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Old 12-29-2012, 04:37 PM   #1
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Let me ASK the question first, I guess: Does anybody have any suggestions to help me restore power to my outlets?

I have a circuit that I believe I've traced back to the first outlet. The other ones that have been knowingly, visibly affected do not have power after disconnecting the daisy chain coming off the first outlet.

When I put my meter on the black and white wires on this first outlet, my meter's needle budges the same distance, no matter what AC setting the meter is on. (ie, 10v, 50v, 150v, 300v)

When I put my meter on the black and ground, I have ~130v on the meter.

My breaker box appears to have one ground bar, not one ground and one neutral bar. When I check the breaker, with my meter, it registers at ~130v.

I have no idea what is between the first known outlet box and breaker, nor where I can go from here. If there is anything else I can do before I call an electrician, does anybody have a suggestion?


Last edited by AHB; 12-29-2012 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:47 PM   #2
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Call me retarded but what is your actual question? Your post isn't exactly clear. Is your question why your outlets don't get power?

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Old 12-29-2012, 04:54 PM   #3
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Judging from my experience metering other outlets in the house, my meter should be reading ~120v when I touch the hot and neutral wires. Instead I get a slight budge of the needle regardless of the voltage setting that my meter is on. THEREFORE, I am not getting any operable power on that circuit.

As stated previously, touching hot and ground registers ~130v on the meter. The loss of power to these outlets is an anomaly, because we have been using these outlets.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:02 PM   #4
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If you get a reading from hot to ground, the breaker is fine.
If you do not get a reading from hot to neutral, you have a loose or disconnected neutral wire in the circuit.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:16 PM   #5
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So is there a way to find the disconnected neutral wire without tearing my walls off?

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If you get a reading from hot to ground, the breaker is fine.
If you do not get a reading from hot to neutral, you have a loose or disconnected neutral wire in the circuit.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:24 PM   #6
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JBFAN is correct, the readings you measured indicate a faulty neutral on your outlet. The equipment ground wire is independent of the neutral, hence you get a reasonable voltage reading between the hot and the ground wire. The fact that you get essentially a phantom reading between hot and neutral means that you have an incomplete circuit, which is most likely caused by either a severed neutral, or more likely a neutral which is disconnected somewhere in the chain between the first outlet with no reading and the neutral return to the panel.

The problem could be due to a loose backstabbed neutral connection on any of the outlets in the chain, so you need to check them all for this problem. If you have a severed neutral between two outlets in the chain, that can be found by running a continuity check along the neutral wire. This is generally done by using your ohm meter on the neutral with the POWER OFF. If the neutral is continuous, you will get close to zero ohms between any two points. If the neutral is severed, you will get an infinite reading between two points across the severed location.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:30 PM   #7
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So is there a way to find the disconnected neutral wire without tearing my walls off?

==
In all my years, I have never had to tear into a wall to find a loose connection.
Older houses may have connections in the walls, and I know of others that have.

I say that there is a 98% chance that is is in a receptacle box, and not in the wall.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:31 PM   #8
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Did all I could, I'm afraid...


If I understand your post.....

You have a series of outlets that have lost power. You have found what you think is the first outlet in that chain and removed to connection to the other outlets (temporarily). When you measure from hot to earth ground at the outlet, you get 130Vac. But if you measure from hot to neutral, you basically get nothing.

On the surface, it sounds like you lost a neutral somewhere.

Go to your panel.....the breaker that feeds that ckt that your working on has a black wire going to it. Follow that wire....at some point inside your panel it should go into Romex. That Romex should also contain a white and ground. Make sure the ground is grounded (sounds like it is) and then follow that white up and see where it is terminated in your panel.

If it is properly terminated....and you have killed power to that ckt to make sure that is the right ckt.....then it sounds like you have a broken neut somewhere. Without the ability to measure somewhere along the line.....no idea where the break is......at this point, your options are not pretty.

As a last resort before I pulled out the drywall saw, I would pull the plug out and make sure your neut is not broken inside the box.

As a side note.....this is one of the reason pig tails are prefered at the box when you daisy chain outlets. The pig tail lets you push the main bundle to the back of the box and not have to disturb it. Less chances of a wire breaking.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:39 PM   #9
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First, find the breaker that feeds the affected outlets. Turn it off, and verify that it is indeed the breaker in question.

Next, find the cable that goes to the breaker. Make sure the white wire is firmly attached to the bus.

Now, find every outlet that has no power. Mark them with something temporary, like tape.

With the breaker still off, pick a dead outlet. Make sure it has no power, and if it's dead, check resistance from the ground to the neutral at the outlet. The neutral is supposed to be the longer slot.

If it reads very low resistance, check the other outlets the same way. If all outlets read low resistance, the problem is likely in the cable from the panel to the first outlet.

If you find high resistance at all outlets, pick the one closest to the panel. Remove it. Check for a bad connection on the white wires. If all is good, undo the whites and check resistance from white to ground (bare). One of them (and only one) should read low resistance. If not, go to the next outlet and do the same thing.

If all outlets read high resistance from white to bare, then the problem is from the first outlet in the string to the panel.

Note, if the cable at the panel has black, white, bare and red, troubleshooting is slightly different from the first outlet to the panel.

Rob.

P.S. If the wires connect to the outlets via a push-in arrangement in the back of the outlet, (rather than screws), the problem is almost always in the push-in connections at the outlet. This type of outlet is notorious for failing due to weakened springs at the connections.
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
The problem could be due to a loose backstabbed neutral connection on any of the outlets in the chain, so you need to check them all for this problem.
If I understand what the OP wrote, he does not have neutral continuity at the first outlet in the circuit. That leaves two possibilities: (1) the neutral does not have a good connection in the panel, or (2) there is a junction in the circuit at some point prior to the first outlet, and there is a loose neutral there.

