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Old 04-01-2009, 11:25 PM   #1
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Dead 15A Circuit


I have a 15A circuit with four outlets and a light switch. The circuit failed while operating a space heater. The heater was unplugged and the 15A breaker reset. When the light switch was turned on, the circuit failed again. The breaker did not pop. The outlet that the heater was on was replaced and the light switch was replaced. The circuit is still dead. Voltage reads .2VAC with the breaker on and 0VAC with the breaker off. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to fix the problem? The house is from 1970 with grounded outlets. Thanks

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Old 04-01-2009, 11:29 PM   #2
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Dead 15A Circuit


Copper, or Aluminum wiring on that branch circuit?

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Old 04-02-2009, 12:07 AM   #3
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Dead 15A Circuit


All wiring is copper. Thanks.
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Old 04-02-2009, 12:24 AM   #4
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Dead 15A Circuit


Possibly check GFCI's, maybe the heater has a short to ground in it that has tripped a GFCI outlet somewhere. What else does this circuit control? Does anything else on this circuit work?
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Old 04-02-2009, 06:54 AM   #5
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Dead 15A Circuit


Loose wire at a receptacle due to using pushin connections. May be on a still working receptacle.
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Old 04-02-2009, 07:48 AM   #6
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Dead 15A Circuit


Turn the breaker off completely and turn back on. Sometimes a breaker will trip and wont look like it is tripped
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Old 04-02-2009, 08:38 AM   #7
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Dead 15A Circuit


You will find the bad connection at another receptacle or switch on the same circuit. The overload weakened a connection somewhere, then the light was the straw that broke the camel's back. Start by looking for receptacles on the same circuit that still work. The problem is usually in the last working receptacle before the first dead one.
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Old 04-02-2009, 10:22 AM   #8
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Dead 15A Circuit


original panel/breakers from 1970? I came across an old cutler hammer panel from around 71 last week, turns the out the breaker finally died.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a replacement for it at this time, and replacing the entire panel would have been obscenely expensive (was in a bedroom closet too), so I just found another circuit that was hardly used, and wirenut'd them together to another breaker on the panel.

point of my irrelevant story is - try connecting the circuit up to another equally sized breaker and see if the receptacles work, and go from there...
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Old 04-02-2009, 06:01 PM   #9
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Dead 15A Circuit


Thank you all for responding. Three of the four outlets were replaced yesterday. Only the lamp outlet remains to be replaced. After cycling the breaker the outlets were still dead. Each outlet read 0VAC with the breaker off and .2VAC with the breaker on. The breaker was left on overnight and this afternoon the outlets suddenly came on. Nothing was done. One outlet is occupied by a clock, which alerted me to it being on. I tested the other outlets and all are functional except the lamp outlet, which has not been replaced. Turning on the lamp switch does not effect the other outlets. What would cause the change? Thanks.
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Old 04-02-2009, 06:52 PM   #10
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Dead 15A Circuit


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Originally Posted by Coldman View Post
Thank you all for responding. Three of the four outlets were replaced yesterday. Only the lamp outlet remains to be replaced. After cycling the breaker the outlets were still dead. Each outlet read 0VAC with the breaker off and .2VAC with the breaker on. The breaker was left on overnight and this afternoon the outlets suddenly came on. Nothing was done. One outlet is occupied by a clock, which alerted me to it being on. I tested the other outlets and all are functional except the lamp outlet, which has not been replaced. Turning on the lamp switch does not effect the other outlets. What would cause the change? Thanks.
That is quite scary. You need to find that connection, because it is hanging by a thread. Find out where power enters the circuit. It may be at the light box itself. A temperature change or mouse running across the wire could have made the connection. That is a fire waiting to happen. Loose connections can get very hot.
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Old 04-02-2009, 07:12 PM   #11
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Dead 15A Circuit


In this situation, I would leave the breaker OFF except for your testing the circuit.
You may have another receptacle on the circuit that you haven't yet identified. That would be the one behind the sofa, bookcase, etc...

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Old 04-02-2009, 07:36 PM   #12
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Dead 15A Circuit


You need to remove and check EVERY device on this circuit. I'm not sure why you did only three of them.
You will find a bad connection as Inphase suggested. Ignore the .2v reading. With a digital meter you will get some erratic readings many times.
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Answers based on the 2008 & 2011 NEC.
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Old 04-02-2009, 08:44 PM   #13
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Dead 15A Circuit


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When the light switch was turned on, the circuit failed again.
Well....what does that tell you?

Disconnect the light and reset the breaker.

Also, inspect the wiring in the light jbox and the switch jbox. A terminal on the switch could have come in contact with a ground.


Crap...I ,misread. I thought the breaker tripped when the switch was turned on.


Just take everything apart and inspect/reconnect.

Last edited by 220/221; 04-02-2009 at 08:46 PM.
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Old 04-03-2009, 02:29 PM   #14
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Dead 15A Circuit


I replaced all outlets on the circuit using screw terminals. Two had evidence of arcing at the pushpin connections. When I turned the breaker on, the circuit was still dead. In checking the breaker later, I mistakingly threw the adjacent breaker, which caused the problem circuit to come on! I turned the mains off and removed and replaced the breaker on the problem circuit several times and reconnected its wire. The mains were turned on and all is well. Many thanks to you all.
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Old 04-04-2009, 01:16 PM   #15
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Dead 15A Circuit


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Originally Posted by Coldman View Post
I replaced all outlets on the circuit using screw terminals. Two had evidence of arcing at the pushpin connections. When I turned the breaker on, the circuit was still dead. In checking the breaker later, I mistakingly threw the adjacent breaker, which caused the problem circuit to come on! I turned the mains off and removed and replaced the breaker on the problem circuit several times and reconnected its wire. The mains were turned on and all is well. Many thanks to you all.
So, you're saying that you had oxidation on the breaker contacts?
I would check all of the breakers in the panel. If one has oxidation, it's probably not the only one that does.

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