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  1. #41
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    As others have mentioned , it is very possible this is a neutral wire problem. Check the neutral buss bar connections in the service entrance and the breaker panels(s). The service entrance panel is probably bonded, so call the power company and have them open the panel and check the connection- both there and at the other end of the service drop. Tracing crap like this is a bitch, so start with the simple stuff 1st. Dimming lights, lights that don't suddenly work- been there- it was the neutral connection in the service entrance that was not tight. Good luck!!

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    I know it's a Neutral problem, test I did proved that. I did ask all the questions I could think of but all that I get was they worked OK then stopped!
    I couldn't get on yesterday, we had 2 days of heavy rain, I'm told roads are flooded, trees down and other issues. Lost power a few times then phone went dead so internet was down. About 4pm Sun came out but today we have light rain.
    Licensed Electrician showed-up. Daughter told him what I did and the locations I was testing at. Not sure what he did but when he put his screwdriver in the box I'm told there was a loud Bang and flash of light. I know what the idiot probably did, the outlet in the box was on a different phase so it was at 240VAC to the switch. Then he connected it to the line and the lights went on. Yeah after the breaker tripped he had the 2 lines in series. I didn't do it because I didn't know how many lights were On/Off! I did buy a screw in lamp outlet. Also a light socket with pigtails that way a short like idiot did will only cause light to glow bright! I plan to screw in the outlet in one light fixture and plug in an extension cord, determine which side is to be Neutral, make sure all lights are off then back feed Neutral and turn on lights one at a time to check operation. My daughter told me first floor outlets were wired with grounded outlet and romex with bare wire ground but I did not see many wires in the Breaker panel with ground wired, only wire on Neutral Buss was white with 2 maybe 3 ground wires. Might have been some grounds in the junction boxes but feeder cable was 2 wire no ground.
    Hmm Amp clamp on water pipe, might be a good idea! Though I only have to put it on the wire attached to the water pipe. Not sure if main breaker are tied together but if it is turn Off all breakers on one phase to require Neutral to handle all returns. Might be able to get amp clamp on Neutral from Power Company! Power company Neutral is not insulated.
    The house in question is not out in the sticks but I am. My power poles have One High line and a Neutral. I think all poles have ground stake. Up the road where 3 phase is available the pole pig is wired to one High Line and Neutral, If homes are very close together they share a transformer but not often. As the line goes 1 house connected to High line 1 and Neutral, next #2 and N. next #3 and N. and back to line 1.
    Licensed Electrician said he don't have time to trace the problem! Knows it's a nightmare and probably don't want to get involved.
    I didn't notice but All the houses on the block share a common wall! My daughter said they are separated on the bottom by what is called a Grocery Tunnel, so its 2 houses, tunnel,2 houses tunnel and so on but upper floors have common wall. There are 2 meters on the house and I'll bet all the home are fed with one transformer. Other blocks do not have the tunnel, only way to the street is thru the house. Saturday I'll take a closer look. Probably will have to go back again! Will that wire tracer mentioned to be used on phone line work on power line?
    Last edited by Froneck; 09-24-2021 at 03:27 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Froneck View Post
    ... I'm told there was a loud Bang and flash of light....
    This how the nickname "Sparky" came into being.

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    Was checking the house wiring Saturday. Took my spotting scope 10-50X. Looked at Neutral connection on outside power in. All seemed to be OK. But don't know where transformer is. City block is wired one high line on top of pole. 240VAC and Neutral wired below, all houses on both sides of street wired to 240VAC line. Checked wire connecting water pipe to Neutral buss with Amp Clamp 0.00A Neutral input line 5.65A about right being opposite phases connected to Neutral buss. No Neutral connection problems at Panel box detected. Used better light on Breaker panel, I was wrong, all wire has bare wire ground connected to Neutral as well as white wire except one that is old cloth covered 2 wire romex.
    Bathroom on 2nd floor: junction box is blank covered, about 5 foot above floor, Wall light above Mirrored door Med. Cabinet. Wire in box, one side hot, other side open/nothing. New 3 cond. wire run up alongside return heat duct then fed to switch box then to ground fault outlet via Wiremold. Switch controls light above cabinet. Plugged 3 wire extension cord into GF outlet to test lights and outlet in next room. Determined 3 wire outlet is wired backwards, hot is on Neutral side but ground checked and is (cheat) connected to Neutral but Neutral not connected/open, Outlet not working. Not sure why but when connecting Neutral on cord (Tested Neutral before leaving bathroom by using water faucet) with pig tailed lamp to hot side from outlet GF would operate, tried hot to ground GF operates as it should. Tried to back feed hot into open Neutral on outlet thru pigtail light socket, it to operated GF! Left with more questions than answered!! Changed cord supply light switch open side did nothing, no lights or fan operated but when doing the same in Kitchen I was able to get lights and fans to work but with strange results that should indicate other first floor lights operating on 2 or more breakers. Check another bedroom receptacle that did work before the light problem, both Neutral and Hot not connected!
    Will Triplet Fox Hound telephone tracer work in power line???

