What is Reverse Polarity in Your Outlet and Why is it Dangerous?

September 1, 2016 4:24 am Published by Leave your thoughts

If you live in a home that has had electrical work done by an amateur, there’s a very good chance that you’ve got some outlets with reversed polarity. That basically means that some of your outlets can shock you. Uh oh! While not all shocks will be fatal, they’ll all be painful and not fun at all. Only an electrical contractor in North Scottsdale, AZ is qualified to do electrical work in your home.

Before we start, we have to dive into how your home’s outlets are supposed to be wired. On a standard outlet, there are two wires. There’s a white wire that’s connected (or grounded) to the Earth, and is often called the neutral wire. There is also a wire behind the outlet that isn’t grounded. It’s called the hot wire and it actually carries electricity. This wire can be any color except white, but it’s usually red or black.

Since a circuit is completed by a hot wire coming in contact with the ground, you’ll get shocked if you touch a hot wire while standing on the ground (because you make yourself part of the circuit).

What’s reverse polarity?

If your outlet’s polarity is reversed, it means that the neutral wire is connected to where the hot wire is supposed to be. This may not sound like a terrible thing, but it is. There is always electricity flowing out of an outlet with reversed polarity, even if an appliance is supposed to be off.

Why is it dangerous?

Well, as you can imagine, if you think an electrical appliance is off, and it’s not, you could get shocked if you mishandle the appliance. If you’ve ever used a knife to grab a piece of toast in a toaster that’s been turned off and plugged into a normal outlet, you know that you were fine. You didn’t get shocked, you only got your bread.

However, if you’ve done this in a toaster plugged into a bad outlet, you were probably shocked. This is because the circuit was cut to the neutral wire, not the hot wire. Since the wires were reversed, electricity was still flowing out of the outlet and you completed the circuit with your knife.

How can I fix it?

Well, you probably shouldn’t attempt to fix it at all. You’ll probably end up electrocuting yourself and/or causing more problems for your outlet. Luckily fixing an outlet with reversed polarity can be an easy for an electrical contractor in North Scottsdale, AZ.

Your electrician will be able to get into the wall and easily identify the situation. If the white wire is connected to where the hot wire should be, its wired backwards. If that’s the case, all he needs to do is switch the wires and everything will be fine and dandy.

On the other hand, if everything looks correct to the electrician, the white wire is the hot one and the problem is upstream from the outlet. An electrician will be able to fix the problem, but it might take a while to accomplish since it isn’t a quick fix.

If you have any outlets that you believe are wired incorrectly, contact us at 480-296-0721 to find out how we can fix your situation!

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