FAQ: Neutral and Ground Wires are not Interchangeable

The thing is people did die…The NFPA 70 like most every safety standard you find is written in somebodies blood.


Personally, I blame the Obama administration for creating an environment that is hostile and not inducive to the equal flow of electrons.

By ensuring a color coded segregation system and mandating all wires be completely separate from others is a violation of the wires civil rights.

Plus, the most popular wire brand on the market comes wrapped in a white barrier. This yet again shows the oppression created in this country through the never ending white privilege.

And then, there is the ever present ruling class of the breakers always monitoring, always making it impossible for a wire to obtain high levels of electricity. They spout freedom for all, but shut you down when you exceed their mandated levels.

This hierarchy is a farce in the face of the natural order. Only through chaos can we all actually achieve our true home automation potentials!

We must break down these barriers and allow the neutral and the ground to work together as one. For they are true to each other. They are the working wire. They are there when we need them to protect us and there when we don’t.

And don’t even get me started on the sexual discrimination of the hot wire, always insisting that she be called hot!

We must look past the color of the wire and remember, all of our wires have a copper core!

disclaimer it is hereby recognized that the native American aluminium wire was here first, but due to the incompatible nature of the NAAW and its hostile nastier, it’s rights were forfeited through the trade of dry alcohol pad and a solder iron. Please do not mention the NAAW in this posting as it is going to be offensive to the fragile nature of the solid core wire.****

Thank you.


I didn’t die. And I grew up in a house with no ground wires. I know, not statistically significant… Truth is, safety is about statistics when you talk about other people, and personal responsibility when you talk about yourself. Since I’m talking about others, I’m talking about statistics. The most important thing anyone can get from our words here in this community is knowledge. What they do with it is their choice, we can’t force them to be safe. We can only tell them that having no ground is dangerous.

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I agree with you and would like you add one little thing…

We are all a number in someone else’s statistics. :sunny:

Don’t hurt yourself Jason. Now you are not a number to me. :smile:

Oh no worry, after 30 years of experience I’ve only been shocked by my own stupidity.

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I’ll add to this the problem caveat that… certainly in the US, sometimes the wires aren’t colour coded as they should be which makes working out what is what even harder.

Really if you are unsure of what you are doing OR, if you are unsure how to work out what wire is what with a multi meter, have someone else do it for you.

For the most part, if everything is colour coded correctly, anyone can do it but even in my house where so far, of the switches I have investigated, 99% of the wires look to be colour coded correctly I still double check if they are correct.

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At what voltage… I’m pretty certain you won’t care about 60mA @ 5V :smile:

Pretty sure there is no usb during his time.
It’s 110/220 vac with about 1k ohm resistance from hand to hand. I wouldn’t stick my tongue to a usb plug though :smile:


Great question @Benji! First we need to understand that we’re bound by Ohm’s law (V=I*R or Voltage = Current x Resistance). The the average human body has has approximately 1000 ohms of resistance, if subjected to a 5V source the current through the body would be 5 mA (5V/1000ohms). For a body to be subject to 60mA @ 5V it would need to have a resistance of 83.3 ohms.

I imagine this reasoning would probably lead people to think about 120V systems. If you use Ohm’s law you could in theory you could 120 mA flowing through your body (120V/1000ohms). Now we’ve all been shocked a few times in our lives and we are all still standing. So what gives?

The body’s 1000 ohms resistance is based off bare hands and bare feet, so when you add some shoes you increase your body’s resistance by several orders or magnitude thus greatly reducing the current flowing through your body. To make things more complicated you have the resistance of the flooring, resistance of the wire, and number of donuts you had for breakfast all factoring into the equation.

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Mmmmmm…donuts… LOL! :heart_eyes:

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Actually, I’ll let you hit me with 10,000 vac, as long as that current stays below 1/10 of an amp… Shoot, I’ll even take 500 vdc at that current!

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Try 500,000 volts or more!!! Check out this video of a lineman being helicoptered on to a live transmission line for an inspection.

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[quote=“bamarayne, post:33, topic:27849, full:true”]Actually, I’ll let you hit me with 10,000 vac, as long as that current stays below 1/10 of an amp… Shoot, I’ll even take 500 vdc at that current!

I mean who hasn’t ‘tested’ spark plug leads with the GF/wife :smiley:

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The majority of this topic should be deleted. It is full of misinformation. Not only is not following proper procedures for wiring dangerous it poses and great risk of fire and death. I’m sorry but getting your switch working any way but by following code which may mean getting a licensed electrician is completely insane! There is a reason why there are separate hot, neutral and ground wires. If you think differently or are doing it differently then you are asking for problems.


Odd, what I’m taking away from this is that if you don’t have a clue, call someone who does.


I’m taking away that if you eat more donuts you are more safe from getting shocked.


So, my background is in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The problem with this mentality is that you’re making it sound okay to use poor methodologies for the laymen, who will ultimately read your post and think it’s okay forever, for everything.

Additionally, in a lot of homes, conduit and junction boxes act as grounding as well, sometimes with ground wires being attached directly to them, making it back to the panel “eventually”, but not right away. It’s next to impossible for someone to confirm this isn’t done within the walls of their home.

This is an excellent analogy.

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Most things in house wiring protect against one failure. By connecting the neutral of a device to the ground connection, you have used up that one failure and a subsequent problem will not be protected against.

For example, let’s say the ground connection to your switch neutral is loose at the breaker panel. The metal of the switch (and wall plate screws, etc) is also connected to this faulty ground. Since the ground connection is not complete, the voltage potential of the switch will no longer be at ground but now 120V. If someone were to touch the screws on the wall plate they would be shocked.

In the case of these dimmer switches their current consumption is pretty low, so this will limit the current that could electrocute someone. But using the neutral as a current carrying conductor is a very bad practice. If someone were to be electrocuted, the person who knowingly hooked up the neutral to ground would be liable and that’s a huge risk to take.

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it’s not. It’s really not the best idea at all, but in a pinch it does work. - that being said, I did stipulate that it really is only possible on a home-run circuit, which are more common in older construction that is not in conduit. Conduit is the ground in those systems and would not be suitable for this.