electrical wiring question

My house is old and the electrician was changing the outlet to a porch light. He determined it did not have a neutral wire in the old box. He said " I have to pull a neutral wire from somewhere". He connected one end of a neutral wire to another outside light about 2o feet away and ran it up the outside wall then connected the other end to the light which the outlet controlled. Is this safe and acceptable?

Moving this to In My Humble Opinion from About This Message Board.

No, this is a good way to create a hot neutral. Here’s the problem: Some day, down the line you’ll want to work on the ‘other outside light’. You’ll shut off the power with the switch to that light (or at the breaker, either is fine), remove the light, open the box and maybe even test the black or red wire to ground and see that there’s no power. After some playing around you’ll grab the neutral wire and, if the other light is on you’ll get a shock.
Not only that, since it’s the neutral wire, you won’t even be expecting the shock. At least for me the first time I grab a ‘hot’ wire in a box, even after checking it, I still kind of expect a shock so if I do get one I know it’s coming (luckily it doesn’t happen often). This is why you should always check both wires to ground. I learned this the hard way, I’ve been shocked by neutral wires.

The Straight Dope Answer is: Your electrician was wrong, he probably didn’t pull a permit, don’t pay him. Find someone that will run a new wire to the panel.

ETA, I’m guessing he’s not an electrician but a handyman.

He has worked as an electrician for years and says he is licensed. I really don’t know.

He connected the wire directly to the other outside light and not into a box ( wire from one light to the other light). Do I need to get another eletrician to pull a neutral wire from the porch light through the wall into the switch box for the llight. Sadly, I live in a county where no permit is required. Thanks so very much for your help.

Some building code is pointless bureauwanking, but most safety, electrical and plumbing rules are for good, established reasons. Whether or not a permit is needed, I’d suspect there is applicable code, and it is in every way your best interest to see that it’s followed.

Pulling a ground from another fixture is not code, not professional and not safe.

Neutral wire. Ground wire from another fixture wouldn’t be an issue.

Hate to nitpick, but I beleive amateur (and I guess professional) electricians should never trust merely turning off the switch–there are other possible miswirings like you go on to describe that could render the lines/fixture still hot.

Personally, I turn off the switch, tape it down so my wife doesn’t turn it on, then flip the breaker, then I go out to the metre is and chop through the main line with a well-insulated axe, just to be sure.

Missed that. Even pulling a ground from an unrelated fixture is a bad idea.

I can’t understand why a separate neutral is required here - light fixtures typically have only an incoming and outgoing switched hot pair, with no neutral run to the fixture box or needed. The only time hot (usually switched) and neutral are both needed is to power an active fixture like a motion-sensor light. OP - is that the case? Or is the new light just a bulb controlled by a switch inside?

I usually take down the utility pole or it I’m doing a REALLY big job, like swapping out an outlet I ghost ride a car in to the nearest substation so the whole neighborhood goes out, just to be sure.

Thank you for saying this…I was sitting here trying to wrap my head around the same question wondering if I’ve missed something.

When you turn on a light, power comes in the hot wire, through the bulb and travels out through the neutral, right. If you disconnect the neutral, the bulb will go out but the neutral will be hot, you’ll get a shock if you touch it, it’ll light up your meter. Right, with me. Now, that hot (neutral) wire is over in another box. Everything is fine when it’s all connected, but as soon as someone works on that other box and takes that bundle of neutral wires apart, that wire from that first box will be live.

The neutral side of the light was probably grounded. Out of the scope of the thread, but ground and neutral are essentially the same.

Sooo…ok still not getting it. How was the fixture functional in the first place without a neutral (or a loop back to the switch) to complete the circuit?

I feel like I’m being really dense here.

Also, the problem can track further down into other boxes. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around, it doesn’t make sense until you ‘get it’, but you can end up getting a shock in another ‘unrelated’ box because of this. Any time that light is on, that neutral wire is essentially backfeeding a different circuit all the way back to the panel.

Right right, get that concept…so grounded to where? What I mean is, by what path if not back to the box? Must be an old wiring method?

Metal box, metal conduit all the way back to the panel OR there is a ground wire and there just wasn’t a neutral wire for some reason or another.

your story is lacking some detail.

the light wouldn’t work without a neutral. what was being done for what reason?

when you say ‘changing the outlet’ do you mean the bulb socket for a bulb or an outlet (receptacle) for a plug in that light fixture?

are these fixtures on the same switch?

how was the wire run through conduit or cable?

Annnnnnd another follow-up!

Wouldn’t that make the conduit or ground ‘hot’ when the switch is on? Sounds dangerous.

Was this ever accepted practice, or was it a mess from the beginning?

If you attach one side of a light to a hot wire and ground the other side it’ll work just fine.

No, in fact, that’s actually how all your wiring is. If you go pop off the cover of your breaker box you’ll see all the neutral wires are connected directly to the panel itself. The ground wires are as well.

I know, mind, blown.

yes it would and very dangerous.