Why must a switch be at the live wire instead of the neutral wire?
... and, to cut off leakage paths.
In what way does that make the appliance safe?
Take the classic example of an electric toaster and a person in a bathtub. If you turn off the wall outlet with a switch on the live wire, the person in the bathtub is (reasonably) safe. If you turn off the wall outlet with a switch on the neutral wire, the person in the bathtub is at risk.
In addition, if the wall outlet had its switch break the neutral line and not the active, then every unoccupied socket even though switched to "off" would expose a dangerous voltage to the idle probing of inquisitive toddlers (and pets).
Notwithstanding the hazard, some countries, I understand, do allow wall outlets without an associated switch; you have to plug and unplug from a constantly "live" socket. So try to keep fingers clear!
In the UK all domestic sockets must be fitted with shutters which prevent contact with the live (or neutral) supply unless there is a pin in the earth socket. The idea that a socket is made safer from an inquisitive child's fingers by providing a switch which the same child can easily operate is ludicrous.
The most basic hazard with electricity is providing an alternate path to ground. If you grab a grounded wire then your body is just part of the ground. If you grab a live wire then your body may form a path to ground. By switching on the live side you make most of the wiring grounded when it is off, and only a small part of the wiring is live. Thus if you grab a random section of wire you are less likely to have grabbed a live wire if the switch is on the live side.
the simple answer is if the circuit is switched on the neutral, then when the circuit is 'OFF' the load is still "LIVE" (at mains voltage).
Neutral switching is (generally) illegal in the UK.
In very special circumstances, you can use double-pole devices, but they must break the live conductor first and make the neutral conductor first (this could be a "suitable precaution")
Integrity of referenced conductors
9. If a circuit conductor is connected to earth or to any other reference point, nothing which might reasonably be expected to give rise to danger by breaking the electrical continuity or introducing high impedance shall be placed in that conductor unless suitable precautions are taken to prevent that danger.
No generator or distributor shall introduce or retain any protective device in any supply neutral conductor or any earthing connection of a low voltage network which he owns or operates.
The hot wire can supply full voltage and power to any true ground. If you touch a 3 prong appliance the odds are that the metal parts are grounded. The neutral wire gets connected to ground in the circuit breaker box. Thus putting a switch in the neutral wire leaves the hot wire hot all of the time and if you touch it and ground at the same time you could be killed. That is why the hot wire must be switched and not the neutral.
BTW just because a wire is white that does not mean it is a neutral. Here in the US it is very common to have 220V wiring that has black and white hot wires. The black measures 110v to ground and the white measures 110v to ground. They are 180 degrees out of phase so you measure 220V across the black and white wires.
There was a time when some electrical equipment had internal fuses in both the live and the neutral lines. I can't think why that idea ever caught on. I have actually used such equipment which had been modded to eliminate the neutral fuse.
There's a similar problem with switch loops even in 110V circuits.... Local code where I live (US) says that hot whites must be marked at both ends (usually by putting a piece of black tape on the end of the insulation).
One of those countries is the US. Switched outlets are unusual.
To compensate for this, some of the outlets like ones in a bathroom or laundry room (any room that could have water on the floor) have ground fault interrupters. Wiki article:
Also in the US, the neutral wires can have some small voltage since they are only grounded at the junction box, while the optionally used third ground wire is apparently grounded in more locations in a household.
I know that US military ships use floating AC for power, there is no neutral wire so both wires (single phase) are 'HOT' and are fused.
Oh ok got it. Thanks
And what is the rationale behind that? If the two conductors are truly floating then 1. how does the fuse provide a protection against shock and 2. How does an extra fuse in series do a better job of overload protection? There must be some scenario that prompted double pole fusing but I can't think of one at this minute.
My two cents:
I can think of two possible reasons: water danger and battle damage.
1) Residential building standards require ground fault breakers where there might be water (kitchen, bath, outdoors). So it makes sense for a ship to assume there might be water dangers everywhere. It's probably cheaper to add normal fuses on every line than to put ground fault breakers on every line.
2) Battle damage might short out wires all over the place. So maybe they want to assume that any wire can become hot at any time.
3) The combination of both. Battle damage causing water danger anywhere on board.
Damage control? Never know which side of a circuit's going to be open to salt water?
Simple example... I once repaired a spotlight lamp in a garage. When you operated the switch, it would go from bright to dim instead of from on to off. I found that the switch had been wired into the neutral side. The lamp current was obviously finding another path to ground when the neutral was interrupted. I moved the switch to the hot side, problem solved.
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