Every house is most commonly supplied with 120v or 240v, depending on where you are from. Therefore, your outlet, or bare wires, should have a voltage, close to that of your supply. But sometimes, you might measure a low voltage between hot and neutral.
The problem can be due to a few factors, such as a corroded wire, faulty wiring, interruption in the circuit, etc. The solution is different for each issue. However, it is usually a pretty easy fix that one can do himself.
In this article, I will talk about some of the most common causes of a low voltage issues as well as provide advice on how to fix them.
What’s the Acceptable Voltage Between Hot & Neutral?
The voltage between hot and neutral should be equal to that of the main supply. If you have a 120V supply at the main, your voltage between hot and neutral should be between 115V and 125V, if there are no circuits in between.
A multimeter (Fig 1) can be used to measure the voltage between the hot and neutral wires, or an outlet. What should voltage be between hot and neutral? The measurement should be well around 120 volts. If it is less than 115 volts, there might be a problem with your circuitry.
But, you must take notice of the circuit, and where you are taking the measurement from. For example, why would I only have 50 volts on my light switch?
Because switches do not have neutrals, you must measure the voltage across the switch. The neutral wire from the switch to the lamp is linked to neutral through the light, which is basically a resistor, which is why you’re only getting 50 volts. It will read 0 volts if the light is removed.
But, if you are measuring the right wires, and you are sure that there is no continuity of the circuit to other devices or outlets, and yet the voltage seems to be lower than normal, you might need to troubleshoot your circuit.
What Are the Causes of a Low Voltage Between Hot and Neutral?
As stated above, the causes can vary from circuit to circuit. Such as faulty wiring, corroded wires, circuit interruptions, etc. I will discuss most of these causes below.
1. Corroded Wires:
If you are reading a lower voltage between the hot and neutral terminals of your outlet, you might have to open it up and check the wires. If the wire terminals are corroded, they have trouble conducting electricity. This causes the voltage to drop below the normal level.
2. Faulty Wiring:
If the wiring between your circuits is somehow wrongly installed, you might see a voltage drop. It is very risky if the live wire is somehow intervened by another conductor. And has to be resolved as soon as possible.
If you are measuring the wires at the end or middle of a circuit, while there is another circuit operating on the same circuit situated closer to the source, it is only natural that you will see a voltage drop. A common question many people have is, does the neutral wire carry current? Yes, by taking it back into the source to create a complete circuit.
If the circuit you are measuring, is already supplying power to a lot of other devices, it will see a drop in power. And it is normal. But, overloading may not be good for your appliances, as they will have to work on a lower voltage. Which might harm them in the long run, and reduce their longevity.
These are some of the most common causes of a low voltage between hot and neutral. Why am I only getting 20v at my wire connection? The issue might be one of the above.
How to Fix Low Voltage Between Hot and Neutral?
As fixes are often pretty simple. But they will also vary based on the issue. I will talk about how to resolve these issues below.
1. Corroded Wires:
If you do not use good-quality wires, they will corrode over time. And corroded wires are not very conductive. Hence the low voltage. In such a case, you have to replace the entire wire or only the part that is corroded.
2. Faulty Wiring:
In such a case, you must track the entire circuit to ensure that all the wires are connected to the accurate terminals. If not, you have to disconnect the faulty connection and connect it to the accurate terminal.
3. Circuit Interruptions:
If the circuit is interrupted midway by another outlet, or a load, you will read a lower voltage. If you wish to increase the voltage on the same wires, you might have to attach it to a different circuit from the mains.
To increase the voltage in an overloading case, you just simply have to remove the other loads and appliances draining power from the same outlet. That should increase the voltage being supplied to the outlet.
In this article, I have mentioned some of the key reasons why you might have a low voltage between hot and neutral. Alongside explaining how to fix most of these issues.
I hope this article has helped fix any problem you had regarding low power in your hot and neutral wires or outlets. If you are still confused about any of the procedures, or cannot yet pinpoint the problem, do not hesitate to consult a professional.