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    Quote Originally Posted by Froneck View Post
    Was checking the house wiring Saturday. Took my spotting scope 10-50X. Looked at Neutral connection on outside power in. All seemed to be OK. But don't know where transformer is. City block is wired one high line on top of pole. 240VAC and Neutral wired below, all houses on both sides of street wired to 240VAC line. Checked wire connecting water pipe to Neutral buss with Amp Clamp 0.00A Neutral input line 5.65A about right being opposite phases connected to Neutral buss. No Neutral connection problems at Panel box detected. Used better light on Breaker panel, I was wrong, all wire has bare wire ground connected to Neutral as well as white wire except one that is old cloth covered 2 wire romex.
    Bathroom on 2nd floor: junction box is blank covered, about 5 foot above floor, Wall light above Mirrored door Med. Cabinet. Wire in box, one side hot, other side open/nothing. New 3 cond. wire run up alongside return heat duct then fed to switch box then to ground fault outlet via Wiremold. Switch controls light above cabinet. Plugged 3 wire extension cord into GF outlet to test lights and outlet in next room. Determined 3 wire outlet is wired backwards, hot is on Neutral side but ground checked and is (cheat) connected to Neutral but Neutral not connected/open, Outlet not working. Not sure why but when connecting Neutral on cord (Tested Neutral before leaving bathroom by using water faucet) with pig tailed lamp to hot side from outlet GF would operate, tried hot to ground GF operates as it should. Tried to back feed hot into open Neutral on outlet thru pigtail light socket, it to operated GF! Left with more questions than answered!! Changed cord supply light switch open side did nothing, no lights or fan operated but when doing the same in Kitchen I was able to get lights and fans to work but with strange results that should indicate other first floor lights operating on 2 or more breakers. Check another bedroom receptacle that did work before the light problem, both Neutral and Hot not connected!
    Will Triplet Fox Hound telephone tracer work in power line???

    Sounds like you need to start making diagrams of what is going on, and following wires, checking everywhere and everything. Start by linking as many outlets and lights as possible, to their corresponding breakers. That may show you a pattern.

    You have a situation where everything was fine. Now it is not. If I understand the situation, it was fine , then AFU, in one fell swoop.

    When there is one time where it was fine before, and bad after, the simplest explanation is that ONE thing happened, that caused the problem. ONE wire opened, ONE connection came apart, etc.

    It's fairly easy to look at the crazy results and think there is a big problem. And there could be. But usually after you find the one problem that causes all of it, the whole situation looks too simple for words.

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    I'm sure when I find it it will seem simple. The big problem is the where as the cause is simple. Yes everything supposedly was working OK. But OK is outlets/lights that were attempted or being used. The light over Med Cabinet didn't work either when switch was flipped, being it was near the box that was blank covered that had a wires covered with wire nut, I might checked the wire. One was Hot other had nothing, open to Neutral. Removed the frosted glass shade, no bulb in outlet, inserting bulb worked with new switch. Being it was a difficult place to get to without ladder I went to easier place (next room)
    One of my biggest problems is describing what I'm looking for! With every conversation with my daughter she keep mentioning the possibility that a mouse chewed the insulation and the wires are shorting. My last conversation I had to explain we are not looking for a short but an Open! Yes there is the possibility a mouse chewed the insulation but it would had to be a BIG mouse to chew threw the wire since what I've seen most of the new wire is #12 and knob wire #10. A remote possibility that vibration could have repeatedly caused a short that eventually burned the wire and it opened but repeated breaker resets would probably been needed.
    To add to my misery my daughter has been taking to my son, he will be there Tuesday and thinks the problem is one of the Ceiling Fans! Motor gone bad! Wants to remove fans but I don't mind that since I can check wire in box!
    Unsure of the method of wiring, outlets close to floor and old wire seems short in all boxes opened. Anyone know what the material is between the terminals of the outlets is. Is there any possibility that it could burn open? I know it can be easily broken to separate the duplex outlets so that there are 2 singles. If all the lights/fans are on the same phase plus some outlets the Neutral can be conducting 60A or more being they could be on 3 or more 20A breakers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Froneck View Post
    Was checking the house wiring Saturday. Took my spotting scope 10-50X. Looked at Neutral connection on outside power in. All seemed to be OK. But don't know where transformer is. City block is wired one high line on top of pole. 240VAC and Neutral wired below, all houses on both sides of street wired to 240VAC line. Checked wire connecting water pipe to Neutral buss with Amp Clamp 0.00A Neutral input line 5.65A about right being opposite phases connected to Neutral buss. No Neutral connection problems at Panel box detected. Used better light on Breaker panel, I was wrong, all wire has bare wire ground connected to Neutral as well as white wire except one that is old cloth covered 2 wire romex.
    Bathroom on 2nd floor: junction box is blank covered, about 5 foot above floor, Wall light above Mirrored door Med. Cabinet. Wire in box, one side hot, other side open/nothing. New 3 cond. wire run up alongside return heat duct then fed to switch box then to ground fault outlet via Wiremold. Switch controls light above cabinet. Plugged 3 wire extension cord into GF outlet to test lights and outlet in next room. Determined 3 wire outlet is wired backwards, hot is on Neutral side but ground checked and is (cheat) connected to Neutral but Neutral not connected/open, Outlet not working. Not sure why but when connecting Neutral on cord (Tested Neutral before leaving bathroom by using water faucet) with pig tailed lamp to hot side from outlet GF would operate, tried hot to ground GF operates as it should. Tried to back feed hot into open Neutral on outlet thru pigtail light socket, it to operated GF! Left with more questions than answered!! Changed cord supply light switch open side did nothing, no lights or fan operated but when doing the same in Kitchen I was able to get lights and fans to work but with strange results that should indicate other first floor lights operating on 2 or more breakers. Check another bedroom receptacle that did work before the light problem, both Neutral and Hot not connected!
    Will Triplet Fox Hound telephone tracer work in power line???
    Yes but power off.

