Line fault at the outlet -- do I need an electrician?

Yesterday, I got a Panamax, Max 1500 surge protector and line conditioner. (I got a very good deal on it, and am just trying it out.)

I plugged it into an outlet I've been using for a while and one of the red lights on the front lit up saying "line fault." (I'm not sure how this is different from a "ground fault." Maybe it's the same.) The Panamax does not do this with other outlets in the room. They seem ok.

So, I know this means that the outlet is improperly wired. My question is, might this be a simple thing to check and/or fix? Any suggestions most appreciated. It's the only outlet I can use to have my audio set up where I usually have it. Now is not an optimal time to call an electrician. If this is a big problem, I'll try out my gear somewhere else in the room, but if I can fix this without too much expertise, that would be ideal.
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Showing 8 responses by erik_squires

It does sound like your wiring is reversed.... but!!!

It may also be you have a bad neutral.  The 4 volts should be zero. It indicates you have higher than normal resistance on that wire.  This could happen from bad screw connections or bad twist-on connector.

When you finish reversing, check again. If still 4 volts, chase that down.
If your circuit comes from a sub panel, the 4 V may need you to get an electrician.  I'm not sure what the requirements are, whether 4V is OK, but it does signal higher than necessary resistance, and that means you'll be ever so slightly power constrained.
I ran out of time today, but I'm going to
(a) unplug all things on that chain
(b) measure again to see if the 4v are still there

Not really going the right way.  The voltage appears because you have a resistance on the neutral (bad connection or too thin a conductor) along with current (any other devices on it).

Lets say you use a perfectly good incandescent lamp, and you turn it on, and 4 V appears, off, it goes away.  The lamp is not bad.  The problem is the lamp is passing current (that's how these pesky electric devices work), and the resistance on the neutral is too high. Regardless of the device causing it, your problem is the wiring, not the device.



Is this circuit on a sub panel??? If so, your problem is upstream (closer to the service entrance).

TBC: A subpanel is a panel downstream from another panel. Meaning, there’s a panel before it that has a fuse/breaker that can turn off the power to the sub panel.  There is one set of breakers/fuses to a subpanel, but the subpanel may contain any number of breakers.

This is useful since you can disconnect the power to the entire panel before opening it.

Your circuit is fed from a sub panel, correct?  Is the circuit fed from an independent breaker, or is it a duplex?

Also, have you seen any boxes in  between the sub panel and the outlet?


Lastly, does the 4V on the neutral go away when the breaker is off?
A subpanel is a panel fed from another panel.

Like in my old house I had a 200 A main panel, but a sub panel in my workshop. The physical size isn’t the determining factor. What makes a sub panel a subpanel is that there’s another breaker in the house which controls all power to it.

The 200A main panel (techincally service panel) fed a subpanel via a 60 AMP breaker. That subpanel had 4 other breakers.