Neutral and ground wires are often confused outside of the electrical trade since both conductors have zero voltage. Actually, if you connect the grounding wire as a neutral by mistake, most devices will operate correctly. The problem is that such connections can cause damage to appliances and home equipment if they remain in place for long periods of time. If you are not sure whether or not your wiring is correct, call an experienced electrician immediately so no one gets hurt.
Because they are all connected through the system ground, all neutral wires in the same earthed (grounded) electrical system should have the same electrical potential. Neutral conductors are typically insulated at the same voltage as line conductors, with a few notable exceptions. For example, some systems use metal sheathed cables as both hot and neutral, and because there is no difference in voltage between the two types of cable, any conductor within them can be used for neutralization purposes.
The term "neutral" comes from the fact that it carries no current itself, but is used by circuit breakers and other equipment to connect certain parts of the wiring system together so that these parts will have the same voltage. If you look at a diagram of your house's wiring system, you will see that each circuit has its own set of lines and also a set of grounds. The circuits are separated from one another by circuit breakers or fuse boxes. These devices provide overcurrent protection for each circuit, and also allow the entire panel to be opened by turning off the main power switch. When they open their contacts, the circuit breakers or fuses disconnect the neutral from the line terminals so that none of the circuits on the panel are affected by the opening of one particular circuit.
In many houses, one side of town uses 120 volts while the other uses 240 volts.
The neutral-to-ground connection. Under load, some neutral-to-ground voltage, generally 2V or less, should be present. Measure the hot-to-neutral and hot-to-ground voltages under load to look for reversed neutral and ground wires. The hot-to-ground temperature should be higher than the hot-to-neutral temperature. If it's not, you have a problem with your wiring!
The safety ground used by appliances such as stoves and refrigerators. This conductor may be part of your house wiring, but it usually is not. It must always connect to an appliance ground terminal or pad. You will see these terminals or pads on the back of most major appliances.
Appliances that use high voltage direct from the line need special care because any amount of resistance between their metal case and earth can cause current to flow, which can be dangerous. These include ranges, dishwashers, freezers, air conditioners, and electric clothes dryers. Always unplug them when not in use.
Your local electrical code requires that all household wiring be enclosed in conduit or metal boxes. This prevents electricity from coming into contact with things like wood framing and page paper that would spark if exposed to voltage.
If you own your home, make sure you've got a proper circuit breaker panel installed by a licensed electrician. This will prevent electrical problems down the road.
A neutral is a circuit conductor that, in normal operation, completes the circuit back to the source. Neutral is often linked to ground (earth) at the main electrical panel, street drop, or meter, as well as at the supply's ultimate step-down transformer. The term "neutral" can be confusing because there are two types of conductors used in wiring diagrams: black and white (or hot and dry). Black refers to the circuit conductor and white refers to the neutral conductor. It is important to distinguish between these two types of conductors when determining how to connect them together at individual outlets or switches.
Neutral conductors should always be connected to metal parts of electrical equipment, such as metal boxes or metal appliances. If they are not, then you have created a dangerous situation where you could get a shock if something gets plugged into the wrong terminal. For example, if you were to plug a lamp into the neutral side of a duplex outlet, even though it would not be able to light up because no power is flowing into it, you would still get shocked if you touched the lamp afterward because both legs of the outlet are now live.
The presence of a neutral conductor also means that equipment grounding is required by law for any device that will accept a plug from a country that uses three-wire plugs.
Check that the voltages are as shown above. Because there is a voltage between earth and neutral, they are not at the same potential, implying that there is some resistance between them. This is most likely due to a loose connection on your neutral at the supply end. Check all the wiring at your meter's base or main panel to make sure it isn't a different color than the other wires. If it is, then you will need to get that fixed before you can tell if the problem lies with your meter or not.
If the voltage between neutral and ground is around 120 volts and the voltage between hot and ground is a few volts or less, hot and neutral have been inverted. There should be some neutral-ground voltage under load situations; 2 V or somewhat less is very usual. Check all circuit breakers serving this zone to make sure they're set properly. If they're OK, check each conductor leading to these breakers for damage - if any is found, replace it immediately.
In general, if you have no neutral-to-ground voltage with just live conductors, there's probably some problem with them. You should check all broken or frayed wiring first to make sure there are no live wires touching each other or a metal object. If they are OK, then check the cable itself for damage. If it's fine, then the problem may be somewhere else in the circuit. Try checking the breaker or fuse panel to make sure all the cables going into the wall are plugged in and not damaged.