Forums | Home Repair | Home Improvement | Painting | Interior Decorating | Remodeling | Landscaping


Go Back   DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum > Home Improvement > Electrical

CLICK HERE AND JOIN OUR COMMUNITY TODAY...IT'S FREE!

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 05-18-2008, 07:57 PM   #1
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Share |
Default

Electrical anomily


Some weeks ago we began to experience serious light dimming in our home. The microwave, which seemed to be the strongest indicator of the problem, began to just groan. (Though not a trained professional, I have learned a great deal from friends in the electrical field and from reading. I have also rewired 90% of my home). After talking with a professional who targeted the problem as being related to the ground, I literally took my service panel apart and tightened everything. All my wiring is copper except for entrance and the electric range.

After completing that the problem persisted. Finally I began to check every recepticle systematically and found a defective receptical which after replacing solved the problem.

Yesterday the problem recurred. I happen to have two small appliance recepticles a few feet apart that happen to be connected to separate legs of the service. The microwave is plugged into one. When it began to groan I decided to plug it into the other recepticle and low it ran normal. However when I used it for a second cycle it drew down and groaned, so I plugged it back into it's original recepticle and it ran normal again.

Any ideas where to look?
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2008, 09:42 PM   #2
Licensed Electrician
 
jrclen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: central wisconsin
Posts: 982
Default

Electrical anomily


Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckrau View Post
Some weeks ago we began to experience serious light dimming in our home. The microwave, which seemed to be the strongest indicator of the problem, began to just groan. (Though not a trained professional, I have learned a great deal from friends in the electrical field and from reading. I have also rewired 90% of my home). After talking with a professional who targeted the problem as being related to the ground, I literally took my service panel apart and tightened everything. All my wiring is copper except for entrance and the electric range.

After completing that the problem persisted. Finally I began to check every recepticle systematically and found a defective receptical which after replacing solved the problem.

Yesterday the problem recurred. I happen to have two small appliance recepticles a few feet apart that happen to be connected to separate legs of the service. The microwave is plugged into one. When it began to groan I decided to plug it into the other recepticle and low it ran normal. However when I used it for a second cycle it drew down and groaned, so I plugged it back into it's original recepticle and it ran normal again.

Any ideas where to look?
Bad plug on the microwave? Not making a good connection. I have no idea why your "professional" would suggest a ground problem. Ground has nothing to do with an electrical circuit except under fault conditions. I suspect a bad connection. On the plug, in the receptacle, or a loose hot or neutral wire connection. Your small appliance circuits might share a neutral, so look at that wire.
__________________
John
jrclen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2008, 10:23 PM   #3
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Default

Electrical anomily


Thank you John for your response. The two recepticles I referred to were replaced during the last episode of dimming. (I should also mention that lights all over the house dim at times, and the refridgerator sometimes clicks several times before it starts). I mentioned the microwave particularly because of the strange behavior when I switched back and forth between the two recepticles, which by the way do not share a neutral: One is on a 20 amp curcuit while the other is 15, though both recepticles are rated for 20 amps. Although I am sure it is possible, it seems unlikely that two new recepticles would be defective. They were purchased from an industrial supply hardware store that has a standing reputation for qualty. Both bear the UL stramp. Nevertheless, I plan to pull them both tomorrow and check the connections. I only use the screw connections. I guess it wouldn't hurt to replace the recepticle also just to see.
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2008, 11:25 PM   #4
Registered User
 
Termite's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 6,520
Default

Electrical anomily


Are you sure the microwave isn't the problem? Last time I heard a microwave groan I had to go out the next day and buy a new microwave!
Termite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-19-2008, 05:41 AM   #5
When is fishing season?
 
CowboyAndy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 613
Default

Electrical anomily


Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckrau View Post
Thank you John for your response. The two recepticles I referred to were replaced during the last episode of dimming. (I should also mention that lights all over the house dim at times, and the refridgerator sometimes clicks several times before it starts). I mentioned the microwave particularly because of the strange behavior when I switched back and forth between the two recepticles, which by the way do not share a neutral: One is on a 20 amp curcuit while the other is 15, though both recepticles are rated for 20 amps. Although I am sure it is possible, it seems unlikely that two new recepticles would be defective. They were purchased from an industrial supply hardware store that has a standing reputation for qualty. Both bear the UL stramp. Nevertheless, I plan to pull them both tomorrow and check the connections. I only use the screw connections. I guess it wouldn't hurt to replace the recepticle also just to see.
Just FYI, while you can use a 15AMP receptacle on a 20AMP cct, you CANNOT use a true 20AMP receptacle on a 15AMP cct. A TRUE 20AMP receptacle will have a t shaped slot for one of the blades.
__________________
I DON'T OWN MY HOUSE...
MY HOUSE OWNS ME!
CowboyAndy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-19-2008, 08:48 AM   #6
Licensed Electrician
 
jrclen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: central wisconsin
Posts: 982
Default

