Question about IDEAL Vol-Con Xl Voltage/Continuity Tester

# When we measure from hot to neutral we get between 40 & 50 Volts

I am assisting my sister and her husband with some fix-it problems. When we measure from hot to neutral, or ground, we get between 40 and 50 volts on a receptacle we are testing on an enclosed patio where they have not had power since they bought the house in 2006.

The house wiring is a mix of old two wire service without ground and current three wire service with ground. The breaker box is a mess. I am concerned for their safety.

I am looking for the wiring logic that would show only 40 to 50 volts on a circuit. There are also other examples of low voltage readings at other locations in the house.

Our friends at Lowes, Home Depot and Menards have been of little help other than an open neutral or ground. To my understanding, if there is no ground or neutral, there is no circuit and no voltage.

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This is "phantom voltage." To be sure of this you can try shorting the hot with the ground. Should not short. The voltage isn't dangerous. It often happens when two hot wires are in the same cable. For example a 12/3 romex with a shared neutral. When one hot wire is turned off and the other is still energized, voltage can leak from one wire to the other, causing a reading of 50 or so volts on the non powered wire.

Posted on Nov 24, 2009

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I would recommend checking the meter to make sure it's set for AC. If it is set on DC the meter will show an inaccurate reading. There are polarity testers available @ places like home depot, etc. it's usually a small yellow plastic block with 3 LEDs showing hot, neutral & ground with "prongs" so it can be plugged into any wall plug. it's a quick & easy way to find out the status of an outlet.

Posted on Nov 17, 2009

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