The outlets power goes to ground when you plug something into it


First, those outlet testers are a mess in a dress. Not the tester, that's simple enough, it's just 3 lights across the 3 pins. But the legend, and all the silly things it says, is about as helpful as a magic 8-ball.

The light labeled "open ground" measures across the power blades. The other yellow light measures between hot and ground. The red is between neutral and ground.

You said you plugged in something, but didn't say what the load was. A little bit of voltage between neutral and ground is actually OK. Neutral is not ground. If such a low voltage sets off your tester, it's too sensitive. Otherwise I'd look for a wiring problem in the neutral.

Are you using screw terminals, backstabs, or poke-and-tighten-screw? Are you doing it monkey tight, not gorilla tight?

Just so you know, people, especially inexperienced people, find backstabs are not reliable. In many circuits they are not even legal. I avoid them entirely.

Sometimes, the screw...

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All wires (or rather, flows of charges through space) exhibit a phenomenon called inductance, and when great lengths of thin wire are wound into coils, large inductances can be created on purpose. Furthermore, if the coils are wound around cores made from ferrite or iron, the inductance phenomenon is even stronger.

Coils wound around cores are found in electric motors, and in power supplies (for instance, transformers).

Inductance manifests itself as an opposition to the change in electric current. When a steady current flows through an inductor, the only effect exhibited by the inductor is its series resistance, and the steady magnetic field that it maintains. Whenever the circuit tries to change the amount of flowing current, it changes the magnetic field around the inductor, which generates a voltage within the inductor that opposes the change in current. The inductor initially forces the current to keep flowing at the original rate, and from that point on it...

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It's okay, as long as it works. But, there's the rub. One day you plug-in & nothing. It worked yesterday, WTF! Shifting the plug around no longer works & pinching or spreading the plug prongs won't even do it. Damn It! Now, you see the problem too clearly since now you can't get home or to work. Oh, That's Just Great!

And guess what. It ain't just that day, it's everyday until & unless a new outlet gets put in. This is when the movie zoom-in happens & the flashbacks begin of all the times you abused those outlets. And, you don't know how to replace an outlet & you definitely can't do that at work without killing yourself for sure.

I'd use Stick-on Heavy Duty Velcro Squares on the back of the charger & deposit the attaching square half at the outlets you use frequently. This will take the load off of the outlet & keep it from being damaged. Nice, cheap, easy, reliable & compactly...

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How can you tell it's low voltage? What are your points of reference for measuring voltage: hot to ground or hot to neutral? If hot to neutral, then the low voltage difference could indicate that the hot and neutral both have high voltage on them (e.g. 119.8V between hot and ground and 119.2V between neutral and ground which would show a low voltage difference between hot and neutral of only 0.6V). If the neutral has high voltage, this would most likely indicate an open neutral (i.e. a disconnect somewhere on the neutral leg of the circuit).

If all the other outlets on the circuit are working normally, I would check the ones closest by for a loose white (neutral) wire as they most likely daisy chained to feed the outlet you are currently having issues with. If so, I would guess the issue was probably due to plugging/unplugging something on these outlets that jostled an old "stab-in-back" receptacle connection loose. That said, without seeing your homes wiring diagram, it...

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TL,DR; You get 120 volts always. Adding more devices makes the circuit deliver more AMPERES.

Within operational parameters, your wall outlet will deliver 120 volts. Every regular outlet in your house will deliver this voltage. You can think of this as analogous to water pressure at the bottom of an enormous tank - no matter how many taps you have at the bottom, the pressure will be the same at all of them.

For reasons of safety, your outlet is fused in the panel (actually the entire circuit, but keep it simple) at 15 amps. Amperes is the measure of current, or the amount of electrical charge flowing through the circuit. This is analogous to the amount of water flowing out of a tap. (The word CURRENT is even borrowed from fluid dynamics).

Lastly, we have Resistance, which is the load you put on the circuit. It is measured in Ohms. The problem with resistance is that it is counter-intuitive when talking about parallel circuits (which we are). Because if I add...

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An Open neutral should be the very first thing you check. Zero volts between hot and neutral, yet 120 between hot and ground, and ground and neutral are common back at the panel. You can read voltage, but since it's not on the neutral wire, appliances won't work.

