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Old 09-29-2012, 06:54 PM   #1
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Ceiling heat repair question


A few years ago I accidently cut in to my ceiling heat wire trying to hang a fixture. I was able to fix the wire by splicing the two ends back together using a copper wire(might not of been copper) with 2 wire nuts on each end. I then re-plastered over it. The heat works fine now and has for about 3 years. However, i'm concerned about my repair and as to whether it may cause a problem in the future...? How big of a risk is there for fire? How can I fix this properly if need be?

(The house was built sometime in the 70's/early 80's. The ceiling heat runs on 220, and has its own dedicated breaker. It is a thin wire wrapped in insulation that is ran across the ceiling in a snake like pattern in the ceiling plaster. There are 2 layers of drywall behind it.)

thankyou


Last edited by matthewcoy; 09-29-2012 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 09-29-2012, 07:42 PM   #2
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Ceiling heat repair question


Fess up, this is a joke, right?

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Old 09-29-2012, 08:04 PM   #3
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Ceiling heat repair question


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Originally Posted by matthewcoy View Post
A few years ago I accidently cut in to my ceiling heat wire trying to hang a fixture. I was able to fix the wire by splicing the two ends back together using a copper wire(might not of been copper) with 2 wire nuts on each end. I then re-plastered over it. The heat works fine now and has for about 3 years. However, i'm concerned about my repair and as to whether it may cause a problem in the future...? How big of a risk is there for fire? How can I fix this properly if need be?

(The house was built sometime in the 70's/early 80's. The ceiling heat runs on 220, and has its own dedicated breaker. It is a thin wire wrapped in insulation that is ran across the ceiling in a snake like pattern in the ceiling plaster. There are 2 layers of drywall behind it.)

thankyou
If this is a serious post, well then you have committed one of the biggest electrical faux pas that there is. Installations like that are why the code book exists in the first place.

Your options are to re-pull the wire so you are able to use proper accessible junction boxes or to put two junction boxes that are accessible in your plaster ceiling. Considering your past work, I would suggest you call a professional electrician on this one.
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:10 PM   #4
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Ceiling heat repair question


It's pretty bad if your repair was to a supply wire for the heating. Especially bad if the repair was to a resistive heating portion of te system.
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:05 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AltaSparky View Post
If this is a serious post, well then you have committed one of the biggest electrical faux pas that there is. Installations like that are why the code book exists in the first place.

Your options are to re-pull the wire so you are able to use proper accessible junction boxes or to put two junction boxes that are accessible in your plaster ceiling. Considering your past work, I would suggest you call a professional electrician on this one.

Well, i'm glad I asked then. I'll get an electrician over here next week. I still don't see how a fire could start if the wires and the nuts are insulated in the plaster though..? I like science, please explain..

Last edited by matthewcoy; 09-29-2012 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:41 PM   #6
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Ceiling heat repair question


Quote:
Originally Posted by AltaSparky View Post
If this is a serious post, well then you have committed one of the biggest electrical faux pas that there is. Installations like that are why the code book exists in the first place.

Your options are to re-pull the wire so you are able to use proper accessible junction boxes or to put two junction boxes that are accessible in your plaster ceiling. Considering your past work, I would suggest you call a professional electrician on this one.
I think you may misunderstand slightly. The wire he cut isn't the supply wire to the ceiling heat. These old ceiling heat systems have radiant heating wire throughout the ceiling. He cut the actual resistive heating wire. There is no way to install a box to repair it. My understanding is that if these old ceiling heat systems are damaged there is no approved field repair. It's like a radiant floor system - if you break it, you're screwed.

To the OP: the reason it is dangerous to repair the heating wire is because the connections between the heating wire and anything else tend to have higher resistance than the wire itself, so there is extra heat produced at the junction. The heat makes the connection expand and contract as the power cycles on and off, which leads to it becoming looser over time, which makes it heat up more, which makes it even looser, etc. It's a self-accelerating process that leads to the connection getting extremely hot and possibly starting a fire.
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by mpoulton View Post
I think you may misunderstand slightly. The wire he cut isn't the supply wire to the ceiling heat. These old ceiling heat systems have radiant heating wire throughout the ceiling. He cut the actual resistive heating wire. There is no way to install a box to repair it. My understanding is that if these old ceiling heat systems are damaged there is no approved field repair. It's like a radiant floor system - if you break it, you're screwed.

To the OP: the reason it is dangerous to repair the heating wire is because the connections between the heating wire and anything else tend to have higher resistance than the wire itself, so there is extra heat produced at the junction. The heat makes the connection expand and contract as the power cycles on and off, which leads to it becoming looser over time, which makes it heat up more, which makes it even looser, etc. It's a self-accelerating process that leads to the connection getting extremely hot and possibly starting a fire.

This is the response I was looking for, thankyou. Might I also note that before I plastered the wire back into the ceiling, that for a few weeks I payed close attention to the splices I made. A few times I put my hand up to it and I never felt any sort of heat coming from the splices, if any at all. The heating element wire is a thin single conductor, so is the wire that I connected the splices to with wire nuts. I don't know if that makes any difference in things.

If the ceiling heat is rendered too unsafe to use, what are my heating options for a 12x24ft room with an 8ft ceiling?

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Old 10-10-2012, 04:50 PM   #8
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Ceiling heat repair question


Matthew, I think your approach is very appropriate - you mention that you checked the join carefully and it did not feel like it was heating up.

I have seen several instruction manuals that mention repairing floor or ceiling radiant wires when they break or are severed; and it seems that as long as you assure the connection is solid and then re-bury it in plaster there are no problems. Remember, the plaster (or cement, in the case of a floor) provides a lot of thermal mass to dissipate the heat without hot spots.

My problem is different. I didn't cut the wire, it broke due to some settlement of my house.

Does anyone know of equipment or a procedure I can use to locate the break? I've not been able to find anything online about how to find the exact spot to dig for the broken radiant wire.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

JH, Indiana, USA
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:06 PM   #9
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Ceiling heat repair question


If it's ceiling heat (not floor), you may be able to use a non-contact voltage tester to detect the break. If it's a 240V circuit you'll need to disconnect one hot wire and connect it to neutral instead for testing (essentially making it a 120V circuit). That way one side of the break is hot, and the other side is at earth potential. Running the tester over the ceiling should allow you to follow the heating wire on the hot side of the break until you determine where the hot wire ends. That's where the break is. I don't think this would work for floor heat though, because floor heat cable is coaxial with a neutral shield.
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Old 10-10-2012, 09:26 PM   #10
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Ceiling heat repair question


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Originally Posted by mpoulton View Post
If it's ceiling heat (not floor), you may be able to use a non-contact voltage tester to detect the break. If it's a 240V circuit you'll need to disconnect one hot wire and connect it to neutral instead for testing.

I have one thermostat that was pulled years ago from an unused room, and all I can see in the box behind the thermostat is a tangle of black and white wire.
The home was built in 1968. What color wires represent what part of the circuit? I have no experience with 240V in a home system, although I did do some three-phase wiring once on an industrial job.

So I guess I'm a novice, with a good set of well-insulated tools and some common sense.

Can anyone walk me through the process of testing a ceiling radiant circuit?
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Old 12-24-2012, 02:31 PM   #11
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Ceiling heat repair question


OK - Here's where I'm at.

I found one break, but still am getting very weak/high resist or infinite resistance. I'm going to build a little faraday cage to help isolate the toner signal.

Easy Peasy on the repair - I'm starting to enjoy this stuff (all the right equip that I ordered and learned how to use + the challenge). Now at least the whole ceiling radiates the tone... so I'm going to start checking the up wires, etc.

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