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Old 05-03-2012, 11:02 PM   #1
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DRYER HELP or Bigger Problem?


I'm new to this site. But would appreciate some troubleshooting. I just renovated my kitchen, gutted and all, finished in the Fall. I did not replace wiring to the dryer, nor tamper with it, to my knowledge. We did have an electrician add a small fuse panel. We did not add more appliances then before, added some lights, but mostly used the room to separate things out. Had a mentor do the wiring, many years of experience, very tidy and careful work, though not electrician by trade. We have a standard 200 amp box as far as i know. The house is 100 years old, but the wiring isn't.

In October my mother in law heard a very loud bang. The electric dryer had been running. She smelled smoke. At the dryer receptacle was molten plastic sprayed onto the wall, caused by overheating at that point, due to I don't know what. I thought maybe I had knocked something loose in the receptacle when i was drywalling around it. I can't remember now if the breaker had tripped. The receptacle and plug were toast.

I replaced the receptacle, I replaced the dryer cord, not the breaker. The dryer worked fine until february, when it stopped heating. I found a bad thermal fuse and replaced it, the very common two pronged white one.

The dryer worked fine until early April when it stopped heating again. I checked all the fuses/thermostats on the back and the heating element, as I had done the first time. Nothing was bad. I checked the voltage coming out of the wall, as I had done the first time, only this time I did it correctly and got a reading that told me to check the breaker in the panel, which had not thrown. When I checked the voltage between the Nuetral Bus and the two terminals on the Dryer's 30 amp breaker I only got a good reading on one of them, telling me that the breaker was bad. While at the box, i noticed that to the main breaker, from where the conduit comes into the box from outside, the nuetral wires are bare all the way up, no insulation, and at the terminal of the main breaker they appear to have all melted together, even a couple small pieces have melted off of the "bundle."

Switched the range 50 amp breaker with the dryer, dryer worked fine, nothing was back fed either. Bought a new 30 amp breaker for the dryer and installed it on Saturday. Also on Saturday we were given a dryer, about 4 years old, same as ours, so i hooked it up and saved ours for a spare, which I deemed still good since it seemed the breaker was the issue. New Dryer worked fine from saturday until today. Now it won't turn on, though it didn't cut out mid load yesterday either. The breaker did not trip. I repeat, no tripped breaker. I just checked the voltage at the wall and it seems to have that same problem where one side of the receptacle gets a reading of 120, and the other a reading of about 5. The problem must be bigger than the breaker. I am not an electrician, I am a welder. I have gone as far as I could on my own. Thank you.
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Old 05-03-2012, 11:27 PM   #2
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DRYER HELP or Bigger Problem?


wow, this post is serious deja vu for me. my brother had this exact same problem -- his new electric dryer began having issues, the receptacle melted and his box looked just like yours.

there are many potential problems here, but before going further, are you comfortable working with electricity. you are obviously a smart guy but your terminology use and neutral question makes me wonder if it is a wise DIY project for you, especially since it involves working inside the panel which is a major step up, from, say, replacing a receptacle. in any case, here are some thoughts and questions.

1. the neutral is supposed to be bare. the corrosion looks problematic. in my brothers case water was coming in from outside and running into the top of the panel. next time it rains, open the panel and see if its wet. the neutral should not be corroded. if its wet, call an electrician. fixing it is not a DIY project (I rewired my entire house and I told my brother to call an electrician as soon as i saw the water). other posters may disagree with me and simply say - stop call an electrician. the two hots dont have the corrosion issue (i would have stripped them differently to have less exposed conductor but i would never replace a panel or main service wire myself anyway)

2. is the breaker for the dryer near the top of the box? in my brothers case it was right on top and water was running/corroding it?

3. I assume the "small fuse panel" was a kitchen subpanel that did not affect the wiring to the dryer?

4. can you visually inspect the wire all the way from the panel to the dryer? if the receptacle blew up the wire may also be damaged. in my brothers case, the electrician fixed the water leak outside and also replaced the badly damaged dryer breaker, wire and receptacle.

5. if you can see the wire, what is the gauge: it should be at least 10-3? take a picture or write down what is on the side of it.

6. use of that 50a breaker waqs oversized for the wiring (probably) and may have allowed even more damage. i know you were just running a test but.....

stop using the circuit until its fixed. dont invite a fire or equipment damage

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Old 05-04-2012, 12:09 AM   #3
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DRYER HELP or Bigger Problem?


Is the dryer fed from the main or the sub panel? Have you noticed anything else out? Did you meter the wires coming to the main breaker?

The corrosion you see is because anti-oxidant wasn't used on the AL wires as required...for just this reason. If that anti-oxidant wasn't used on the wires going to the dryer (assuming AL wire), then you could have a bad connection at the recept.

Another thing to try is moving the breaker to another spot in the panel (on the buss bar). It is possible there is damage to one of the connection points.

A picture showing the entire panel would be of some use as well.

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Old 05-04-2012, 01:24 AM   #4
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DRYER HELP or Bigger Problem?


There is something is not adding right in here and if you can post a larger photo that will really help us on that issue.

