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Old 01-06-2013, 02:26 PM   #16
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


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Originally Posted by braverichard View Post
This is a house I rented our so I scheduled a time to go back and execute the ideas you've all suggested for this coming Saturday. I will be sue to update you all with my findings.
You need to call a competent electrician to go handle this ASAP. As a landlord, it's your obligation to maintain the property in a safe condition. A loose/open service neutral connection is UNSAFE and you may find yourself with huge expenses for damage to your tenant's property or, worse, injury.

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Old 01-06-2013, 02:32 PM   #17
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


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Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
The neutral current will not always be the difference of the 2 legs. That would only apply if all loads were 120 Volt. You can have 240 Volt loads that would not have any neutral current.
Even with 240V loads, the neutral current still works out to the difference between the two legs, since the 240V loads impose equal and opposite current on both legs and can be disregarded:

A panel has the following loads:
240V 4800W = 20A on A and B
120V 600W on A = 5A on A
120V 1200W on B = 10A on B

Current on A: 20+5=25A
Current on B: 20+10=30A
Difference = 5A on neutral
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Old 01-06-2013, 04:12 PM   #18
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


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Originally Posted by k_buz View Post
A competent electrical contractor would have been able to diagnose and troubleshoot this problem. It isn't all that uncommon.
Oh I see... except no electrical contractor has actually worked on the problem. I've talked to good ones that I've been using for years on the phone. I haven't called anyone out yet. I can do a lot of electrical stuff myself and have learned a lot over the years, I've wired entire houses, done new and existing service upgrades, etc, definitely wouldn't call myself a pro as I am always working on my own properties but I thought I'd check by myself first and get some ideas from you all as well.

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Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
The neutral current will not always be the difference of the 2 legs. That would only apply if all loads were 120 Volt. You can have 240 Volt loads that would not have any neutral current.
Nah you are wrong, as mpoulton just explained above. Maybe what you were trying to say is that the neutral would read 0 if all I had were 240V loads??

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Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
If you have a split supply,
the for it to be balanced then you would
need to have exactily the same load on each hot line !
Very unlikely.
To confirm, put an clamp on ammeter on each hot supply,
Good chance that the lower one has more load on it !
The current in the earth line could be due to unbalanced load,
or a bad connecttion somewhere.
Try turning off circuits and see what happens to the meter reading.
And measuring from earth to earth will always give no reading.
The imbalance I was referring to was voltage not current! Re-read my post. The voltage coming in from the utility should be balanced (within reason) between the two legs. You are right regarding current, but that is not what I was referring to. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpoulton View Post
You need to call a competent electrician to go handle this ASAP. As a landlord, it's your obligation to maintain the property in a safe condition. A loose/open service neutral connection is UNSAFE and you may find yourself with huge expenses for damage to your tenant's property or, worse, injury.
I see you state you are a lawyer... well, also to follow your signature, let's stick to construction. I have been in the rental business for years, own too many units that I manage myself and others that I manage which do not belong to me and I know that as the landlord I am not responsible for utility supply issues. I have checked everything from the meter to the house and all is good and secure. I went on the roof and even the connections at the weather head look good. Whatever is causing this is probably somewhere on that neutral along the wire. As it is the ground in the service panel is doing its job.

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Originally Posted by stubie View Post
Bad utility neutral in your service drop to the weather head. Go outside and look at the neutral from the weather head to the transformer and look for broken strands. Your neutral will look like a wire rope. Have you been noticing any dimming and brighting with your lights?
I checked with the tenants and they have not seen anything strange at all. I checked the wire and I didn't see broken strands - I have to admit, it might have been hard to see them anyway.
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Old 01-06-2013, 04:24 PM   #19
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


Quote:
Originally Posted by braverichard View Post
I see you state you are a lawyer... well, also to follow your signature, let's stick to construction. I have been in the rental business for years, own too many units that I manage myself and others that I manage which do not belong to me and I know that as the landlord I am not responsible for utility supply issues. I have checked everything from the meter to the house and all is good and secure. I went on the roof and even the connections at the weather head look good. Whatever is causing this is probably somewhere on that neutral along the wire. As it is the ground in the service panel is doing its job.

I checked with the tenants and they have not seen anything strange at all. I checked the wire and I didn't see broken strands - I have to admit, it might have been hard to see them anyway.
Since I'm not you lawyer, I'm speaking more as a fellow residential landlord and former construction manager. Utility supply issues might not be the landlord's responsibility, but a bad neutral can be either the utility's problem or the customer's. The definitive test is to measure the voltage imbalance at the weatherhead connections, which is usually where the utility's responsibility ends and yours begins. If you measure between the utility's bare neutral and either hot leg at the weatherhead and see a voltage rise when there's a load on the opposite leg, then the problem is definitely at the pole. But if you're seeing balanced voltages at the weatherhead but not in the panel, then there's an issue somewhere in between - like the meter socket.
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Old 01-06-2013, 05:53 PM   #20
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


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Originally Posted by braverichard View Post

The imbalance I was referring to was voltage not current! Re-read my post. The voltage coming in from the utility should be balanced (within reason) between the two legs. You are right regarding current, but that is not what I was referring to. Thanks.
There is a link between the two !
The utility puts in x amount of power to the tranny primary.
So that x amount of power should be avaliable(minus losses)
on the secondary split windings.
So if it is reasonably balanced and not overloaded then the
voltages on both legs should be close.
But if there is a larger load on on side,
this will effect the other side.
With same power in, as one requires more power
then there is less available for the other so the voltage
will fall.

