reverse polarity??

Did an inspection last month in which i said several outlets had reverse polarity (as indicated by my trusty three light detector) When I go back for reinspection, the same outlets still show reverse polarity. The agent says the electrician said they tested fine for him. I unscrewed one outlet that was affected and unscrewed another outlet in the same room that tested normally. They were both wired correctly yet my tester showed it was reversed on one and normal on the other? Anyone know why this would happen?? Thanks.

Were the hot/neutral wires swapped in the panel? In other words, was the black conductor actually hot, and the white actually neutral?

the panel looked fine. I was getting different readings on individual outlets in the same room that were on the same circuit.

Were these taps from K&T, by chance?

Real simple

A wire is a wire and a meter to test same is like under $20.00 – The neutral wire is common with the ground - the hot is on the right if the ground in on the bottom

If one takes an outlet out an looks at it and the colors are correct then somewhere some one has missed wired something

It is real simple you are looking for three wires wired correctly

Yes a cheap three lite tester can be faked out if the hot and the ground are common and the neutral is wired to the hot side

This would be a very unsafe condition that the three lite test would miss

Meters are the best

If you have some time I would meet with the sparkie and as him to educate you – even offer to pay the service all if you are wrong

If you understand the three wires and have a little $$ to put on the table it should be worth the trouble

The Hot wire will test hot if one puts one hi “z” meter lead on the hot and holds the other lead in ones hand. Same with a hot stick.

One can also test same by putting one meter lead on a true ground and the other lead on the hot.

Remember that the outlet that test good might be the bad one



Me thinks that if they were tapped from K&T there would be no ground

If some one has added a ground or done some bootleg ground work then you have a real mess

A good sparkie should welcome the problem and make some money



Some where (“J” box etc.) something is miss wired


Please can we all stop using the term “reverse polarity” AC has no polarity

Where did this term ever come from?


When I encounter this situation I stick my tic tracer into the hot side of the outlet.

Hi Richard, I believe that this came from the ice makers of fridges producing steam rather than ice cubes, this can be a major issue if your were producing Martinis’ at the time :wink:

It gets worse with wrongly wired dryers whereby the clothes come out colder and wetter than when then went in.

Lets not even talk about toasters, all the yeast and flour mix pouring out of the bottom is a swine to get off the counter tops :mrgreen:

The worst of it is, is that light bulbs NEVER burn out, they just become reverse polarised and suck all the light out of a room… kinda like a little black hole!!

BTW, did you need to shout??

I hope this helps


I wired all my circuits backward and now I get a check from the power company every month. It is what allowed me to retire early.
The trick is you run the A/C in the winter and the heat all summer.

Thanks for getting into the spirit of the issue Greg :wink:

BTW, do you think that if we all wired our homes with the grounded conductor connected to the ungrouded conductor terminal of the receptacles ( and visa versa), that we could very quickly reverse the production of green house gasses and wind back global warming?

Enquiring minds want to know?



Gerry I wish you lived on the West coast. I was thinking of opening a comedy club and I could really use you!

Can you sing too? :smiley:

Yes Brian but nobody wants to pay to here me, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket :mrgreen:


AC power does not have polarity but the outlets and cords that have one slot or blade larger than the other do have physical polarity.

Polarity does not always mean the same thing as it does with DC power.

Do you take requests Gerry? Can you sing far far away? :stuck_out_tongue:


Polarized plugs have nothing to do with the mis use of the term “reverse polarity” when used when referring to the reversal of a neutral and a hot conductor on an outlet

Remember that some plugs can be plugged into an outlet both ways

If we want to use the term reversed polarity are we to think that the big slot and the little slot have been reversed??

I do understand your point but please understand that if one were to common a neutral and a ground at a “J” , then leave the main ground wire float and then reverse the hot and the neutral everything would be wrong but would test ok

When Joe Home owner gets into the sparkie business anything is possible

Do not believe your three light tester


I have had that happen with my Sure Test in the past. Some outlets would read fine and others would show Reversed Polarity. If you are using your Sure Test then you might want to send it back and get a replacement.

**200.11 Polarity of Connections. **No grounded conductor
shall be attached to any terminal or lead so as to reverse the
designated polarity.

[FONT=Times-Roman]size=2 Electrical polarity checks of permanently wired equipment
and receptacle outlets to determine that connections

The reverse polarity term derived from the NEC in as much the NEC speaks often of polarity and proper wiring. It also is a term that is used as well more often with receptacles because of the issues with cord and plug attachment equipment and their misoperation of the past.

It also more supported really in the NEC than “SubPanel”…oh wait it appears once in the 2008 NEC below:

[FONT=Times-Roman][size=2]These components, with associated wiring and terminals,
are mounted on or contained within an enclosure or
mounted on a sub-panel. The industrial control panel does
not include the controlled equipment.**[ROP 11-3]
**have been properly made.

teehee…but I dont think it means the same as MANY use the term “Sub-Panel” today…

I also find the term “reverse polarity” very relavant when dealing with conductors in parallel and other applications of the NEC where polarity is important…and doing it incorrectly per the NEC would well make something that is required to be of proper polarity to be well…if done wrong technically the reverse of polarity…:wink:



Help - Until I can change the world (NEC) about AC polarity please help me explain how a SureTester and or Three lite test can show everything correct
when it is not

Somehow when the words come from you people understand - that is why you are the instructor and I am not

I can miss wire a socket to fake out the tester in a second. This is another reason I dislike the Suretester - it is not broke