What Happens if You Switch Neutral And Ground Wires?


Electric connections must be taken seriously; every wire has a distinctive job. When you reverse a connection, this will affect the entire circuit or panel. For example, what are the consequences of switching neutral and ground wires?

What Happens if You Switch Neutral And Ground Wires?

A ground wire usually doesn’t carry any current, but it will have a current when you connect it to the neutral wire. The ground wire is connected to the earth, but it’s also a part of the circuit. So when it carries a current, this means that switches or bare metals connected to the circuit have a charge.

This means if anyone touched these switches of bare metals can have a serious injury. To prevent this from happening, GFCI is used. GFCI stands for the ground fault circuit interrupter; it protects the user from having an electrical shock through the ground wire. So when you connect a ground wire to a neutral one, this will lead to stop the circuit from working.

The GFCI works to compare the current in the neutral wire and the current in the hot wire. If there is any current moving through the ground wire, then this means that there is a difference between the current in the hot wire and the that in the neutral wire. So the GFCI faults the circuit for the protection of the users.

Why Can You Not Connect Neutrals And Grounds?

Because the neutral should be the only power path back to the source. So when you connect the ground to the neutral, it takes some of the power back to the source. And this is considered a bad thing because ground wires shouldn’t carry any current unless there is an increase in power.

Then, this increase goes to the earth to protect the user from any injuries. In addition, when you connect a ground to the neutral, the breakers connected to the neutral wire won’t work because the ground takes some of the current supposed to pass through the neutral. So the current is always less than the limit.

Why You Should Not Use Ground as a Neutral Wire?

Because when you use a ground wire as a neutral wire, the ground wire will function as it was a neutral wire. However, if you use the ground wire as a neutral wire, it can be dangerous and unsafe because it can cause an electrical shock and result in injuries.

Despite that, the ground wire and the neutral wire are connected to the panelboard. And they are almost the same, but you can not use a ground wire as a neutral wire. The ground wire should be only used for dispersing the surge of current to a safe place.

When Not to Connect Neutral Wire and Ground Wire?

If you are using an auxiliary panel, the connection of the neutral and ground wires must be separated. You should not connect the ground wire to the neutral wire. Because if you connect the neutral wire to the ground one in an auxiliary panel, you will create a parallel connection between them. 

This means that any current that will pass through the neutral wire will be divided between it and the ground wire. Because the ground wire and the neutral wire are connected to the same starting and ending points, as a result of parallel connection, the total resistance will be less than before, and more current will flow.

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How Are Neutral and Ground Wires Connected in the Main Panel?

When it comes to connections in the main panel, you will not find the neutral and ground wires together. The neutral wire is always separated by a separated ground bar from the ground wire. The neutral wires are connected to the neutral bar, while the ground wires are connected to the ground bar. 

However, the neutral and the ground wires are connected somewhere outside the panel. Suppose the wires are not connected at any point through the circuit. This will lead to the non-functionality of the breakers in the circuit; the breakers can not disconnect the circuit if there’s a fault.


Why Are Neutral and Ground Wires Separated in the Main Panel?

Because if you connected the ground wire to the neutral in the main panel, they would not have different paths. So the neutral and the ground wires are separated to make sure the ground wire doesn’t have any current.

 If the ground wire carries a current, this will lead to the user’s probability of getting shocked or injured. It’s recommended to use a ground separating bar to separate the ground wire from the neutral wire to prevent any unintended currents.

How Is The Neutral Wire Connected to the Ground Wire?

The neutral wire is responsible for the current getting back to its source. So when there’s a fault in an electrical appliance and the live wire is not working properly. The ground wire is responsible for carrying the leaking current to the ground. The circuit’s breaker can’t operate unless it senses a fault in the circuit.

Therefore, the ground wire and the neutral wire must be connected. This way, the breaker will know that there is a fault in the circuit, and it will disconnect it. However, the ground and the neutral wire can not be connected in the main panel to avoid them having a common path.

Is the Ground Wire Essential for the Circuit?

The ground wire is not essential for the functionality of the electric circuit. This means if you constructed an electric circuit without the ground wire, the electric circuit would continue to work properly. But this means you removed a safety layer.

