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Old 02-03-2012, 07:46 AM   #1
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


Hi. I am in the process of installing a new service panel in an old house. The old service is 100 amp w/circuit breakers and I am replacing it with a new 100amp box. I am using the electric from the old box until I schedule a disconnect/reconnect with the electric company and get my inspector out there. The other day when I was wiring a receptacle, I caused a dead short (I powered up a circuit when a neutral and hot wire were touching each other). Immediately, the entire house lost power for about a minute. Without me doing anything, the power came back on. I went to the old service panel and no circuit breaker was tripped. However, since that time, I have had a severe voltage drop everywhere in the house. In fact, I can't use my air compressor because there is not enough juice to fire it up. The lights work but dim whenever I run a power tool...I am thinking that something was damaged in the main breaker? I have basically 2 questions. 1) any ideas about what happened that is causing the brown out? 2) Can I jump the power from the main leads on the existing service panel to the new leads on the new service panel until I can get the power company to do the disconnect/reconnect?

Thanks,

Tom

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Old 02-03-2012, 07:52 AM   #2
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


Now would be a good time to do what you should have done in the first place all a licenced electriion to do this for you before you burn the house down or get killed.

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Old 02-03-2012, 07:58 AM   #3
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


Thanks for the advice Joe. While certainly not a professional electrician, I have performed all the electrical work on 6 or 7 complete houses including service panels, meter sockets, etc. All of it has been inspected by independent inspection companies. Was just looking for some advice regarding this particular problem.
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Old 02-03-2012, 08:18 AM   #4
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


I am all for the DIY thing but if you are turning circuits on when hot and neutral wires are touching then you are just smart enough to be dangerous.

It sounds like when you caused that short there was a loose wire somewhere that probably arched and is now not conducting like it should and I would not be surprised it is getting really hot.

This could be anywhere from the service drop to the main panel. If you are really dead set on doing this you should have the power company cut your power at the pole and check all the connections take them apart clean them and replace wires that are bad.
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:26 AM   #5
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


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I am all for the DIY thing but if you are turning circuits on when hot and neutral wires are touching then you are just smart enough to be dangerous.

It sounds like when you caused that short there was a loose wire somewhere that probably arched and is now not conducting like it should and I would not be surprised it is getting really hot.

This could be anywhere from the service drop to the main panel. If you are really dead set on doing this you should have the power company cut your power at the pole and check all the connections take them apart clean them and replace wires that are bad.
Accidents happen guys,ive had to fix plenty of screwups caused by other licensed electricians over the years.
Calling somebody smart enough to be dangerous isnt going to help the situation any.
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:30 AM   #6
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


Start at the panel and start checking for voltage drops on each circuit,then work your way through the rooms checking for burned wires.
Thats what I or any other electrician would have to do if you called us out there
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Old 02-03-2012, 12:27 PM   #7
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


Most likely one of the two hot lines coming in from the utility pole has gone out.

Next most likely, the neutral has gone out.

Start at the panel. Tighten up all of the screws and set screws holding wires in place (except the huge lugs with the fat wires coming in from the meter). For each breaker, flip it off before tightening its screw where the wire is attached. Inspect the big lugs for oveheating or burning or unusual oxidation (an experienced person should do any tightening or repairing of these.)

Second: Turn off all 240 volt breakers (including water heater if applicable)

Third: Do voltage tests between neutral and breaker screws (several one at a time) while someone upstairs turns a hair dryer on and off between tests. Do any tests show a steady 120 volts? Any show noticeably more than 120 volts when the hair dryer is turned on?
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Old 02-03-2012, 12:38 PM   #8
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


Put a light load on an outlet, say 5A/600W, and measure the voltage drop at several points between the panel and the outlet as you switch the load on and off.

For good wiring: at the panel you should see about a 0.1 volt change and at the downstream end you should see about a 2 v change, depending on if you have #14 or #12, AWG.

When you start seeing bigger changes than these you are just downstream of the high resistance connection.


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Old 02-03-2012, 12:48 PM   #9
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


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However, since that time, I have had a severe voltage drop everywhere in the house.
This is a serious problem and potential fire hazard. Not just an inconvenience. If the voltage drop is on all circuits in the house then there is a conductor or junction somewhere on the panel or feeders with a voltage drop. Voltage times current equals power in watts and this is how much heat is being given off at that location. If your aggregate draw is 50A and you have say 40V of drop then you are generating 2000W at that fault location. It will be very hot!!

You better not leave this situation alone too long. It seems you're in over your head. Admit defeat and get an expert in before you have a fire and your insurance company denies coverage for unauthorized electrical work....
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Old 02-03-2012, 02:07 PM   #10
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


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If your aggregate draw is 50A and you have say 40V of drop then you are generating 2000W at that fault location. It will be very hot!!
Glad to see you again, Mr. B! (I'm lying ).

Since the overfull box dustup I've been thinking about bad connections.

I once found a bad wirenut install that was dissipating 5W and I can imagine this fault was stable - it would not have eventually failed to a short, nor would it have failed to an open. But this is a sample of only one.
5W expended in a volume with the surface area of a wirenut would be slightly too hot to touch.

But with more power, say a wirenut or other connection that dissipates several hundred watts in a small volume with a small surface area, this connection would probably be unstable in that it would soon fail (by melting) to an open circuit or a short circuit.

I don't fight with these bad connection problems very often.
What is the experience of electricians on this forum? Measurements are especially welcome.

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Old 02-03-2012, 05:42 PM   #11
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


My sister had a similar problem at one of her homes was fine with the lights and everything running and she decided to get a dryer and shortly after she started using it all the lights got really dim and lost just about all power. the main panel got so hot it melted some of the plastic around the hot and neutral wire lugs it was also so hot that when they cooled I could not even loosen up the lugs. Ended up being a bad neutral wire.
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Old 02-03-2012, 07:06 PM   #12
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


This would be the point at which I called an electrician. Question, perhaps stupid one, if the circuit that has the bad connection was protected with an afci, woukd it trip? would this be the type of circumstance that afci's were designed for?
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Old 02-03-2012, 07:12 PM   #13
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


You could have the power company come and pull your meter so you can check all the connections would also not hurt to check them for resistance too.

Removing the wires one at a time checking them out and adding some ox guard would help.
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Old 02-04-2012, 03:21 AM   #14
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


I appreciate all the advice guys. Really do. I actually removed all the breakers on the old panel except one and still have the problem - even when I switch out the breaker and circuit there is still a voltage drop. Seems I have isolated the problem to the main breaker, or the main feeds that feed that breaker. Question -If the ground was poor that serves that service panel, would that possibly cause the brown out? I have installed a new ground, (with ground rod and continous loop wire) but the old panel has a weaK grounding set up).
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Old 02-04-2012, 03:57 AM   #15
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Electrical short has caused "brown out" in house


I bet you have a bad neutral connection. That is the usually bare copper wire that comes into your breaker panel. I would say it's either loose or wire is bad.

With the main off there is nothing happening at the neutral maybe after you double check with a meter you can see if it's loose.

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