Every electrical circuit has three main wires: hot, neutral, and ground. Hot and ground reversed means either the wires are swapped or not connected properly. The phenomenon is rare and can be very dangerous.
The hot and ground reverse happens when the hot wire is connected where the ground should be, and the ground wire is connected where the hot should be. To fix a hot and ground reverse, you need to cut off the power supply, open the circuit, and swap the wires if they are reversely connected.
There can be several dangers of hot and ground wires being reversed. This guide will explore the reasons behind hot and ground reverse, the dangers of the condition, fixation, and preventive measures.
Why do the hot and ground wires get reversed?
The hot and ground reverse is a condition where the ground and hot wires have been crossed.
Sometimes the electrician must install the wires or interchange their positions by mistake.
It means you connected the ground to the hot, and you connected the hot wire to the ground.
The condition is also called reverse polarity.
Why is the reading in the outlet tester tough?
Though the problem is rarely seen, the problem is very complex when you think of getting the readings shown by the outlet tester.
Sometimes, if the neutral wire is burned or loose, the outlet tester shows that the hot and ground wires are reversed.
There is another reason.
When you plug in a device with an open neutral line, it blocks the current from the proper flow.
For this, the device fails to have a voltage drop.
It causes an interconnection between the hot and neutral slots of the outlets.
Both the wires get energized at 120V, and the receptacle tester shows “hot and ground reversed.”
Let’s look at some results behind hot and ground reversed.
What are the dangers of hot and ground reversed?
The condition can be very dangerous when the hot and ground wires get reversed.
The ground wire is not meant to have any currents unless serious accidents or short circuits exist.
A ground wire protects you and creates an alternate path for the current flow during short circuits.
If the wire is connected to the hot wire, the ground wire becomes live, and thus, it fails to serve its purpose.
It may give rise to various dangerous situations. Here are some:
Continuous current flow
The switches control the current flow with the help of electrical equipment.
The switches depend on the hot and neutral wire connections.
If the connections go wrong anywhere, the control system will no longer work well.
For example, if you use a spoon inside a grinder, the switch must be off.
If the connections have mixed up the cables and the switch is on, you will receive an electric shock as the current will continue to flow.
A short circuit occurs when there is an extra current flow.
Due to the mix-up of the ground and hot wires, the current will flow through the wrong path and create a short circuit.
Changing the positions of the ground and hot wires can create a fire hazard on the circuit board.
Reversing the hot and neutral wires will also have the same results if the current flow is too much.
During a short circuit, the ground wire should carry the current.
It creates an alternate path for the current and saves you from electrocution.
When you reverse the hot and ground wires, the ground wires become live and thus fail to protect you from shocks.
The ground wire should have any current or voltage unless there is a short circuit.
Light sockets get electrified.
The light bulbs are attached to the sockets for the power supply.
However, the sockets do not have power.
Only a small portion has power, and the rest is in neutral mode.
But this can change if you connect the wires at the wrong positions, like connecting neutral at the hot wire’s place or vice versa.
It will electrify your whole socket.
Even if your switch is off, the current will continue to flow.
The person will receive an electric shock whenever they try to change the light.
The circuit will melt due to the reverse polarity, mostly in the DC (direct current) circuits.
When the wires are reversed, the resistance in the circuit stops working.
It further increases the voltage and the current flow.
But, the circuit cannot carry such increased voltage and current flow.
As a result, the circuit will start melting.
How to fix the hot and ground reverse?
To keep everything perfect in your electrical system, you must fix the hot and ground reversed as soon as possible.
Otherwise, huge accidents can occur at any time.
Below are some guides or steps to repair the problem and make everything perfect.
Cut the power supply.
The first step while solving serious electrical issues is to cut off your house’s main power supply.
It will save you from sudden electrical shocks and short circuits.
The human body is a great conductor of electricity.
If you do not handle it carefully, you may get electrocuted and die.
So, you should take the essential steps to make sure you stay safe and alive while working with electrical wirings.
When your live and neutral wires get reversed, more than turning off the switch is required.
The power will keep flowing, and touching hot wires can electrocute you.
So, remember to turn off the main power.
Open the circuit board.
To correct the reversed wires, open the circuit board.
Use screwdrivers to unscrew the nuts.
Keep the nuts and screws properly because you need to close the board after dealing with the wires.
Identify the wires
Once you open the circuit board, it is time to identify the wires reversed.
The color of the wires will tell you the wire type and which wires got reversed.
The white wires are the neutral wires, and the red or black wires are the hot wires.
Change the wire positions.
