Open Neutral, Open Ground, Hot Neutral Reverse, Hot Ground Reverse

I am going through the NACHI deficiency & report writing course as a refresher. I am looking for some feedback from other inspectors on comments. When you observe a receptacle that has either…open neutral, open ground, hot neutral reversed, hot ground reversed is it best to comment on each specific deficiency or can one statement such as…“the kitchen receptacles had open ground/reverse, this is a safety concern, we recommend further evaluation by a licensed electrician for repairs or replacement as needed”. All responses are greatly appreciated.

Two prong (non-grounded) receptacles were observed. Although these were commonly used years ago, we recommend a licensed electrician upgrade to grounded three prong receptacles.

An open neutral wire condition was observed at an outlet(s) located at . This condition is usually corrected by minor wiring adjustments at the specified item. However, when a number of these conditions are observed, client should consult a licensed electrician.

Reverse polarity was noted at.
Reverse polarity, (hot and ground / neutral reversed) are usually corrected by minor wiring adjustments at the specified item. However, when a number of these conditions are observed, client should consult a licensed electrician.


if there are few deficiencies i list them individually. if there are numerous deficiencies i write…“Due to numerous electrical deficiencies including: open grounds at outlet, double tapped breakers in service panel, improperly installed romex wiring, loosely mounted fixtures, missing or inoperable GFI’s, and missing weatherproof covers at exterior outlets, client is advised to have electrical system fully evaluated and repaired by a qualified electrical contractor.”

Sorry about the “novel” :cowboy_hat_face:
Usually too much info for a report.

Reversed Polarity Outlets
When I inspect houses where an amateur has been doing electrical work, there’s a good chance that I’ll find outlets with reversed polarity. This happens when the hot and neutral wires get flipped around at an outlet,
or upstream from an outlet. Reversed polarity creates a potential shock hazard, but it’s usually an easy repair.

Reversed Polarity - A brief definition of Hot and Neutral wires: On a standard outlet, which is technically called a ‘duplex receptacle’, there are two wires that carry electricity. One of these wires is connected to the earth or ‘grounded’, so this wire is called the grounded conductor. This wire is commonly referred to as the neutral wire, and it should always be white. The other wire doesn’t get connected to the earth, and it’s called the ungrounded conductor, or hot wire. This wire can be any color besides white or green, but it’s usually black or red. Because the hot wire completes a circuit by coming in contact with the earth, if you touch a hot wire and you’re in contact with the earth (which is pretty much always), you’ll become part of the circuit.
In other words, you’ll get shocked.

Knife in Toaster Shock hazard scenario #1: I’m toasting an English muffin and it gets stuck in my toaster.
I look in the toaster and see that the heating elements are off, so I assume it’s safe to stick a knife in the toaster to get my muffin. I should be safe doing this, because the switch that controls the flow of electricity to the heating elements in the toaster shuts off the hot wire. Unfortunately, my toaster is
plugged in to an outlet with reversed polarity, so the switch on my toaster is shutting off the neutral wire instead of the hot.
This means there is always electricity at the heating elements just waiting for some poor sap to stick a knife in, and that electricity will travel up the knife, through my body, and back to the earth.
Breakfast ruined… your mom was right when she told you to never do this!

Work Light Shock hazard scenario #2: I’m using an old work light, and my finger accidentally comes in contact with the outside of the metal socket that holds the light bulb in place. The socket is always connected to the neutral wire, so no big deal… unless the work light is plugged in to an outlet with reversed polarity. In this case, I’ll get a shock.
If this happens while I’m laying on the garage floor working on my car, there’s a good chance that this could be the last shock I ever get. This can also happen with old table lamps that have exposed metal sockets.
Damage to electronic components?
No. I’ve heard that reversed polarity can cause damage to some
electronic equipment, such as computers… but that’s not true. Reversed polarity is a shock hazard only.
Electronic equipment will still function fine.

How to fix: Get an electrician. The electrician will check the color of the wires feeding to the outlet. If the white wire is connected to the smaller slot on the outlet, then the outlet was wired backwards. The fix is as simple as
swapping the wires around on the outlet. If the wiring appears correct at the outlet, this means the white wire is now the hot, and a problem exists somewhere upstream from the outlet. This will take more investigation to determine exactly where the wiring went wrong. Simply swapping the wires at the outlet would not be an acceptable fix.

The bottom line is that reversed polarity at outlets is a shock hazard. Electronic equipment plugged in to an outlet with reversed polarity will still function properly. You can test for reversed polarity at your outlets with an
inexpensive outlet tester - they cost about $10 at any home improvement store.
If you have outlets with reversed polarity, you should have the wiring repaired by an electrician.


Thank you all for the support. Much appreciated.

If all the kitchen receptacles had open ground/reverse, (Whatever that is.), it is okay to lump them together, IMHO. However, if there are different deficiencies, at different locations, I used a picture with an arrow pointing at the culprit.

1 Like

1: Be sure the readings are accurate. Three Bulb testers are sunominius misreading reversed polarity.
2: Open Neutral. MisWired or Broken connection. If the tester is correct, this means the receptacle/outlet is not working because, even though the black wire is hot, the white neutral wire is not connected well somewhere so that it cannot carry any current back to the main panel.
3: Hot Neutral Reversed. This happens when the hot and neutral conductors/wires are terminated in reverse order at an outlet, one of many on a lighting circuit cable, or upstream from the tested Hot Neutral Reversed receptacle. :wink:
Or, hot neutral reversed bootleg, RPBG (Reverse Polarity Bootleg Ground) if your using a Three Bulb/Light Tester.
4: Hot Ground Reversed, often means a missing neutral.
Observation: Miswired lighting circuits.
Recommend: Further review and correction by a licensed electrical contractor.
Limitations. A: Tested with a Three Bulb Outlet/Receptacle Tester.

We’ve covered this several times. Three light testers can only define a single condition even where multiple problems exist. That being said, I just state that the outlet is mis-wired and needs the attention of someone qualified to repair it. I then list the possible implications: dead outlet, electrical shock or fire. The last one usually spurs them into action. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than the dummy that wired it the first time will repair it.