SOLVED: Can Two Circuits Share the Same Neutral Wire?

More than half of building fire outbreaks result from faulty electrical connections. Wrongly connected circuits can cause heavy damage and loss of properties and lives. Seeing how important electricity is in our day to day lives, it is vital to have basic knowledge of electricity, and you may be prompted to ask

Can Two Circuits Share The Same Neutral Wire?

You can share a neutral between two circuits with the help of breakers. While this is possible, it is not advised as electrocution and fire outbreaks are risks. In order to avoid a bad electrical connection, it is wiser to use 1 neutral for a circuit, and we will explain why. But first, let’s see if different circuits can share the same neutral.

Can You Share A Neutral Between Circuits?

You can share a neutral between circuits, but The National Electrical Code (NEC) does not permit this. With the help of 2 circuit breakers on the same run of a panel, you can share a neutral between circuits. However, this will result in both circuits drawing the breakers to their limit.

If the breaker has a limit of 20A without a shared neutral, the same breaker can have as much as 40A return current on a shared neutral, making it unsafe and at risk of an overload. Please use one neutral per circuit in a single-phase system for safety reasons.

Can Multiple Circuits Share A Neutral?

Multiple circuits can share a neutral (Multiple Branch Circuit). Multiple branch circuits are mainly used in hospitals, offices, hotels, and high residential buildings. A neutral must have 2 or more ungrounded conductors with voltage to have a multiple branch circuit. 

Although multiple circuits can share a neutral, it comes with a precaution by the National Electrical Code (NEC). NEC insists all circuit conductors on multiple branch circuits are simultaneously disconnected during repairs. The disconnection is because the circuits might still have energy and pose the risk of electrocution and injury.

Does Every Circuit Need A Neutral?

Neutral is very important in a circuit. Neutral completes a circuit and allows the switch to have power even when turned off. The current is broken and cannot return to its power source without a neutral. When the current can’t return to the source, it results in an unexpected charge and danger of electrocution.

Does Neutral Wire Need To Be In The Same Conduit?

The neutral wire should be in the same conduit as other current-carrying wires. Whenever current flows through a wire, it creates a magnetic field. With these wires together in a conduit, the opposite directional current flow almost cancels the magnetic field to zero. 

But if you separate the neutral wire into a single conduit, the magnetic field is no longer at zero. The magnetic field attracts current to flow through the conduit (you would have formed a transformer). This magnetic field attraction is very disastrous and can cause either a live conduit in the case of a steel conduit or a fire outbreak with a plastic conduit.

Should Neutral Wire Have Voltage?

The neutral wire should have zero voltage. There should be less voltage flowing through a neutral. However, a neutral wire is still dangerous, and you should not touch it without insulators. The neutral wire may have electricity fed back from another circuit or may not be appropriately connected to the earth or even broken.

Please observe safety measures and use the correct equipment to test a neutral wire.

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Why Is A Neutral Wire Needed?

A neutral wire helps to complete the electrical circuit. It serves as a return route for the current flowing into the live wire. Without a neutral wire to close the circuit and allow a looped flow of charge, the current will stop, and no power production. Neutral Wires are always the black wire in the circuit.

Is Neutral Wire Positive Or Negative?

A neutral wire is considered Negative in a DC circuit. But, in an AC circuit, the neutral wire alternates between negative and positive. Current loops between both phase and neutral wires In an AC circuit. When a phase wire turns negative, the neutral wire becomes positive and vice versa.

Do not handle electrical connections without proper safety protocol.

How Many Circuits Can Share The Same Neutral?

You can share 3 circuits to a neutral In a 3 phase system. However, you must tie the circuit breakers to a breaker bridge. The breaker tie is so when 1 current breaker turns off or cuts, all breakers are off to ensure no current gets by the neutral. To be safe, use one neutral per circuit.

Is A Neutral Wire The Same as A Ground Wire?

No, the neutral wire is not the same as a ground wire. Ground Wire is a conductor that provides a path for the current to the earth/ground. In contrast, a neutral wire is a conductor that completes the circuit by leading the current back to the power source, e.g., a transformer.

A neutral wire serves load balancing roles, but the ground wire provides a charge path to the ground if an electrical fault or lightning strikes. Also, a neutral wire can replace a ground wire, but a ground wire cannot serve as a neutral. Please never connect a neutral wire and ground wire; this will cause a fire outbreak.

Can Electrical Circuits Have Multiple Neutral Wires?

A circuit can have multiple neutral wires, but this is not up to standard NEC code. If you create 2 or more current return paths, the current will take the path with the lowest impedance, i.e., the shorter conductor will carry more current than the other. 

Can You Tie Neutrals from Different Circuits?

No! Do not tie neutrals from different circuits together. Neutral carry charge, when neutrals from different circuits are tied, you risk current overload. The current overload can cause a fire outbreak. Instead, tie different circuit neutrals at the panel neutral or tie neutrals only when they complete a circuit.

Conclusively, home electrical connections are things that require extra care when going about it. Always use a professional electrician for any electrical connection or faults you have. This will ensure that you always make the right connections and keep your home and electrical appliances safe.

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