And this is actual main breaker box or subpanel ??

Merci,
Marc
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:32 AM   #5
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What is the amperage draw on the dryer? It should be listed on a plate on the back.
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:50 PM   #6
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only getting 5v at the dryer plug sounds like a bus issue in the panel. I've seen it happen a lot in older panels. K_buz is on the money on this one i think. If you check the voltage on the breaker and it's only 5v then you probably have a loose connection from breaker to bus bar. If you've got full voltage there then you have a wire issue, perhaps a screw through it from the new drywall? One time i even came across a panel that the one leg from the meter was only at 1/3 power. POCO had to come fix their transformer.
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:03 PM   #7
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Thanks for all who have responded trying to pinpoint the problem. I do not plan to fix it myself if it is beyond my very basic know how. I appreciate the words of caution. I'm more interested in knowing how to locate the problem.

1. is the breaker for the dryer near the top of the box?

No, near the bottom. I wouldn't think there would be water damage now b/c
I enclosed a porch adjacent to the same wall, but could've been happening, and i will check for this. But, i did inspect it and there are remnants of a mouse in the box, though doesn't appear recent. Plus we have had cats for 4 years here. Good mouse catching cats. Though they obviously couldn't get to one that high up.

2. I assume the "small fuse panel" was a kitchen subpanel that did not affect the wiring to the dryer?

I also assume this, the dryer is on the main panel, not the subpanel.

3. can you visually inspect the wire all the way from the panel to the dryer? if the receptacle blew up the wire may also be damaged.

I can see it only so far....the receptacle is 3 feet off the floor, so I can see where it goes up to the receptacle. It travels about 15 feet from the box to its turn up into the first floor.

4. if you can see the wire, what is the gauge: it should be at least 10-3? take a picture or write down what is on the side of it.

There is no marking on this wire the whole way. I don't know how old that makes it, but it does have that white plastic on the outside. Its fairly thick, 1/8 inch.

5. Is the dryer fed from the main or the sub panel? Have you noticed anything else out? Did you meter the wires coming to the main breaker?

It is fed from the main panel. The two furnace breakers, directly across from the dryer breaker, were tripped. And the pellet stove breaker was tripped and popped off the bus, not adjacent to the dryer. Now, this reminds me that the new 30 amp breaker for the dryer was difficult to seat in the box, though i got it in. I had turned off the furnace breakers b/c i was unseating them trying to push in the dryer breaker, but i thought i had switched them on again, plus, we haven't been without hot water in the now 48 hours since the dryer kicked out.
Does meter the wires mean test voltage? Should i test the voltage coming into the house?

6. What is the amperage draw on the dryer?

It says inside the door - 28 amps, 60 hz

7. If you've got full voltage there then you have a wire issue, perhaps a screw through it from the new drywall?

Not likely a screw through it b/c I used furring strips in that room on top of the old plaster and wouldve been screwing into those... small possibility i guess.

I will upload another picture this evening.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:15 PM   #8
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DRYER HELP or Bigger Problem?


THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON ON YOUR NEUTRAL BAR.

You really should have an electrical contractor over to check it out.
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:44 PM   #9
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if water were entering, say, through the meter box or other outside connection, it would flow in the top and drip (1) down the neutral and out the sides, easily hitting the neutral bar and (2) would also drip on the two hots until it reaches the bottom of the "loop" and then drip down, again, the neutrals are right in that path. notice the corrosion on the nueutral bar is worse "below" where water coming from the neutral would flow down. i have witnessed this first hand, that why im bringing up this water issue again

look in the bottom of the box - is it super rusty?

with respect to the breaker/bus being defective, i would check voltage

1. from each of the hot lugs on the top of the panel to the neutral as a baseline THEN
2. from each of the set screws (i dont know the official term) on the twin dryer breaker to the neutral bar.
compare 1 and 2 - are they different? all should be 120 ish

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Old 05-04-2012, 05:36 PM   #10
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DRYER HELP or Bigger Problem?


Quote:
Originally Posted by k_buz View Post
THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON ON YOUR NEUTRAL BAR.

You really should have an electrical contractor over to check it out.
looks a little scorched to me lol. I don't do alot of resi like my sig says and i definately haven't seen a bare neutral before but it looks like the strands are untwisted, would that mess it up as well.

That panel looks like a two year old took it all apart and put it together.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:01 PM   #11
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The first thing any self respecting electricain would do,
is to fix that suspect neutral connection.
If you are confident to do so,
Fix it first !!!
If not call in an electricain.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:58 PM   #12
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and what is up with the wire nuts? whoever put this in must have decided later, hey, lets move the panel a few feet
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:29 PM   #13
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And what do you think the issue is with the wire nuts?

This could be from a panel change.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:23 PM   #14
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And what do you think the issue is with the wire nuts?

they're ugly?

not going to argue with an electrician. it would be like me bringing a pencil to a gun fight.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
And what do you think the issue is with the wire nuts?

This could be from a panel change.
It's sloppy, and judging from the fact the panel looks like it's an antique i doubt it's been changed. If i did that i'd be ashamed to put my name on it.

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