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For USA, Canada and countries running a 60 Hertz supply service.The ground or "earth" wire is a circuit's safety protective wire that normally carries no current.

It is there to force a fuse to blow or a circuit breaker or GFCI to trip if a fault condition occurs in any appliances, their flexible cords or plugs that are connected into the circuit.

By carrying away the excess current in a fault condition - which should cause the protecting fuse to blow or circuit breaker to trip - the "ground" or "earth" wire protects the building and its occupants because the power should be cut off before anyone gets electrocuted or any overloaded circuit wiring or appliances catch on fire.

The neutral is the normal "return" wire: in systems where the load is supplied from only one hot (or "live") wire, the neutral completes the circuit and carries current back from the load to the power station.

All the neutral and ground (or "earth") wires in a building are tied or linked together at the incoming service main breaker panel. This is the only place they should ever be tied togetherbecause it is "upstream" of all the fuses and/or circuit breakers protecting the hot (or "live") wires for the various circuits installed in the building.

Warning: we must never assume that a neutral is safe to touch: it has to be checked with a voltmeter or a voltage indicator to be sure it is not "live". This is because a neutral wire is designed to carry current under normal circumstances.

So, if a neutral wire going back to the incoming main breaker panel has not been properly connected - or suffers a deliberate disconnection or some accidental damage which causes it to break - then it and any neutral wires connected to it further downstream will go live up to the break because of being connected to the downstream loads which still have hot feeds coming into them!

That is why we should never use a neutral as a substitute for a proper, separate, ground or "earth" wire.


If some external accidental damage or electrical breakdown of the wiring's insulation occurred anywhere to the house wiring, to a socket outlet or to an appliance, these things could be very dangerous if there was no such protective wire.

For example, if there was no protective ground or earth wire, a fault could happen that is of a kind which did NOT draw enough extra current to blow a fuse or make the main circuit breakers on the incoming supply panel "trip" to cut the current off - but the wiring could still catch on fire and/or someone could be electrocuted!

Neutral wires are the return paths to the power generation station for current it supplies to the house or building via single live or "hot" wires in the branch circuits.

For more information please click on the Related Questions below.


Earth (also called protective ground or ground) and Neutral are normally both near 0 volts to ground potential. The neutral service wire is designed to carry current and the "ground" or "earth" wire is designed so that it should carry no current unless there is a fault.

In North American 120 volt single-phase services, earth and neutral are connected together at each service entry and connected to the earth by a stake in the ground or other reliable grounding means. They are not connected at any other point inside the building. The neutral wire ends at the transformer near the building and does not connect back - via the distribution lines - to the power utility company's generating station(s).

In North American Electrical Engineering and code, the terms "neutral" and "ground" are not officially used. The formal term for neutral is the "grounded" conductor and the term for the earth or ground connection is the "grounding" conductor. Since these are easily confused, it is more common to use the terms neutral and ground.

In North America a 240/120 volt so-called "split single-phase service" from a center-tapped 240/120 volt utility service transformer is often used for major home appliances - such as ovens, ranges, water heaters, clothes washing machines and driers, air conditioning units, etc. - which take a high power draw.

They work as follows: the main heaters and/or motors run on 240 volts single-phase delivered from two "hot" wires. (Usually one hot is colored red and the other hot is colored black.)

If they include some low-power devices - such as time clocks, wash-cycle programmers, etc. - that only need 120 volts, the current for them is delivered from one of the above-mentioned red or black "hot" wires. A separate wire called a "neutral", which is normally colored white, is used to send the current from those small 120 volt devices back to the center-tap on the 240/120 volt service transformer.


As always, if you are in doubt about what to do, the best advice anyone should give you is to call a licensed electrician to advise what work is needed.

Before you do any work yourself,

on electrical circuits, equipment or appliances,

always use a test meter to ensure the circuit is, in fact, de-energized.




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โˆ™ 2011-08-25 03:29:18
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Q: What is the difference between earth and neutral?
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Related questions

What is the difference between amphoteric and neutral compounds?

difference between amphoteric solutions and neutral solutions

The difference between a neutral and a grounded circuit conductor?

The neutral is THE groundED conductor in a circuit, whereas the earth ground is called the groundING conductor.

What to do if voltage between neutral and earth is more than 5 volt?

Quality of the earth pit needs to be checked and enhanced. Check the continuity of the earth bus/ conductor, check for improper joints in the earth bus / conductor and correct it. Earth resistance will reduce and the voltage difference between neutral and earth will also reduce. Check also for the loose or floating neutral and correct it.

What is the power line voltage between phase and earth when the voltage between phase and neutral is 220 V and voltage between neutral and earth is 3V?

Phase and earth and phase and neutral voltages will both be 220 volts.

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It will be equivalant to phase voltage

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Why do you get voltage reading between earth and neutral?

You can measure a small voltage between earth and neutral, even if the neutral is grounded to earth, because the neutral conductor acts as an antenna picking up electromagnetic radiation in the atmosphere. -------------------------- If the above answer were true, the earth conductor would also act as an antenna. But the real answer is, if you read ANY voltage between the neutral and earth, the neutral is broken somewhere between where you are measuring and the panel or not properly bonded in the panel. Call a competent electrician to repair the problem.

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What is the power line voltage between phase and earth and earth and neutral when the voltage between phase and neutral is 220 V?

In a typical residential situation there is 220 to 240 volts between the two hot wires that are typically red and black and 110 to 120 volts between neutral and either black or red. The voltage between neutral and earth should be zero.

What is the resistance between earth and neutral?

You measure at a socket, you should measure well less than one ohm resistance between earth and neutral. .my answer: theoritically it is zero

Is there a potential difference between the neutral wire and the earth wire?

i think if its a balanced 3 phase supply then the phasor sum of voltages at neutral point of a star connected system. so the its potential is zero.

Why use neutral grounding reactor?

Neutral-earthing reactors or Neutral grounding reactors are connected between the neutral of a power system and earth to limit the line-to-earth current to a desired value under system earth fault conditions.

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