    Sent from my SM-G781V using Tapatalk

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    Ground fault outlets, kinda new item for me.(74 years old) I connected them, assume I know how they work but I'm not really knowledgeable in their operation. So I'm asking questions. If I were to connect to the hot side as I did to test other lines will any current flow that does not return to the GF outlet trip it? Supply to GF outlet wired 3 conductor wire to basement via return heat duct opening coupled to other lines in junction box that is wired to Breaker Panel with 3 conductor wire. How can it trip GF if no current flow to GF round ground opening for the plug. How does it trip if I use Neutral side. As I mentioned I was using pigtail lamp socket (pigtail only 2 wires Black/White no ground) Light bulb connection to any of the 3 openings in ground provided extension cord would cause GF outlet to trip. Yes connection to round ground opening should have caused trip. What would happen if GF wired backwards in that ground is connected to Neutral terminal and Neutral to ground terminal?
    Fox Hound tracer connected to line without power, I assume I must flip Main Breaker. There are 8 circuits plus 2 other that I know where it goes local single outlet and Dryer however all others could have common Neutral so I would have to trip all 8 breakers to avoid any AC on the line. House will be quite dark without light due to limited number of windows. Are there any that will trace powered line?

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    I repeat my suggestion using an extension cord plugged in near the panel to allow you to make measurements at different locations.

    Volts and continuity are easy with a VOM.

    This is not that hard.

    Make a drawing of your house with all devices.

    Turn on only ONE breaker and see what is hot and mark the devices, B1, B2 etc.

    When done now look at the ones not connected.

    Check for ground with volts reference to your long cord.

    This is not hard but it will take a bit of time and troubleshooting.

    It will not be quick.



    Sent from my SM-G781V using Tapatalk

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    Yes.... That is the "mapping" that I mentioned earlier. I might do it a little differently, but same result.

    I have no clue how anyone would figure out what was going on without doing that, or something equivalent.

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    Googled GF outlets, found they work by comparing current out to in. (yes I know it's AC and technicality there is no out or in) If they are not equal then GF trips. what I got was as it should be so I can't use the GF outlet for test power.
    Yes I know mapping is required. Told my daughter to bring pad and pencil plus one of those composition pads. (book like pad that's bound with heavy cardboard front and back) A good permanent record to be kept for future electrical modifications or trouble shooting. She forgot so I will be there again Tuesday along with my son. I also told her to bring felt markers so junction boxes can be numbered and connections in the box be recorded. Will also define terms, outlet is outlet, light is light on ceiling or wall controlled by switch or pull chain not lamp plugged into outlet! All bulbs need to be tested to be sure reason light don't work is electrical problem not bad light bulb! I need actual sequence of failure events found that it was not a one time issue. Seems lights on second floor stopped working then migrated to first floor and some outlets that were not being used. Plus one outlet that was being used! When checking outlets I find one that Hot is on the wrong side, Neutral and ground not working. That might be the problem!