Electrical anomily


Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckrau View Post
Thank you John for your response. The two recepticles I referred to were replaced during the last episode of dimming. (I should also mention that lights all over the house dim at times, and the refridgerator sometimes clicks several times before it starts). I mentioned the microwave particularly because of the strange behavior when I switched back and forth between the two recepticles, which by the way do not share a neutral: One is on a 20 amp curcuit while the other is 15, though both recepticles are rated for 20 amps. Although I am sure it is possible, it seems unlikely that two new recepticles would be defective. They were purchased from an industrial supply hardware store that has a standing reputation for qualty. Both bear the UL stramp. Nevertheless, I plan to pull them both tomorrow and check the connections. I only use the screw connections. I guess it wouldn't hurt to replace the recepticle also just to see.
With other circuits in the house showing symptoms, I would trouble shoot the service. You may have a faulty connection in your service. In the panel, in the meter socket, or at the transformer or power company connections. You can start by having the power company check their end up to and including the meter. Then voltage and current readings in the service panel. The heavier loads of a microwave or refrigerator could be pointing out the bad connection and can cause the symptoms you describe. I agree with you about it being the receptacles is unlikely.
__________________
John
jrclen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2008, 04:54 AM   #7
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Default

Electrical anomily


Thanks again John. You are right about the problem being in the service panel. It seems in fixing the problem the last time it occurred, I created this new one. I really appreciate your help.
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2008, 09:35 AM   #8
Licensed Electrician
 
jrclen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: central wisconsin
Posts: 982
Default

Electrical anomily


Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckrau View Post
Thanks again John. You are right about the problem being in the service panel. It seems in fixing the problem the last time it occurred, I created this new one. I really appreciate your help.
You fixed it?
__________________
John
jrclen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2008, 09:22 PM   #9
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Default

Electrical anomily


Well I thought I did. It's better but still not right.

At the last episode I had called the electric company and they came and used what they call the 'beast' to check the line back to the transformer. It passed with flying colors. From there I proceded to go through the service panel.

My panel is a 100 amp, 16 breaker panel. When I did my wiring I ran short so I used three half breakers to pick up the extra curcuits. To make room on the neutral bar I tied several ground wires to one lead. This box has what I assume is a ground bar that will hold only 4 wires. The grounding wire running to the water line is tied to the neutral bar. The wiring had been updated at least twice before me because there is bx and romex and the neutral bar held both neutral and ground wires.

A few years later I installed an electric range so in order to wire it I added a 60 amp sub panel with 6 breakers. There was no room on the main panel neutral bar for the neutral wire and ground so I used a wire clamp to tie the neutral to the main neutral wire, the ground I just cut off. I ran another ground from the sub panel to a ground rod.

When I went through the main panel in search of the last anomily I had quite a managery of wires so when I pulled all the breakers to make sure the power bar was tight I had room to redo all the grounds and neutrals. I needed to double up some so I twisted the neutral and ground together on a few curcuits. I thought sure that was my problem because one of the wires broke off when I was checking them the other day. So I separated the wires again and tied the grounds to a single #10. I rechecked all the other neutrals. When I turned the power back on it seemed the problem was fixed. The microwave (which is only 500 watts) worked normally. A little later the flickering returned and when the furnace kicks on I get a surge, sometimes. Any suggestions? Is there a testing device I could buy?

Last edited by chuckrau; 05-20-2008 at 09:27 PM.
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 08:48 AM   #10
Licensed Electrician
 
jrclen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: central wisconsin
Posts: 982
Default

Electrical anomily


Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckrau View Post
Well I thought I did. It's better but still not right.
On your panels.

First it is normal to connect grounds and neutrals on the neutral bus in the main panel. That is perfectly acceptable. In that panel you should have a bonding jumper from the neutral bar to the case of the panel. And a grounding conductor to the water pipe as you mentioned. Grounds can be doubled up in the terminals of the neutral bus or ground bus but only one neutral should be in a terminal and must be on the neutral bus only. Splicing grounds together with one wire terminating on the ground or neutral bus is also ok.

Now your sub panel. There must be a 4 wire feeder from your main panel to the sub panel. In the sub panel the bond (connection) between neutral and ground must not be made. Also only neutral wires will be terminated on the neutral bus in a sub panel. Grounds must have their own bus. The neutral in the feeder to the sub panel must connect to the neutral bus in the main panel. The ground in the feeder can connect to either the neutral bus or the ground bus in the main panel. The ground rod is useless in the sub panel and must not be connected to the neutral in the sub panel, only to the ground.

I am concerned with the neutral connection for the sub panel in the main panel. Are you sure you have a good connection? Are you sure you have a good connection for the service neutral in the main panel to the neutral bus? Which panel contains the circuits giving you problems? Are the problem circuits on one or both hot legs of the service? Did the power company check from the panel to the transformer? Or from the meter?

