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#201895 - 06/30/11 12:57 PM Ground wire as neutral  
foxsixtyfive  Offline
New Member
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 2
Hi guys,

I am not an electrician, but as new home owner got a lot of help by reading this forum.
Please help me with this. I hired electrician to separate light fixture from fan. After job was done, I decided to replace switch with timer and discover:
I have 2 cond. wire and two switches. Now hot wire (black) through switch goes to lamp, white wire is marked as hot now and through switch goes to fan. Ground wire connected to switches at grounding screws and I assume (I will check tonight) is used as neutral and as ground in light fixture and fan.
Is it against of NEC or not?
Thank you all in advance.

2017 / 2014 NEC & Related Books and Study Guides

#201897 - 06/30/11 01:23 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: foxsixtyfive]  
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,142
Call another electrician. That sounds wrong.

Greg Fretwell

#201898 - 06/30/11 01:53 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: foxsixtyfive]  
Tesla  Offline
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
Sacramento, CA
That's hack work -- and not correct.

Get another electrician.


#201899 - 06/30/11 01:57 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: Tesla]  
foxsixtyfive  Offline
New Member
Joined: Jun 2011
Posts: 2
Thank you guys,
Do you know what paragraph in NEC does it violate?

#201902 - 06/30/11 04:07 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: foxsixtyfive]  
renosteinke  Offline
Cat Servant
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Blue Collar Country
Fox, there are many sections that are violated. It's like bad grammar .... you have to know the language before you start parsing sentences.

First off, there's basic vocabulary. Grounds are grounds, and nutrals are neutrals, and never the twain shall meet (at least, never after the main disconnect.)

Code forbids 'objectionable' current over the ground wire.

Code required grounds to be green, or bare - and neutrals to be white. Code does not allow these colors to be changed with a scrap of tape either. Neutrals are also required to be insulated- and the ground wire in household cable is generally not insulated.

Here's what you have: you have the result of a cheap-skate who ignored good design at the time of the original install- opting to run the code minimum for the required light. I'll bet that ceiling box isn't supported to hold a fan, either.

The poor planning was then compounded by some handy-dandy who figured out a way to 'make it work' without needing to replace the cable. Understandable- who wants the job to take all day, and rip open walls or crawl attics if they can avoid it?

Ironically, you could have avoided this by spending another $20 at the box store for a wireless remote for the fan - though that still doesn't address the question of supporting the box.

I suggest first making sure the box is supported well enough that you can swing from it- unless you like sleeping in body armor.

#201962 - 07/06/11 05:54 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: foxsixtyfive]  
mikesh  Offline
Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 613
Victoria, BC, Canada
This makes the enclosures part of the current carrying system. Interruptions in the bonding wire can create electrocution hazards. I don't know the NEC code rule but I know the work was done by a hack and I am being polite.
I know this is not an incorrect way to describe the work but the bare wire in the cable is NOT a Ground wire in NEC speak it is an equipment ground isn't it? We call it a bond wire and current is not intended to flow on a bond or ground wire except under abnormal conditions like a short circuit.

#201971 - 07/06/11 11:01 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: foxsixtyfive]  
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,142
I know I am late on this I have been on the road and I didn't have my NEC on Mike's old laptop

A few things to chew on
200.2(B) Continuity. The continuity of a grounded conductor shall not depend on a connection to a metallic enclosure, raceway, or cable armor.

200.6 Means of Identifying Grounded Conductors.
(A) Sizes 6 AWG or Smaller. An insulated grounded conductor of 6 AWG or smaller shall be identified by a continuous white or gray outer finish or by three continuous white stripes on other than green insulation along its entire length.

250.6 Objectionable Current.
(A) Arrangement to Prevent Objectionable Current. The grounding of electrical systems, circuit conductors, surge arresters, surge-protective devices, and conductive normally non–current-carrying metal parts of equipment shall be installed and arranged in a manner that will prevent objectionable current.

250.142(B) Load-Side Equipment. Except as permitted in 250.30(A)(1) and 250.32(B), a grounded circuit conductor shall not be used for grounding non–current-carrying metal parts of equipment on the load side of the service disconnecting means or on the load side of a separately derived system disconnecting means or the overcurrent devices for a separately derived system not having a main disconnecting means.

Greg Fretwell

#201988 - 07/07/11 05:12 PM Re: Ground wire as neutral [Re: foxsixtyfive]  
Yoopersup  Offline
Joined: Mar 2003
Posts: 840
Article 100 Definitions kinda says it all.
Grounding conductor
Grounded conductor

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