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    Son and I were at the house Tuesday. He got there at 6pm and I 3PM. Being he is younger than I and could easily work on outlets few inches above the floor we opened a few outlets. Back fed the Neutral with extension cord and found Neutrals that though were open and connected to extension back feed 2 circuits. There is as I thought either 2 breaks in the common Knob Neutral or a bad coupling. We did find a splice in an outlet box but banging and shacking it did not do anything. Wire can be broken off. However we we able to back feed the Neutral so that 7 of the 10 rooms have lights and outlets that didn't work before. We provided a jumper made with a single wire (Neutral) connected to 2 plugs. A newly wired outlet with new wire directly to the breaker was only 30" away from an outlet not working due to open Neutral. We also found that proving a Neutral to that wire that is spliced 3 wires 2 connected to one supplying Neutral to outlet will feed the other 3 rooms. Due to it being after 11pm and not finding a easy way to back feed that outlet we quite for the day. Licensed electrician will be there today and shown our temp fix. My daughter will call after electrician looks at what we did and has a suggestion as to he he can do to fix the problem.
    I was high bidder on Fox Hound, expected delivery is Oct 1 to 4 and will return if electrician can't solve problem.

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    One way to trace that down is to have a single wire that goes back to the body (ground) of the panelboad and check each receptacle to see if the neutral on that receptacle (or other wiring device) is continous back to the panelboard.

    Red X ever receptacle that either has no continouity back to the panelboard or has voltage on it.

    For testing you want to use a wigger tester that can safely show voltage or continouity.

    When you see which ones have a defective neutral, all mapped out in the house, it will point to where the problem is.

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    I do have a wiggins tester someplace, been so long since I worked on odd electrical problem I'm not sure where I put it. I do put things back in a same place even if it's temporary. Items I use on a weekly basis I can find easily!
    However a light socket with incandescent bulb works good! Managed to trouble shoot the system with it. The common Neutral is hard to map when the neutral is open. Every item in the house must be off. Now that there is a Neutral I can flip breaker to see what it powers. Biggest problem is old knob wire is connected to old cloth covered romex that later was up-graded with newer romex wire with a ground wire. Some walls are solid, others lath and plaster. Original lighting was Gas or at least some gas lighting pipe remains though unused. But Stove, Water Heater and Furnace is city supplied Gas.
    Electricians showed up, my daughter explained what me and my son found and did. After a bit she couldn't find them, her daughter (my grand daughter) said problem was too complicated for them and left! I said to my daughter what do they do all day change batteries in flashlights? Supposed to send another guy tomorrow!
    Common Neutral on all ceiling lights except a few that were put in closets. Neutral that we fed controls lights (2) and 1 outlet on 3rd floor, drops down to end room on 2nd floor end room light and 2 outlets then down to first and is connected to 4 ceiling lights. We did locate another Neutral that when connected to Neutral on extension cord powers 2nd floor lights and outlets.
    Fox Hound is to be delivered between Oct.1 and 4. Will Fox Hound receive signal thru walls?
    Last edited by Froneck; 09-30-2021 at 10:59 PM.

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    Don't know how to change the Title but the problem has been solved. Electricians came and hard wired what me and my son found and made temp. jumper connections in including the 2nd floor that we couldn't do because the only available new Neutral outlet was in Ground Fault outlet. They used wiremold to go on surface and over to the Neutral thru the wall and connected the Neutral supplying the GF outlet. All outlets and lights now work.
    I plan to return to check what was done and to work on the outside lights that were burning out too soon.
    Thanks again Everyone for the help!!

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    While it's good that all lights work, has anyone found the 'smoking gun' yet? That is, the neutral connection that was once OK, and then went magically failed, and triggered off the entire saga?

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    If they ran the neutral over in wiremold, that is really bad practice, and probably does not meet code.

    If they made a new connection for all wires, and ran that over, then OK, sort-of. It's legit, but..... Also easier/cheaper than fixing the original wiring.

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    I will return to the house. Electrician made Temp. Repair so that the Lights work. Problem has not been found and is a disconnection of 2 Neutrals. I assume someplace a junction is bad. Everything before the junction is working but 2 that continue are not connected and as far as I know not being there the electrician did make Neutral only connections. I did find 1 pair of old knob wire, no knob, junction box located within an inch of where the 2 wires enter the floor. However there is a second wire connected to a few knobs that is connected to the water pipe. The other end heads toward the front of the house (pair I mentioned in about in the middle) Knob wire is cut and nothing continues past that point. I can not find location where 2nd knob wire entered the floor or wall. I'm wondering if because it's connected to water pipe it was connected to new wire ground wire and not to the Neutral. My son said wire in 2 outlet boxes had ground connected to metal box but not to outlet, outlet was grounded via screw attaching it to the box as it was years ago.` Might be someplace ground and Neutral is connected that way but it took at least 20 years to fail. All outlets on first floor are new with new wire.
    Fox Hound came, didn't find my AB wiggy yet but did find one by Amprobe VPC-10 but it may just be a lights only version.


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