To tell you the honest truth, the best testing device for this type of problem might be a qualified electrician. But you might wish to straighten out the problems in the panels as I mentioned first. I do think you are dealing with a bad connection somewhere.
__________________
John
jrclen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 03:43 PM   #11
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Default

Electrical anomily


Sounds like I need to change the title from Electrical anomily to bad wiring job. I hear what you are saying. I will need to add a grounding bus in the sub panel because there is none and then I will run a feed from there back to the main panel neutral bus. I added the grounding rod there because there is none on the main panel and I had room in the sub panel.

The main panel neutral bus did not have a connection large enough to fit the line for the sub panel so I originally had it doubled with the service line connection. Later I removed it from there and used the line clamp instead. Is it ok to double with the service line on the neutral bus?

I am quite certain the feeds in the sub panel are tight.
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 07:50 PM   #12
Licensed Electrician
 
jrclen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: central wisconsin
Posts: 982
Default

Electrical anomily


Do add the grounding bus in the sub panel and connect it back to the main panel neutral bus. Terminate your existing ground rod in this new bus. It will then become your supplemental grounding electrode. Just don't bond the grounds and neutrals together in the sub panel.

You cannot put both neutrals in one terminal. Add-on terminals of the size you need are available for most panel bus bars. I am not sure what type of clamp you are using to connect it to the service neutral now but it doesn't sound correct.

Is your service neutral a good connection? Be very careful to turn off the main before loosening or removing the service neutral. In fact be careful when removing any circuit neutral, bad things can happen to you and your equipment by opening a neutral.
__________________
John
jrclen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-21-2008, 08:51 PM   #13
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Default

Electrical anomily


The clamp I am using for the neutral is a bolt clamp I believe. It is a threaded U shape that the wires lay in and then a type of washer is placed over the wires and then a nut squeezes the wires together. I left that as it was since I cannot imagine how I could add another bus of any size in the main panel.

I added the ground bus in the sub panel and used a piece of the wire left from my electric range to tie it to the main panel neutral bus. I also terminated the ground rod from the new sub panel ground bus. Then I moved all the ground wires leaving only neutrals in the neutral bus. However, the problem persists. I suppose I should consider having a new service installed. I know everything is tight.

This whole thing has been strange from the beginning. I was about to use the self cleaning oven when I discovered it wasn't getting hot. I had replaced the temperature limiter switch some time back and it had been working fine so I decided to check it out. I was using my meter when I touched the heating coil terminals and got an arch which caused the lights to brighten momentarily. After that all the flickering started until I traced it to the small appliance outlet. It was fine for several months until now. The range is run from the sub panel. When this first happened I thought the range had something to do with it but unplugging it made no difference. Turning off curcuits doesn't help either since the neutrals are still tied together at the panel. I guess I wll check the remaining outlets tomorrow.
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2008, 08:43 AM   #14
Licensed Electrician
 
jrclen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: central wisconsin
Posts: 982
Default

Electrical anomily


I think you are describing a split bolt connector. That should give you a good connection for the neutrals.

It still sounds like a bad connection somewhere. Maybe in one of the junction boxes. Hopefully you will find something amiss in one of the boxes. I'm glad you have the panels straightened out. I didn't expect correcting the wiring in the sub panel to correct the problem, but it needed to be done. If everything in the panels is tight, it's time to look beyond them.

The arc you described in the oven could possibly have sent a surge on the neutral making the lights bright for a moment. But that should not have had any lasting effects.

I've worked on these types of problems and they can be difficult. Keep us posted. Replacing the service is a bit extreme. If all else fails, call in an electrician.
__________________
John
jrclen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2008, 05:09 PM   #15
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 8
Default

Electrical anomily


I write software at my job (which I will be retiring from in 71 days), and almost always problems come down to some little syntax error. I thought I would check all the ground connections one more time, but this time I preceded my efforts on my knees before the Lord. Needless to say the service ground connection, which I know I really tightened previously, was loose a quarter turn or more. And that did it! Not a flicker anywhere.

John, I really appreciate your help and encouragement. There is no limit to what we can do when we share our knowledge.

Many thanks
chuckrau is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
What's the ICC Electrical Code? Chuck Electrical 7 02-20-2013 10:19 AM
2 Prong Electrical mjcongleton Electrical 10 04-16-2008 08:59 AM
Please Help - Weird electrical issue affecting home network sxpsxpsxp Electrical 23 02-03-2008 11:42 AM
OK to put electrical outlet into storage area under stairs? melanie_s Electrical 1 12-29-2007 04:09 PM
Code Question: Electrical and plumbing ELurie Electrical 2 08-22-2007 08:55 PM




Top of Page | View New Posts

Copyright © 2003-2014 Escalate Media. All Rights Reserved.