If you could reconstruct what it was you might have been doing when the circuit went dead, it would at least give you a starting point. I've seen in the past where I'd plug in a vacuum cleaner for example, and the circuit would quit. Opening up the receptacle I was using, revealed a broken joint (wires not nutted properly) and arcing, that wasn't made correctly to begin with, but the action of inserting a cord cap, disturbed the joint. If you cannot reconstruct what it was you were doing, the only thing left would be to inspect every device on the circuit, for loose or broken wires. Starting with the furthest receptacle first.

If your receptacles are back-stabbed (inserted in the...

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Let's start with what the holes in an outlet do. When you look at a normal 120-volt outlet in the United States, there are two vertical slots and then a round hole centered below them. The left slot is slightly larger than the right. The left slot is called "neutral," the right slot is called "hot" and the hole below them is called "ground." The prongs on a plug fit into these slots in the outlet.

If you have read How Batteries Work, you know that electricity must flow in a circuit. In a battery, electricity flows from one terminal of the battery to the other. In a house outlet, power flows from hot to neutral. The appliance you plug into an outlet completes the circuit from the hot slot to the neutral slot, and electricity flows through the appliance to run a motor, heat some coils or whatever. Let's say you plug a light bulb into the outlet. The power will flow from the hot prong, through the filament and back to the neutral prong, creating light in the...

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When you leave the country, you don’t just have to worry about different currencies and languages — you also have to worry about different plug shapes and electricity voltages. There’s no one standard socket shape or voltage.

If you don’t do your homework ahead of time, you may be unable to use your electrical devices. Even worse, you may damage them by plugging them into the foreign outlets.

Plug Shapes

The most obvious issue you’ll run into is that of the different electrical socket shapes used around the world. You’ll need the appropriate plug shape or you won’t even be able to plug your electronics into the power outlets in the country you’re visiting.

The below diagram from Wikipedia gives us some idea of how plug shapes vary from country to country. Note that North America, continental Europe, the United Kingdom, and Australia all use different plug shapes.

Luckily, plug adapters are easy to come by. You can buy fairly...

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Check your local wiring codes and schedule inspections.

Several inspections and permits are required for most residential construction projects, especially when it involves electrical work.


To make sure you're up to code, you may need to schedule temporary service inspection, a rough-in inspection, and a final inspection. This needs to be done whether you're doing it yourself or hiring a subcontractor.

The National Electrical Code requires all GFCIs within 5 feet of the floor to be child-safe and clearly marked. Outdoor GFCIs must also be weather resistant and clearly marked, even if it has a weather cover. Check your local wiring codes to see if a GFCI is an acceptable replacement for a non-grounded two-prong outlet. There are acceptable installation procedures for non-grounded GFCI usually involving putting a sticker on the outlet cover stating "Non-Appliance Ground." In some areas, you may need a GFCI due to nearby water...
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Electrical circuits are rated in amps. For example, if you had 100 amps of power entering your home breaker box, all the wiring could handle up to 240 volts of electricity. That translates to 24,000 watts of power. Electrical gadgets, from light bulbs to hair dryers to microwave ovens, are all rated according to how many watts of electricity they use. The outlets in your home are wired in groups, or circuits, into individual switches in the breaker boxes. Those breakers might handle 15 or 20 amps each. A 15-amp circuit can handle 3,600 watts of demand while a 20-amp circuit can handle 4,800 watts. If you plug electrical gadgets into outlets on a breaker that exceed that wattage, you overload the circuit and the wall outlets become...

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Whether you like it or not, electrical products form a major part of our everyday lives. You can find them in every room of your home. Power outlets, extension leads, phone chargers, computer cables… The list goes on. Unfortunately, none of these electrical products were designed with your baby’s safety in mind.

Okay, lets do some basic kiddie math…

Baby + Electricity = Disaster

When looking at how to baby proof (or “child proof” if you don’t like calling your little one a baby) your home, you must consider everything and anything that is electrical because, as you may have noticed, electrical products and your baby just don’t mix.