However, the ground wire is important for user safety to avoid shocks and injuries. The ground wire is connected to the device and then connected to a safe place where its current disperses. The commonplace is the earth or the ground; that’s why it’s called the ground wire.

Do the Neutral, and the Ground Wires Carry Voltage?

The ground and the neutral wires are not connected in the main panel. They are connected outside it, and both of them carry zero potential. The current in the neutral wire flows back to the source from the device.

While any increase of current will pass through the ground wire and be dispersed into the ground, as a result of the zero potential difference, if you connected the ground wire as a neutral wire, every appliance will continue to work properly, but it’s dangerous and unsafe.

Do You Need To Connect the Neutral Wire?

The neutral wire is the one responsible for the return of the current. The current enters the device through the live wire then returns to the source through the neutral wire. If you didn’t connect it or it was broken, this will result in an outbalanced circuit.

The current will not be able to get back to its start point. However, the current will search for other paths to move through. For clarification, one of these paths is the ground wire. It can be dangerous if the ground wire always carries a current.

What Happens if You Switch Neutral And Hot Wires?

Connecting the hot/live wire to a neutral wire will create a short circuit. This means that the current will pass through an unintended path, and it’s always shorter than the circuit. As a result, this current will trip any connected breaker to the hot and neutral wire circuit.

How To Know if You Reversed the Hot and Neutral Wires?

  1. Measure the voltage of the hot-ground or neutral-ground.
  2. The voltage of neutral-ground should be about 120 volts.
  3. The hot-ground voltage should be less than the voltage of the neutral-ground.
  4. This means you reversed the hot and the neutral wires.

Why Is the Fuse Is Connected to the Live Wire Instead of the Neutral?

Because the fuse is always connected to the live wire in a series connection. So in case of excess current, the fuse will disconnect the live line. When the live line is disconnected, the appliance will stop working, and it will have no current passing through it. 

However, it can’t be connected to the neutral wire the same way. Because when there is an excessive current, the fuse will disconnect the neutral line. But the neutral line will be the only one open in the circuit. Meanwhile, the appliance will still be connected and the current passing through it, and it’s considered dangerous.

What Happens if You Connected the Fuse to the Neutral Wire?

If you choose to connect the fuse to the neutral wire, it will be completely unsafe and dangerous because it is used to disconnect the circuit when an excess current passes through the neutral wire. So disconnecting the neutral wire will result in an open neutral line. 

However, the live line will still carry a current, and the appliance will still have a charge. The current in the neutral wire will search for another path to flow through. This means the current can pass into the ground wire, and if you touch any bare metal or socket, you might get shocked. 

Can Two Hot Wires Share a Neutral Wire?

Using the same neutral for two live wires would lead to drawing the breaker limit of each wire because the neutral wire is now receiving from both wires. If the current passing in each wire is 10A, then the neutral is returning a 20A current.

The breaker used in the circuit must have a large limit to handle the two live wires. And this means that if one live wire faults, the breaker will not trip to disconnect the circuit. It’s not permitted to share a neutral wire for two hot wires because it removes a layer of safety when you share a neutral wire.

Related Readings:

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What Happens if You Reverse Wires?

You will also reverse the socket sleeve and metal tab when you reverse the wires. This means that the socket sleeve will be live instead of being neutral. And the metal tab will become neutral instead of hot. As a result, if you touched the sleeve socket while changing the light bulb, you could be shocked. However, the light bulb works if you reverse the wires.

Here’s a detailed video on how to fix it:

Does Reverse Polarity Cause a Fire?

When you reverse polarity, the appliances continue to work fine. Because the live wire is supplying the device with current, despite which side it’s connected to. However, the reverse configuration of the live and the neutral wires isn’t subjected to safety.

The devices could be dangerous when safety mechanisms are bypassed. Because if there is an increase in the power, it will pass through to the appliance, and it can cause a shock or fire.


To sum up, the ground wire should not be connected to the neutral wire or switched. If you connect them, this will lead to the ground wire having a current passing through it. This current could later cause injuries or shocks if you touched any metal or switches connected to the ground wire. Despite that the ground and the neutral wire have zero potential, they can’ be connected.

The wires must always be separated at the main panel but connected at some point outside it. So the breakers in the circuit can sense if there’s a fault and operate properly.

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