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Homework Help: Earth wire and Neutral wire are swapped. Can appliance work?

  1. Nov 11, 2013 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    If we connect the neutral and earth wires wrongly in the plug, can the appliance still work?

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution

    I am not too sure, but my answer is probably no. The circuit cannot be completed, as the current will flow to the ground, rather than back to the mains supply. Is that right?

    Thank you :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2013 #2
    Yes it can . I personally experienced it. My one hand was holding onto a tap while I was drinking water from it and the other was holding onto the stainless steel washing basin next to it. I noticed that my vision was switching on and off at a high rate. Then I noticed my vision returned to normal as the vacuum cleaner in the house stopped and the phenomena started again when it the vacuum cleaner started up again. Upon investigation I discovered that that was the problem. Someone rewired it incorrectly.
  4. Nov 12, 2013 #3


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    In many countries the neutral is connected to earth somewhere in the system so yes they may work.

    You may have problems with earth leakage detectors (Residual Current Detectors, RCD) tripping because they check that the live and neutral currents are similar (within 30mA). Any difference implies a leak to earth and they disconnect.

    It's not recommended to miss-wire a plug!
  5. Nov 12, 2013 #4


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    Some transmission systems have no neutral 'wire' from the generator. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission#Single_wire_earth_return. The neutral side is connected to the substation through Earth. So in principle the neutral line in your house is at ground voltage. However, resistance in the return to the substation means that there may be some residual voltage. In multiphase distribution, successive houses get different phases. This helps to even out the variations in voltage on the neutral.
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