Electric receptacle with reversed neutral/hot wire?

8 Replies


I have a small electric question.

I used a GCFI receptacle tester on one receptacle that displays "hot/neut. reverse". I also checked it with a non-contact voltage tester and the larger blade hole (which should be neutral) appears to be hot.

So I opened the receptacle (after turning power off) but the white wire goes where the white label is on the receptacle and when I compare it to another working receptacle, it's wired the same.

So my guess is that neutral (white) and hot (black) wires are reversed at the power supply (electrical panel?). If so, how can I verify this on the electrical panel?

Is having neutral and hot reversed an issue?

Just found out another receptacle with same signal ("hot/neut. reverse") which I had been using for a while now without any visible issue.

Should I reverse the wiring at the receptacle (I guess preferably at the source)?

Thanks for your help!


It may not be wrong at the panel, it may just be wrong from the point of take off from another fixture. Most outlets are wired together on groups of runs. You can kill the main power and look inside the panel if you want to see if it goes all the way back to the panel. As far as it being a problem, wire is wire. I would get some black and white electrical tape and flag each wire for someone else's future use at a minimum, the same way you flag neutral wires being used as hot in light switches. I would reverse them at the outlet so that neutral feeds the correct prong, because someone without a properly grounded item could get shocked later.

It is a problem and needs to be fixed properly. It will function properly until you plug something in that must only go in one way, and could also require the neut at the neut location. It's a different size for a reason. 

You need to find out how many are doing this, if I read right, there's two? Its probably not a problem at the electrical panel unless there is nothing else on those circuits. The problem is likely in a wire nut behind an outlet or in a switch box. The 2 outlets that are incorrect may be at the end of a circuit, so you need to find the first thing that works properly when working backwards on that circuit. If it were me, I would turn every single break off except for the circuit that needs troubleshooting. It will be easier to determine what is apart of that circuit and what is not based on if it has power or not.

I don't know the wiring system, this could be very easy or very hard depending on your experience and what the problem is. 

Generally, whites go to whites, and blacks go to blacks. There are some reasons to use the white wire for power, and there's nothing wrong with doing it as long as the wire is re-identified with black to signify a power wire. When wires don't get re-identified, the wiring easily gets mixed up cause issues like the one you're having. 

My guess is the problem is behind a properly operating switch or outlet.

@Yoann Mamy Randriamihaja I am assuming that the wiring is old bx and the wire colors are not clearly identifiable? A lot of the time when junction boxes are spliced and the wires are old they lose there color so it is difficult to differentiate hot vs neutral. I would just flip the wires from one side of the outlet to the other if this is the case. If the wires are clearly identifiable as white and black then the source of the problem should be found and fixed. It is a simple problem and not a dangerous thing as many many houses end up with this problem but it should be corrected. This is a problem I have fixed for a lot of customers.

Remember that typically multiple power outlets create a single circuit. That means you have 8 outlets connected in a row using the same two wires back to the breaker at the panel. If a single one of those outlets is powering something in your house then the neutral wire for every outlet in the circuit will show as a hot because the circuit is completed.

Even more complicated I sometimes find different circuits sharing with hot and/neutral wires intermixed.

Is the power working? If it is don't mess with it. If it isn't hire someone or you had better take your time and figure it out. It could be many different things.

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