I'd start with the panel. I assume that you have identified the breaker for the circuit in question since you've been working on the circuit. (If you haven't, tsk tsk. Figure out which breaker the circuit is on before you go any further.) Find that circuit's neutral in the panel and check its connection at the bus bar. If you see any place on the bar where there are two or more neutrals in the same hole, and the panel isn't listed for that, that's suspect.

The other possibility is a junction prior to the first outlet on the circuit. When you turn off the breaker, does it kill any lights? If so, check the switch boxes that those lights are controlled from. Also, if any of the outlets was a switched outlet, check that switch box. Particular places to suspect are places where four or more neutrals are joined in one wire nut. If there aren't any such places in the circuit, then there is probably a junction box elsewhere in the circuit. You might be able to figure out where such a box might be based on where the identified part of the circuit runs, but it may be buried behind drywall or in a place that is hard to get to.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:28 PM   #11
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Sounds like and open neutral. Follow the wire connected to the breaker in question to the point where it enters the box. Follow the white wire that comes out of that cable and check the connection in the neutral bar. If it is tight then there is an open neutral between the breaker and the box you are test as the first box. Most likely there is another box you have not found yet where the white wire is open.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:29 PM   #12
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ddawg16, you have restated correctly. Additionally, I have disconnected all wires except ground, from the breaker to the outlet and sent a 12v DC current through the circuit's white wire at the breaker box end, to see if I could receive it at the outlet box. No current detected, which leads me to conclude that somewhere in the attic or walls there is a break. Aside from wind storms, I haven't the foggiest idea what else could have caused a break to occur these last few weeks.

I appreciate everybody's comments and suggestions, but it looks like I have been correct in my assumptions and troubleshooting efforts and will have to hire an electrician...

==
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddawg16 View Post
If I understand your post.....

You have a series of outlets that have lost power. You have found what you think is the first outlet in that chain and removed to connection to the other outlets (temporarily). When you measure from hot to earth ground at the outlet, you get 130Vac. But if you measure from hot to neutral, you basically get nothing.

On the surface, it sounds like you lost a neutral somewhere.

Go to your panel.....the breaker that feeds that ckt that your working on has a black wire going to it. Follow that wire....at some point inside your panel it should go into Romex. That Romex should also contain a white and ground. Make sure the ground is grounded (sounds like it is) and then follow that white up and see where it is terminated in your panel.

If it is properly terminated....and you have killed power to that ckt to make sure that is the right ckt.....then it sounds like you have a broken neut somewhere. Without the ability to measure somewhere along the line.....no idea where the break is......at this point, your options are not pretty.

As a last resort before I pulled out the drywall saw, I would pull the plug out and make sure your neut is not broken inside the box.

As a side note.....this is one of the reason pig tails are prefered at the box when you daisy chain outlets. The pig tail lets you push the main bundle to the back of the box and not have to disturb it. Less chances of a wire breaking.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:40 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHB View Post
ddawg16, you have restated correctly. Additionally, I have disconnected all wires except ground, from the breaker to the outlet and sent a 12v DC current through the circuit's white wire at the breaker box end, to see if I could receive it at the outlet box. No current detected, which leads me to conclude that somewhere in the attic or walls there is a break. Aside from wind storms, I haven't the foggiest idea what else could have caused a break to occur these last few weeks.

I appreciate everybody's comments and suggestions, but it looks like I have been correct in my assumptions and troubleshooting efforts and will have to hire an electrician...

==

Did you remove any of the outlets? If not, there could easily be a bad connection at the first outlet in the string. On the older style back-stabbed outlets, this is a fairly common occurrence. And an easy fix.
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Old 12-29-2012, 08:39 PM   #14
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Micromind,

Replacing all the pinhole outlets with new side screw mount outlets was the first thing I did. I replaced (6) outlets on that circuit chain. Then when checking the first outlet, I disconnected the daisy chain to the others so I could more accurately focus on the condition of the line strictly from the panel to the first outlet. Again, when I say first outlet, I mean that it is the first KNOWN outlet or junction that I can find. If there are junctions before that in the circuit, I cannot say. I don't have the equipment or means (patience/knowledge/desire) to locate anything inside the walls or in dark corners of the attic at this time.



Quote:
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Did you remove any of the outlets? If not, there could easily be a bad connection at the first outlet in the string. On the older style back-stabbed outlets, this is a fairly common occurrence. And an easy fix.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Again, when I say first outlet, I mean that it is the first KNOWN outlet or junction that I can find. If there are junctions before that in the circuit, I cannot say.
I would spend your time on being sure of the circuit routing rather than poking holes in your walls. All junctions have to be accessible in a box by code so until you rule out that you shouldn't panic over a spontaneously severing wire behind a wall that has been there for years.

You've checked the outlets you say. Have you determined their exact order in the run? Can you go one by one and disconnect the down stream outlet and see the expected one goes dead and the upstream ones are still alive? You shouldn't assume they are wired in a logical order, check it to be sure. Also you only seem to be looking only at the outlets. Are you sure there aren't any lighting circuits on the branch? Maybe the outlets are preceded by a lighting circuit or two? Lastly even if the circuit is not part of a lighting circuit the wiring might route through another box enroute to the panel where there could be loose wire nuts or junctions.

Be a little cautious about DVM meter readings. Ironically the better the meter the more this is an issue. These devices are very high input impedance. As a result a floating line can have enough inductively coupled signal to false the meter. I like to suggest a 10000 Ohm resistor across the meter for electrical measurement purposes. This will reduce the false readings. Just remove the resistor if doing more sensitive electronic probing.


Last edited by curiousB; 12-30-2012 at 07:37 AM.
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