Mon, 30 May 2016 05:44:01 +0000 And, her post seems to make no mention of John's so, for all practical purposes, it's a new post.
Newsgroups: alt.home.repair Followup-To: alt.home.repair Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"; format="flowed" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit User-Agent: Hermes v1.4 Injection-Info: c63ac217cbe02f6eda1ce6b50e91d9dc;34dd09df9c4b56f8b5e7c44ec97737aa
X-Complaints-To: snipped-for-privacy@flashnewsgroups.com Organization: FlashNewsgroups.com Date: Mon, 30 May 2016 05:44:01 +0000 Lines: 12 X-Trace: c0473574bd3216a9f0ec522040 X-Received-Bytes: 1610 X-Received-Body-CRC: 3109139651 Xref: mx02.eternal-september.org alt.home.repair:496206
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on June 4, 2016, 6:30 am
replying to Don Y, Jill wrote: I'm new to this. Thanks for responses. Older home, old outlets . Determined I needed to upgrade all outlets. Seems to working so far. I still need to upgrade the fuse box at some point in the near future. Thank you for your responses.