After identifying the wires with their colors, it is time to bring them back in their positions and correct the reverse polarity.
Disconnect the wires from their recent location and reconnect them back in their locations, i.e., white wires in the neutral terminal and black or red wires in the hot terminal.
But, there is a condition.
Sometimes, despite staying in their positions, there will still be a reverse polarity.
The reason is due to some wrong connections somewhere deep inside the circuit.
So, only changing the cable locations will not help.
For this, you need an experienced professional to find out and fix the problem.
Attach the circuit board back
Once you correct the reverse polarity issue, it is time to cover the circuit board.
Make sure to attach all the screws in their places and tighten them very well.
A loose or open circuit board is dangerous, especially if you have kids.
Why do ground and hot reverse despite correct wire connections?
Sometimes, the wires will be seen properly connected in their locations.
But still, the tester will say that the wires are reversed.
If reverse polarity occurs despite proper wire connections, there is some fault in the wiring.
The hot and neutral wires are always connected directly to the load.
The ground is connected with the metal part.
The current is meant to flow through the hot and neutral only.
The current will only flow in the ground wire during short circuits.
Suppose the hot wire is not connected to the load directly but through the metal outlet, or the hot wire is exposed to the load’s metals.
The circuit gets completed with the help of the ground wire.
However, the neutral does its job, i.e., returning the current to the main power.
But, since the ground and hot wires are connected to the metal, the ground carries more power, resulting in hot and ground reversal.
So, you must ensure that the hot and neutrals are connected directly to the power source and that only the ground is connected to the metal.
What happens if the ground wire is not connected?
Not having any ground wires is very dangerous.
The ground wire carries the extra current, which flows due to short circuits.
If you do not have a ground wire, this extra current will take an alternate path through your body and kill you.
But, if you have ground, the current will take the ground wire path to flow instead of your body, thus saving your life.
So, grounding is very important for all houses.
Otherwise, you get easily electrocuted during any accidents.
How can I prevent hot and neutral reverse?
Preventing hot and the ground reverse is simple. Let the wires stay in their terminals.
First, you need to identify the wires by their colors.
The black wires are the hot wires, the white is the neutral wires, and the green is the ground wires.
The hot wires can also be red, blue, yellow, or white (sometimes).
Connect the hot wires to the brass terminal, the white wires to the gray terminal, and the ground wires to the green terminal.
You also need to know the functions of the different wires so that you can connect them properly and never think of reversing them.
Since the hot wire carries current from the main power, it always carries current. On the contrary, the ground does not have any power.
Reversing the two energizes the ground and causes electrocution.
So, keeping the wires in their terminals is the best way to prevent reverse polarity.
What happens if hot and neutral are reversed?
The hot wire carries current from the main power, and the neutral sends it back and completes the circuit.
Since both hot and neutral wires carry current, it is common to think for a layman that they can reverse them.
If you reverse the two wires’ position, this condition will also be defined as reverse polarity.
Just because both carry current doesn’t mean you can interchange with each other.
It will also result in short circuits, current overflow, circuit melting, and shocks.
To fix the condition, first, switch off the main power.
Then, please bring the wires back to their positions.
Connect the white neutral wire to the gray terminal and the hot wire to the brass terminal.
Since you have reached the end of the article, it might be clear why you should not reverse the hot wire with the ground wire.
The hot wire is always live, but the ground wire isn’t. Reversing the two energizes the ground wire and prevents it from saving you from electricity and short circuits.
Reverse polarity can result in current overflow, short circuits, melted circuits and wires, electrified light sockets, and many more.
If you have reversed the lines, switch off the main, open the circuit, and bring the wires to their locations.
But if there is a problem in the wires and the tester shows hot and ground reversed, you should fix the wires soon.
If you cannot do it, hire a professional to do the job.
Will the GFCI circuit work during reverse polarity?
If the reverse polarity has occurred in the GFCIs, it will not work.
GFCIs are made with great care and maintenance.
They will trip off when they sense any serious issue, saving the outlets and circuits from damage and short circuits.
Whenever your breaker trips off, open and check, but you must call an electrician to fix it.
How much will it cost to fix a reverse polarity?
It depends on the depth of the problem and damage level.
If only the outer part got affected, the cost would be less.
With the problem depth and damage level, the cost will increase.
The hour of work will also depend.
Will reverse polarity catch fire in the circuit?
Reverse polarity can lead to serious short circuits and fire hazards.
The circuit or the wires will start melting, and the fuse will blow and start a fire.
Reference: BASICS OF HOME ELECTRICAL WIRING, Ground and neutral wire Wikipedia.