Fortunately I have created this awesome guide to assist you in baby proofing these shocking (yes, it’s a pun) objects.


What do you need to baby proof? Select from the contents below

Outlets Power strips Extension cords Finding electrical hazards

Now lets get on with the guide!


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Any household with small roaming humans inevitably has to block its electrical sockets from tiny probing fingers. But most of the childproof measures out there—plastic plugs, sliding faceplates—can still be impregnated by determined hands. This outlet prototype wouldn't supply any electricity to its sockets until a plug is inserted—and it could even tell the difference between a plug and, say, a wet fork.

A concept for a new outlet by a company called Brio says it will work by sensing impending electrical demand. Most of the time, it would remain in the off position, with no current flowing to the sockets. But when you bring a plug close to the socket, an embedded microprocessor could confirm that it is, indeed, a plug and would supply voltage to the outlet, but only once it's firmly inserted inside. Same deal when a plug comes out—no more power to the socket. This is slightly different than the typical ground-fault circuit interrupter (those outlets with the red and black...

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Post 28

I doubt any electrical problems are going to cause your DVD player to damage your discs unless the DVD player were to have a complete failure, where it either failed to turn on or it failed to eject for some other reason. But if that did happen, your disc would likely be just fine. You would have to take the unit apart to recover the disc, which only takes 5-10 minutes and a philips screwdriver. Just be sure to unplug it before taking it apart, and also note even after unplugging the unit, a small shock hazard will be present for a few hours or up to 3 days.

I would consider it safe after a week, but only if

you do not touch any circuit boards except the small ones on the plastic disc tray assembly, which is low voltage. You're safe. The shock you could get is rather small from a part called a capacitor. They hold a small electric charge and can release it very quickly, and some of these...

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Do NOT leave the computer plugged in while working on it!

All the advice here is spot on. The important thing about voltage is that it's relative, not absolute: it's the difference that matters. You could sit on a high-voltage transmission line and be totally safe. But if you touched the ground with one foot while sitting on it, things would get exciting because now there's a voltage difference between your extremities.

I don't like static straps. What I do: before touching anything critical, touch the metal chassis (power supply case, or the frame that holds the motherboard) with all my fingers, palms etc.. Also touch all tools, components, etc. to the chassis. Now everything's at the same voltage and it's safe to start. While working try not to brush against plastic, cloth etc. (especially cats!) that might cause a charge buildup.

And don't forget, unplug that computer before working on it.

Click to...

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HOME SitemapBackground for Home Wiring Troubleshooting

When troubleshooting electrical problems in a house, you can avoid watts of frustration by learning or reviewing things about your electrical system. When you have learned enough, you'll be ready to go to the page for Troubleshooting these problems in your own home. Disclaimer.

Your Electrical System
The Power Company
Your Main Panel
How Things Go Wrong


Your Home Electrical System

Electricity flows to your lights and appliances from the power company through your panel, its breakers, out on your circuits and back. Here is a schematic picture of all the major parts of your home electrical system.

There are many connections along these paths that can be disrupted or fail, and there are many ways that electricity could go places you don't want it to. See my Is electricity mysterious? article and my Electrical as a second language...

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By Timothy Thiele

Updated April 21, 2016.

To better understand what is involved in installing a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) in your home, you’ll first need to have an understanding of basic electrical wiring. If you feel at all uncomfortable about working on an electrical circuit, then it might be best the call a professional. Understanding basic circuitry, knowing where to turn circuits off and on, being able to test circuits and keep track of what goes where are all essential and important. As with any and all electrical projects, be sure to turn the power off to anything you are working on. Electrical safety should always be number 1 on your list.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 15 Minutes

Here's How:

Turn Off the Power

Before you begin any electrical project, go to the electrical panel and shut off the circuit that you’ll be working on. Sometimes, not always, the electrician will mark the panel, on the inside of...

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AC Power explained

Last updated 14 November 1996

The information presented below is just that, information. Use it at your own risk.. You (the reader) are responsible for anything foolish that you might do as a result of reading this article. You assume complete and total responsibility for your actions! The information presented below is believed to be technically correct (however mistakes occasionally are made, this being the "real world"). In simple terms, if you do something foolish (as a result of reading this article), don't blame me!


