What is an Open Neutral Outlet and What is it Used For?


Have you ever heard the term open neutral outlet? Unless you’re an electrician, there’s a better than average chance that you have absolutely no idea what this is or what purpose it serves. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad. In reality, it’s not something that you or anyone else should be playing around with unless you know a great deal about electricity, meaning that unless you’re a licensed electrician, this one is better left to the professionals.

What Is An Open Neutral Outlet?

In its simplest form, an open neutral outlet refers to one of two points where different electrical circuits come together. In this particular case, it involves both the ground and the neutral wiring.

There are two different places where this can be found, near the junction box that supplies electricity to the entire home and at the power company itself. An open neutral outlet can potentially be a problem because it may prevent certain electronic items from working properly.

In a worst-case scenario, you could potentially shock yourself by doing something as simple as turning on a light switch with an affected outlet. This happens because the electricity doesn’t have a safe place to go because of the open neutral outlet. Therefore, it returns back to the switch and shocks you whenever you touch it to turn the switch on or off.

What If You Don’t Know You Have One?

If you plug something into a particular outlet and it doesn’t work, it may be because you have open neutral wiring that is causing a problem. Have you ever had a small appliance or a string of lights that you plugged into one outlet and they worked fine, only to move them to a different location in the house and find that they no longer worked when you plugged them into a different outlet?

It may not always be a problem with the string of lights or the appliance in question. In fact, it could be an issue with open neutral wiring in that particular electrical outlet. If you have something that works properly in one outlet but only works intermittently or not at all in another, this is likely the cause. Eventually, that particular electrical outlet may stop working altogether.

Worse yet, it’s possible for the problem to get progressively worse until you run the risk of either being shocked or having the electrical outlet overheat, potentially causing a fire.

Getting To The Root Cause Of The Problem

How do you know if any issue that you’re experiencing with an electrical outlet is due to open neutral wiring? If you know what you’re doing, you can typically find out with an electrical tester.

However, it can’t be overstated that you should not be messing around with electricity in any form or fashion unless you are indeed a licensed electrician. If you’re having a problem with an electrical outlet in your home and you’re not a licensed electrician, the best thing you can do is turn the breaker off to that particular outlet and then call an electrician right away.

You could potentially injure yourself trying to test the electrical outlet in order to see whether or not you have open neutral wiring. Furthermore, you’re only putting yourself at more risk if you try to repair it. It’s just not a good idea, as it could cause severe bodily injury and it could also cause an electrical fire to break out later.

That’s why it’s so important that matters involving electricity are always left to the professionals.

Why Is Open Neutral Wiring Used?

Believe it or not, open neutral wiring is used to keep electrical outlets from overheating. If you have an electrical outlet that has a short, you run the risk of seriously injuring yourself by doing something as simple as turning a light switch on and off, or plugging something in.

The same is true for unplugging an appliance. It’s also dangerous to operate any of these things because they could overheat and become damaged. Open neutral wiring is used to prevent electricity from getting to an item that you have plugged in whenever there is a problem with the outlet itself. Instead of allowing the current to go directly through the outlet and then pass through to an appliance (and potentially to you), it instead hits the open neutral wiring and stops there.

It can be intensely frustrating when you’re trying to get something to work, but it really is a safety feature that is in your best interest. However, it is also worth noting (once again) that light switches can also be affected by these types of issues. In such cases, the light switch will still go on and off, but it will also give you a good jolt every time you touch it.

Other Types of Outlets

While on the subject, it’s also worth mentioning that there are certain types of outlets that are directly grounded themselves. In other words, you can plug in an appliance that creates a fairly large electrical drain without having to worry about overheating the electrical system inside your home because the outlet itself is connected to electrical ground.

They’re referred to as GFCI outlets and are typically found in most modern day homes in areas where it is common to have a number of appliances that could potentially cause a regular outlet to overheat, such as the kitchen. By law, they are supposed to be labeled as such. It’s best to plug in your small appliances to these types of outlets.

If something goes wrong, the jolt of electricity will go directly to ground instead of shocking you or starting a fire inside your home. As you can see, there is nothing that is particularly straightforward about electrical wiring unless you have spent a good portion of your adult life studying it. It’s very easy to take the electrical system in your home for granted when everything works properly.

That said, it’s equally as important to respect and contact someone who is trained to deal with matters whenever something isn’t working the way it was designed to work.

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