Louisville Ky Home Inspection Find: Reverse Polarity Outlet

“Reverse polarity” is the term that is used when¬†electrical wires are connected to the wrong terminals (screws) on an outlet or light. While generally not dangerous,¬†it can become dangerous if the “hot” side of the electrical circuit gets connected to certain appliances.

It is a fairly common issue found in inspections due to the fact that it is an easy mistake to make. It is easy to reverse to wires and and since the receptacles work fine even when the polarity is reversed it is not really noticed unless it is inspected. If you suspect your home has other wiring issues, then it is a good idea to check for reverse polarity.

You can purchase a simple tester for less than $15. Just plug it into all the receptacles; test both the top and bottom. If you discover that one or more of the outlets is reverse polarity:

1) SHUT OFF THE BREAKER FOR THIS OUTLET! (the tester’s lights will go out).

2) Remove the cover plate, then use a wiring tester to be certain that there are not other hot wires in this receptacle.

3) Release (or unscrew) the wires from the outlet and reposition on the correct terminal–white to the silver (neutral terminal) and black to the brass (hot terminal). The bare or green wire should connect to the green screw.

4) Put the cover plate back on, turn the circuit back on, and test the receptacle again. If the tester indicates reverse polarity but the wires are hooked up to the proper terminals, call an electrician.

Please if you do not feel comfortable with removing the outlet cover or removing the outlet (or if you do not know what a circuit breaker is) please call an electrician. While this is an easy repair for a person with some experience, it is still electrical and if you remove the cover without the power cut, you can hurt or even kill yourself.

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