Open neutral

Looking for a little information. I have found a high percentage of switch controlled receptacles with open neutral when checked with the tester. I have checked with several electrical contractor employees and find they really do not know the answer. I said this is incorrect wiring. I have checked the code book and and I believe I am correct in pointing this out.

William Billings
Billings Home Inspections LLC
Billings Inspection Services LLC
West Palm Beach Florida

Are you finding these numerous open neutrals in one particular home or in many homes?

Open neutrals definitely need to be deferred to a licensed Electrician.

I am finding them in many newer homes and I am concerned.

William Billings
Billings Home Inspections
Billings Inspections services

Probably want to verify against another tester, to make sure it isn’t that. But David is correct that open neutrals need correction.

I have checked it against two tester I have with the same results. This is one of the better line tester not the $ 10.00 one. I have checked other homes and they are ok. One of the problems in Florida is one can do electric work without a license by working under a licensed party.

If you are finding open nuetrals in several homes, it’s either a bad tester you are using or the same lousy Electrician wiring these homes.

I hardly ever find open neutrals, period.

Was this with the switch on or off

Greg, are you saying that when the switch is off an open neutral is ok. I am only getting the open when the switch is off. does that make a difference?

Yes, it means they are switching the neutral.


Well that makes perfect sense.

But does your code require that only 1/2 the duplex receptacle be switched as here in Canada (unless an energized unswitched receptacle is installed adjacent a fully switched receptacle). If 1/2 the receptacle is switched through a common neutral (grounded conductor- GC), the other 1/2 which is supposed to be energized fulltime would not be operational also. For this receptacle to perform as intended by our code, the neutral terminals would have to be split also and a second fulltime neutral installed.

Nope Brian, not a NEC rule although some AHJs will say a switched receptacle does not fulfill 210.52 (A). It is not actually in the code that way.

Yes it is.

Where? I don’t see any reference to switched receptacles in 210.52

Greg, I don’t want to get into a code debate here where most of the members hate the word code and start getting a lot of red flags.

The required spacing for receptacles found in 210.52 if for just that, the receptacles. These receptacles can be either duplex or single device yoke receptacles. The requirement is for one receptacle not two and a duplex is just that, two receptacles.

210.70(A)(1) exception allows a switched receptacle to be installed in lieu of the required lighting outlet. This can be achieved in two ways. Either an additional receptacle can be installed or half of a duplex can be switched.
If the entire duplex is switched then the entire duplex now becomes the switched lighting outlet and no receptacle is present to fulfill the spacing requirement of 210.52.
Although this has always been the intent of the rule it was so widely abused that new verbiage was added to the 2008 code cycle to finally put it to rest.

Ah… 2008. We don’t have that yet and probably won’t in Florida. They have said they are waiting for the 2011. That still may change.

I agree this was always ambiguous in 210.52 and I have seen the argument go either way. It was never specifically referenced. A receptacle outlet, lighting or otherwise, is still a receptacle.

FYI NACHI folks this is what they said in 2002 and 2005

so it is very likely any house you see will not be built to the 2008 code unless it is new construction in a progressive state that adopts early and they just pulled the permits.

Not meaning to keep this thread hijacked nor to start a long debate but if I could be allowed one last comment on this subject let me try to explain a little deeper.

As outlined in the earlier editions of the NEC the part of 210.52 that says that the required receptacle could not be part of a luminaire (lighting fixture) as Greg has pointed out is why a duplex receptacle that is entirely switched can not count as the required receptacle outlined in the text of 210.52.

The exception outlined in 210.70(A)(1) is to allow the receptacle to be the light fixture. It is installed instead of installing an overhead light fixture. It is the same as installing the overhead light fixture on the wall at the same height as the receptacles. If the entire duplex is switched then both of the receptacles become the light fixture and no receptacle that is part of a light can count as the required receptacles.
This has always been the intent of the code panel concerning this type of installation as is evidenced through the reading on the Report on Proposals.

This why verbiage was added to the 2008 code cycle to clarify the intent.

Let close by saying I don’t see this as any kind of a safety issue unless the switch is a dimmer. This is one of those sections of the code that a bunch of code geeks gather together at a dinner table and talk about as though there has been some kind of break through in cancer research.

Most of the time, I could care less about code. If I see any sort of unprotected electrical within reaching distance of standing water, it gets written up as “recommend having a licensed Electrician move light (or receptacle) to a safer location”. If they don’t move it and someone gets hurt…I told you so.

Mike Our conversation at dinner would start in article 100 and we would define “receptacle” and “luminaire”.
You seem to be confused. You can’t make up rules that are not there by changing the definition of the parts.