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Old 03-02-2009, 09:23 PM   #1
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Dead Outlets & Lights


Hi,

I have a bathroom and bedroom with no power. The bathroom is shared by my wife and daughter while we're waiting to remodel the master bath. No electrical work has been done for the remodel, btw. The lights began flickering periodically two days ago and completely went out yesterday. An electrician spent 3 hours at the house today and cannot find the problem.

1) House was built in 1972. Has copper wiring and breaker box.
2) I only know of one GFI outlet in the house, and it wasn't tripped. Outside outlets aren't GFI. I do not know of any other panel box.
3) All breakers are receiving and passing current, and none are tripped. We turned all of the breakers off and back on - no luck.
4) Outlet and switches are properly installed according to the electrician.
5) He checked adjacent rooms to see if a connection to the bathroom was lost.
6) He checked for burned or frayed wiring in the attic and each outlet.

He's bringing reinforcements in the morning, but I'm afraid the two rooms may have to be rewired? Any other options? Anything I can check as a homeowner that we missed?

P.S. - I suspect that the combination of hair drier, lights, and hair straightener might have been a little much for the circuit...


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Old 03-02-2009, 09:42 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by JnWaco View Post
I have a bathroom and bedroom with no power.
The lights began flickering periodically two days ago and completely went out yesterday.
2) I only know of one GFI outlet in the house, and it wasn't tripped.
3) All breakers are receiving and passing current, and none are tripped. We turned all of the breakers off and back on - no luck.
5) He checked adjacent rooms to see if a connection to the bathroom was lost.
A failed wirenut?
Loose terminal screws on an upstream duplex outlet?
Open circuits should be easier to find than short circuits.


Last edited by Yoyizit; 03-02-2009 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:56 PM   #3
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A failed wirenut.

If that's the issue, it's hidden somewhere, which would be bad. He opened up the outlets to both the lights, both the bathroom outlets (one of which still works), and the lights, ceiling fans, switches, and outlets in the two adjacent rooms. In order of appearance:

Room One - all outlets, lights, etc, work, and connections were checked. I saw the guy unscrew three wire nuts myself to check the twist, and each of those he replaced with a brand new wire nut.

Bathroom - one outlet working. One outlet and two lights dead. He checked these connections as well.

Room three - other side of bathroom - lights and outlets also dead.

I guess I should be concerned that somewhere they spliced the wire inside a wall. This house had a remodel, probably mid 80's, and the carpentry work was inferior, dunno about the electric. I've had the house four years.
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:04 PM   #4
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Dead Outlets & Lights


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Originally Posted by JnWaco View Post
Hi,

I have a bathroom and bedroom with no power. The bathroom is shared by my wife and daughter while we're waiting to remodel the master bath. No electrical work has been done for the remodel, btw. The lights began flickering periodically two days ago and completely went out yesterday. An electrician spent 3 hours at the house today and cannot find the problem.

1) House was built in 1972. Has copper wiring and breaker box.
2) I only know of one GFI outlet in the house, and it wasn't tripped. Outside outlets aren't GFI. I do not know of any other panel box.
3) All breakers are receiving and passing current, and none are tripped. We turned all of the breakers off and back on - no luck.
4) Outlet and switches are properly installed according to the electrician.
5) He checked adjacent rooms to see if a connection to the bathroom was lost.
6) He checked for burned or frayed wiring in the attic and each outlet.

He's bringing reinforcements in the morning, but I'm afraid the two rooms may have to be rewired? Any other options? Anything I can check as a homeowner that we missed?

P.S. - I suspect that the combination of hair drier, lights, and hair straightener might have been a little much for the circuit...
Seriously in 3 hours, he should have easily been able to open every single light fixture and outlet box on that circuit and examine the connections. That should have been enough time to trace the wires as well. You need to trace the wires device to device and identify the point of failure. You can test this yourself with a meter than is less than $20. It is much easier if you also buy a tone generator for around $50. I can give more detailed direction if you want to proceeded with testing on your own.

A house from 1972 should have all modern wiring. It should all be romex with ground. There should be no reason to replace it unless there was physical damage to the cables.

Unless there is some big piece of the puzzle here we are missing, a rewire is completely unnecessary.

I would suggest you buy all new outlets, and new light switches for these rooms and replace all the current ones. Also but a bag of Ideal Tan wire nuts.

Well, let me know what your interested in doing and I can give you more help.
Jamie
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by JnWaco View Post
If that's the issue, it's hidden somewhere, which would be bad. He opened up the outlets to both the lights, both the bathroom outlets (one of which still works), and the lights, ceiling fans, switches, and outlets in the two adjacent rooms. In order of appearance:

Room One - all outlets, lights, etc, work, and connections were checked. I saw the guy unscrew three wire nuts myself to check the twist, and each of those he replaced with a brand new wire nut.

Bathroom - one outlet working. One outlet and two lights dead. He checked these connections as well.

Room three - other side of bathroom - lights and outlets also dead.

I guess I should be concerned that somewhere they spliced the wire inside a wall. This house had a remodel, probably mid 80's, and the carpentry work was inferior, dunno about the electric. I've had the house four years.
You can make educated guesses about where hidden splices may be located with a tone generator and probe. If that is the problem...

If there is a hidden splice, cut open the wall in that area with a rotozip to a double gang size, and either install another outlet or put a blank cover plate on it.

Jamie
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:44 PM   #6
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You can make educated guesses about where hidden splices may be located with a tone generator and probe. If that is the problem...

If there is a hidden splice, cut open the wall in that area with a rotozip to a double gang size, and either install another outlet or put a blank cover plate on it.

Jamie

I managed to figure out my multimeter easily enough to test the switches and outlets (normally use it for wiring guitars)...