You have to look at it from the angle of "power" not volts
to understand it.

Assuming its not a faulty neutral, then it could just be
more load on one side compared to the other.
And it might not be in your panel, it could be caused
by other houses sharing one tranny (a poco problem).
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Old 01-06-2013, 10:32 PM   #21
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


Quote:
Originally Posted by mpoulton View Post
Since I'm not you lawyer, I'm speaking more as a fellow residential landlord and former construction manager. Utility supply issues might not be the landlord's responsibility, but a bad neutral can be either the utility's problem or the customer's. The definitive test is to measure the voltage imbalance at the weatherhead connections, which is usually where the utility's responsibility ends and yours begins. If you measure between the utility's bare neutral and either hot leg at the weatherhead and see a voltage rise when there's a load on the opposite leg, then the problem is definitely at the pole. But if you're seeing balanced voltages at the weatherhead but not in the panel, then there's an issue somewhere in between - like the meter socket.
Noted. You made a good suggestion. I'll send an employee over to that house tomorrow to go and check that. I seriously doubt there is any fault on my part of the deal (from the weatherhead to the house) because I just had this service re-done two years ago when I changed the panel and I did it by myself so I can fully attest to everything being tightened well, etc. A check on it will definitely rule it in or out.
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Old 01-15-2013, 04:47 PM   #22
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


Sorry for the late response, I've been intending to reply here for a while but "life happened."

We checked the service out, the voltage is perfectly balanced while the power to the entire house is off. Then once we started turning on the circuits one at a time it changed. One particular circuit started sending 3A down the ground and then as more circuits were turned on the amount of current on the ground increased. We also saw flickering of lights on a circuit (call it A) when another circuit (B) is turned on. An electrician checked the connections and said things looked good from the weather head back to the house.

So with that information I called the utility company and reported the problem. They sent a technician out but I have not heard back from them. I called their trouble report line and the person that answered said they have no feedback mechanism, that they would leave a door tag if (1) they need to cut power to fix the problem or (2) everything is fine on their side and the problem is mine to fix. Therefore, she concluded, since they didn't leave a door tag it means that the technician went out to the house and fixed the problem. I contacted the tenants and they did see the technician at the house but they never lost power at all. So now I'm beginning to wonder how they could have fixed the problem without interrupting the power supply. I don't like the way the power company handles this, basically I'm supposed to just accept that since they didn't give any feedback then it means the problem was fixed. The only way I can fully verify the problem was fixed is to go to the house and measure the voltages. Just ridiculous.
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:19 PM   #23
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


Sounds like an bad neutral,
If the current cannot easily return via the neutral line
like it is suppossed to,
Then it is taking a path of two roughly parrallel lines.
IE neutral and earth.

If he found a loose neutral, he could have just tightened it up,
If it is bonded correcttily,then it is at ground potential,
so he could touch it with out getting shocked.

Any way you are right in insisting on an explanation.
Please update us as it happens !
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Old 01-16-2013, 01:41 PM   #24
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


Sounds like you were correct. I just came from the house and saw that they did indeed fix the problem. On the service wire about 18 inches of the neutral wire is now wrapped in electric tape. So it that tells me some of the wire strands on the neutral were broken or separated from the rest of the wire and not making contact so the electric tape was used to fix that problem.

There's now zero current on the ground, total voltage is 241-242V and it is well balanced with one leg reading 119-120V and the other reading 120-121V.

Who knows how long this problem has existed lol. I've owned this house for 10 years and never ever did anything that would have revealed this issue. I only found out about it when I was troubleshooting a non-functional light. Well we can all consider this case closed. Thank you all for you input, I've learned a lot from you all and from this incident overall.

Last edited by braverichard; 01-16-2013 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 01-16-2013, 03:47 PM   #25
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


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Originally Posted by braverichard View Post
Sounds like you were correct. I just came from the house and saw that they did indeed fix the problem. On the service wire about 18 inches of the neutral wire is now wrapped in electric tape. So it that tells me some of the wire strands on the neutral were broken or separated from the rest of the wire and not making contact so the electric tape was used to fix that problem.

There's now no zero current on the ground, total voltage is 241-242V and it is well balanced with one leg reading 119-120V and the other reading 120-121V.

Who knows how long this problem has existed lol. I've owned this house for 10 years and never ever did anything that would have revealed this issue. I only found out about it when I was troubleshooting a non-functional light. Well we can all consider this case closed. Thank you all for you input, I've learned a lot from you all and from this incident overall.
I sure hope not!
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Old 01-16-2013, 06:46 PM   #26
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I hope he did more than just tape it up !
Clean it up or tighten it up I hope !
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:24 PM   #27
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


I hope so too, I have no idea of what is under that tape, all I know is that all is well for now. I can't really issue orders to the utility company, my preference would have been for them to run a new wire if the current wire has any issues, at least that is what I would do if I were them, alas I am not them.
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:33 PM   #28
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Electrical mystery - current on ground!


I'm sure there is a compression splice under the tape ...

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