Reversed Polarity Wiring

One of the top ten common mistakes made in a home is reversed polarity wiring.  This occurs when the wires in the back of an outlet are not all connected to the correct terminals.   This common mistake is often made by the homeowner, or by the family friend who does your electrical work because he is so handy at everything.

The problem is not visible without removing the outlet cover, and most appliances plugged into the outlet will still work normally, so the reversed polarity wiring mistake might not be discovered for a long time.  As long as it goes undiscovered, there is a potential for someone to get a lethal shock.  One of our customers recently discovered this problem in her house and contacted us: “There are several outlets in my house where the neutral and ground are reversed.  I would like to get that fixed.”  We took care of it for her, and we could also do that for you if you would like us to.

If you want to check your outlets yourself, the best way to find the problem is to insert a plug-in type voltage tester as shown in this image into each of your outlets.   These are available for $5-$10 at most home supply stores and it’s a good idea to have one with your homeowner tools.  

As you insert the tester, one or more of the three lights will come on and you can easily match the light pattern you see to the appropriate diagram and explanation on the chart.  This explanation will tell you how the outlet is wired – correctly or incorrectly.  If you find an incorrectly wired outlet, you can fix it yourself or call an electrician.

If you decide to fix it yourself, be sure to turn off the breaker to that outlet first.  The correct wiring is when the white wire (neutral) is connected to the neutral terminal of outlets and light fixtures, which is the silver or light-colored screw.   The black wire (hot) should be connected to the other terminal, which will be the brass or darker-colored screw.   If there’s a green or bare copper wire, that’s the ground wire and it should be connected to the green grounding screw or to a bare copper ground wire.

If you’d like us to do it for you, we can check for this unsafe condition quickly and we can correct it in just a few minutes.    If you believe you might have reversed polarity wiring in your home,  give us a call and we’ll take care of it for you.

We’ve been a trusted business in Indiana for over 35 years, and we will be glad to provide you with our expert and professional service for any electrical needs.

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