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Definition of Neutral in Electricity

The neutral in the electrical system shows a reference point in the electrical distribution system. The conductors that are connected to the neutral are generally those that do not carry current, sized to handle momentary faults, called short circuits, that occur in electrical equipment.

With the advent of non-linear loads, such as computers, electronic lighting, televisions, VCRs and other switching mode power conversion equipment, the requirements for the neutral conductor have increased. The neutral line is only that part of the distribution network that returns power that has left the transmission lines through a phased line to operate on an electrical load.

Neutral lines have zero potential relative to the ground, which means that, ideally, they do not pose a discharge risk (but a good safety practice is always a good idea). This is because neutral lines are wires connected deep in the ground. That means that the neutral side of the output would carry most of the electrical energy directly to the ground and very little current would pass through a person touching the device.

When we talk about the role of the neutral wire in a circuit we can see that once the hot wire has initialized the beginning of a circuit, there must be another wire to complete the circuit. This role is occupied by a neutral wire. The neutral wire takes the circuit back to the original power source.

More specifically, the neutral wire carries the circuit to ground or to a busbar usually connected to the electrical panel. This allows currents to flow through your electrical system, allowing electricity to be fully utilized. In addition, this prevents defective or excessive currents from residing in your outlet.

Neutral wires are identified by their white or gray housing. Although they do not always carry an electrical current, they should be handled as carefully as the hot wire. In any electrical circuit, two wires are needed to complete any circuit. One is called the “hot wire” and the other is called the “neutral” or “grounded” wire. Sometimes the neutral wire is called the ground wire. It is more correctly referred to as a “grounded neutral conductor,” but most often it is referred to as “the neutral” or “the ground wire.

Since the neutral or ground wire is a necessary part of the electrical route, grounded wires carry electrical current under normal operating conditions. The neutral does not carry electricity in normal circuit operations. Its purpose is to carry electrical current only under short circuit or other conditions that could be dangerous.

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