I'll check into a tone generator if that will help. I don't know the layout of the circuitry, i.e. wire goes to point A, then point B, etc. Just know where the power works and doesn't work. Problem seems to be from the bathroom and extends away from the breaker box, leading me to believe that there's simply one bad connection. We just missed it.

I'm going to go do some reading, but what's a tone generator?
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:41 PM   #7
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I managed to figure out my multimeter easily enough to test the switches and outlets (normally use it for wiring guitars)...

I'll check into a tone generator if that will help. I don't know the layout of the circuitry, i.e. wire goes to point A, then point B, etc. Just know where the power works and doesn't work. Problem seems to be from the bathroom and extends away from the breaker box, leading me to believe that there's simply one bad connection. We just missed it.

I'm going to go do some reading, but what's a tone generator?
It is easy to find what goes from point a to point b. Use a continuity tester, with all the wires disconnected (and hanging loose from all boxes), and the power off (because it is likely live at some junction box) attach the continuity meter to the white and black wires in one box. Go to the other boxes and touch together the white and black wires until you have continuity. Repeat. In a hour you will know right where everything runs, but this may or may not reveal damaged wires buried in the walls. You may find a set of wires that has continuity right away when you put the meter on it, this is your bad wire / connection.

This one is very similar to what I use.

http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/...ctId=100341451

I know there are cheaper ones out there, but if the $89 doesn't bother you, I would just buy this one, I know it works. I am guessing you have already throw some $$$ at this electrician for his time.

Always use on circuits that are off. Always clip one lead to black and one to white. Turn it to on. Use the probe with the button pressed down, it will make a annoying siren noise. Run it along the wall, listen careful for changes. You will learn to tell where the wire is in the wall to a great degree of accuracy. Also, where the wire terminates or splices will be much louder than other areas of the wire, hence you end up being able to find buried spices or damaged wire with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

imo, this is pretty basic stuff, the electrician should easily and quickly be able to do this kind of traceing / tracking.

Remember there could be a junction box in the attic also, that is completely legit, but could be hard to locate. The tone generator and probe will get you really close.

Glad to help more, let me know. I can even shoot a quick video showing you how to trace wires with a tone generator and probe if you have any problems with it.

Jamie
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Old 03-03-2009, 06:46 AM   #8
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I would suggest you buy all new outlets, and new light switches for these rooms and replace all the current ones. Also but a bag of Ideal Tan wire nuts.
I've heard this repeated a few times. What is better about the tan wire nuts?
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Old 03-03-2009, 06:59 AM   #9
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Do you have aluminum wire? A lot of homes from 1965 to 1975 had aluminum wiring. It is a fire hazard with regular nuts.
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Old 03-03-2009, 09:13 AM   #10
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Well, they found it this morning. Apparently the guy out yesterday was a little on the green side, and didn't use the right equipment (i.e. tone generator). Wife was at home this morning when they came and the older guy found the problem in 5 minutes.

There was an electrical outlet - 50 feet away from the problem area - that had to hot wires screwed to one screw post and it finally fried. The wife said the outlet and wires were black. This outlet has been untouched for 4 years and was wired that way. I take it we were fortunate that nothing ever caught fire.

The electricians said that we would not be charged for yesterday's unsuccessful attempt, so no harm done. I couldn't imagine the bill being over $100 for a 10 minute fix. And maybe the new guy learned something he can use in the future.
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Old 03-03-2009, 10:06 AM   #11
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I've heard this repeated a few times. What is better about the tan wire nuts?
Easy to twist on, accept a wide range of wires, grabs and holds well to the wires. I have other nuts I like better for most stuff but they are ecpensive andhard to find.
Jamie
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Old 03-03-2009, 10:08 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by JnWaco View Post
Well, they found it this morning. Apparently the guy out yesterday was a little on the green side, and didn't use the right equipment (i.e. tone generator). Wife was at home this morning when they came and the older guy found the problem in 5 minutes.

There was an electrical outlet - 50 feet away from the problem area - that had to hot wires screwed to one screw post and it finally fried. The wife said the outlet and wires were black. This outlet has been untouched for 4 years and was wired that way. I take it we were fortunate that nothing ever caught fire.

The electricians said that we would not be charged for yesterday's unsuccessful attempt, so no harm done. I couldn't imagine the bill being over $100 for a 10 minute fix. And maybe the new guy learned something he can use in the future.
Glad to hear it worked out so well and you were not overcharged.
Jamie
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:02 AM   #13
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Easy to twist on, accept a wide range of wires, grabs and holds well to the wires. I have other nuts I like better for most stuff but they are ecpensive andhard to find.
Jamie
I like to use the GB red wire nuts. They grab pretty good and cut into the wires nice and tight. Not to mention, are easy to twist on.
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Old 03-03-2009, 11:05 AM   #14
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I like to use the GB red wire nuts. They grab pretty good and cut into the wires nice and tight. Not to mention, are easy to twist on.
Scotchlocks are a favorite for most things, Red's work very well for most 12 gage work. I'm not as big of a fan of the scotch's for 14 work. I have had good sucess with joining a 14 to stranded with a yellow, but alot of the time I will use a insulated crimp on for a fixture connection. Or will go back to an ideal tan for 14 gage work.
Sometimes the scotchlocks do take a bit of effort to put on.

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Old 03-03-2009, 11:08 AM   #15
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Scotchlocks are a favorite for most things, Red's work very well for most 12 gage work. I'm not as big of a fan of the scotch's for 14 work. I have had good sucess with joining a 14 to stranded with a yellow, but alot of the time I will use a insulated crimp on for a fixture connection. Or will go back to an ideal tan for 14 gage work.
Sometimes the scotchlocks do take a bit of effort to put on.

Jamie

I heard scotchlocks will not come off very easy.

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