Most people plug a device into an AC outlet without everthinking about how it works. Most of the time, everything works fine and no problems are experienced. However, there are a few things that are helpful to know about AC power as far as disc jockeys are concerned.

The "power" that is supplied by a typical wall socket is 120 volts AC (often written as VAC). AC is an abbreviation for...

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By Reuben Saltzman In Reversed Polarity On April 28, 2009

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.

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...

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Sometimes electrical connections inside electrical boxes are not good connections (such as switch, outlet, light, and junction boxes).

Sometimes wires are just held together and a wire nut loosely placed on the wires.

Sometimes wires are pushed into the back of outlets and these are not good connections.

Sometimes wires are placed on screw terminals, but not wrapped fully around the screw.

Sometimes screws are not tightened enough.

So what may have happened and the "pop" your wife heard was a poor connection somewhere overheating and breaking. Might want to ask her where it sounded like it came from.

Then turn off power and start checking outlets, switches, and ceiling boxes - junction boxes in attic/basement if everything looks ok in room boxes.

I would start at the outlet which is still working, then try outlet(s) next to this outlet.

If you are not comfortable doing this type of work, call an electrician.

It is best to turn...

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When you have more than one or two gadgets, the outlets near that kitchen counter can get very cluttered. If you want to clean things up, you can upgrade your outlets to support not just standard 120-volt power cords but 5v USB charging too.

Warning: This is a project for a confident DIYer. There’s no shame in getting someone else to do the actual wiring for you if you lack the skill or knowledge to do so. If you read the beginning of this article and immediately visualized how to do it based on past experience wiring switches and outlets, you’re probably good. If you opened the article not sure how exactly we were going to pull this trick off, it’s time to call in that wiring-savvy friend or electrician. Also note that it may be against the law, code, or regulations to do this without a permit, or it might void your insurance or warranty. Check your local regulations before continuing.

If you like the idea of streamlining your USB charging but you can’t...

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Am I going to be safe if the only things I have plugged in to it are my Macbook Pro and my flatscreen LED LCD monitor?

No, you will not be absolutely safe. You might be relatively safe, though, and the risk might be worth it to you.

The issue is not the current capability of the light socket, though, it is the lack of a proper ground. Your computer and monitor both have grounded plugs for your safety. They are internally isolated to a significant degree, but it is possible for them to fail in a way that might place an unacceptably high voltage on their surface or controls in a place you could touch. Even if they are working properly, they might carry a charge relative to the place you are at in the home.

I've had situations where a computer was at 90V potential compared to the concrete floor I was standing on because it was running on a long extension cord with a missing ground pin.

Your situation isn't much different, which means there's a potential...

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Electrical systems

This article is a travel topic

Universal Plug Adaptor

Electrical systems differ around the world - both in voltage and less critically, frequency. The physical interface (plugs and sockets) are also different and often incompatible. However, travellers with electrical appliances can take a few steps to ensure that they can be safely used at their destination.


Voltage and Frequency[edit]

Map of the world coloured by voltage and frequency

Start by taking a look at the back of the device you want to use. If it says something like "100-240V, 50/60 Hz", it will work anywhere in the world with the right plugs. If you've got both covered, you can skip to the next section. If not, keep reading.

Dealing with electricity differences can be daunting, but it actually isn't too hard. There are only two main types of electric systems used around the world, with varying physical...

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So you find yourself in a place (maybe a new apartment?) with apparently no Ground in the electrical outlets. This is probably because they are all 2-prong outlets, or maybe you've used an outlet checker and it says the Ground is no good. What can you do? By far the best solution technically is to re-wire the building, but let's look for the less expensive, more practical things if you are not the owner planning major home upgrades.

You have several issues to deal with here, starting from the apparent situation that there is no reliable Ground anywhere. A Ground is used for two purposes: part of a protection system for wiring or circuit faults that mistakenly send real power to the computer's chassis that is accessible to people; and removing static charges and electrical signal noise while they are at low levels, before they build up to troublesome.

1. Assume you have no Ground anywhere. Even if there are a few three-prong outlets in walls, they MAY have been...

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