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Old 08-30-2007, 09:49 PM   #1
ErikH45
 
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Hello, as you can rell by my screen name I am Erik, and I am in Northern MN. I have been on this board off and on when I needed help. Now I can't find the info I need when I search it so it was time to register.

My house was built in 1978. I have 15Amp service to the outlets (8) in my living room. The top outlets are switched using a wall switch, while the lower outlets are constant hot. Today my wife was vacuuming and thought she tripped the breaker. I came home from work and it was not tripped. This has tripped a few times in the past though. I removed the breaker and tested the resistance. It seemed to check out ok. I also tried installing a new breaker too, both functioned fine.

At the outlets I get a mixed reading if I check volts from Red to White I get a reading of 3v. Black to White is the same. If I check Black to Ground it reads 123v, and the same for Red to ground. I also checked White to ground and it read 123v. In my experience White to ground should read 0.

I was thinking this was a short, but have been told that a short will usually trip a breaker, so maybe I have an open circuit??

I did install a new furnace yesterday. It took the place of the old one, and there is no new wiring. I checked around the plenum where I did some sheet metal work and the wires for the living room run at least 3 ft away from my nearest work.

I am pretty new to electrical work, but I am comfortable pulling outlets and switches and doing general electrical testing. I am wondering if anyone has any good ideas, or if I should just give a professional a call.

Any help would be great, and sorry for the windy post
Erik

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Old 08-30-2007, 10:40 PM   #2
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it sounds like your missing a neutral somehwere. Hot to neutral and hot to ground should be 120V. Trace back thourgh that circuit checking every joint and connection and see if you find anything.

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Old 08-30-2007, 11:59 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erikh45 View Post
My house was built in 1978. I have 15Amp service to the outlets (8) in my living room. The top outlets are switched using a wall switch, while the lower outlets are constant hot. Today my wife was vacuuming and thought she tripped the breaker. I came home from work and it was not tripped. This has tripped a few times in the past though. I removed the breaker and tested the resistance. It seemed to check out ok. I also tried installing a new breaker too, both functioned fine.

At the outlets I get a mixed reading if I check volts from Red to White I get a reading of 3v. Black to White is the same. If I check Black to Ground it reads 123v, and the same for Red to ground. I also checked White to ground and it read 123v. In my experience White to ground should read 0.


A: I hope you can understand this word what we called multiwire branch circuit.
this is pretty tricky to troubleshooting this one if you are not really famuir with this one sound like you have either broken or open netrual on this one also you should check the voltage between black and red wires it shoud read 230-240 volt range.
If not you have to trace this wire in the breaker box and make sure you have both black and red wires in proper slot so you get a real 240 volts on this one so the current will be balanced on netural wire [ white wire ] if not you will seriousally overload this wire.
I was thinking this was a short, but have been told that a short will usually trip a breaker, so maybe I have an open circuit??

A. more likely open spice or open connections.
The only proper way to find this is you have to remove each repectales and check the netrual wires make sure they are not backstabbed at all and if more than two white wires in there you have to make a pigtail [ a short peice of wire with wirenutted there ]and check the white side [ silver screws ] to make sure the tabs [a short jumper band between the screws you will spot this ] is not broken on white side but on brass side the hot side if this repectale is switched the tab will be broken off and have black and red wires attched at proper screws.

I did install a new furnace yesterday. It took the place of the old one, and there is no new wiring. I checked around the plenum where I did some sheet metal work and the wires for the living room run at least 3 ft away from my nearest work.

I am pretty new to electrical work, but I am comfortable pulling outlets and switches and doing general electrical testing. I am wondering if anyone has any good ideas, or if I should just give a professional a call.

Any help would be great, and sorry for the windy post
Erik
all my answer is in bold so you an understand it .

if you are not sure what multiwire branch circuit mean you can goggle it or get the book called " electrical simpifled " they have that in big box stores for few bucks it will help you the basic and common items in the home

Merci , Marc
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Old 08-31-2007, 07:22 AM   #4
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Thanks for the quick response. Now I just have to find someone to watch my 11 month old so I can get something done. Sometimes keeping track of him is harder than the project itself.
I think the logical next step is to look in the boxes for any looose connections. I will re-post with my findings.

Is it possible that the draw from the vacuum was enough to pop a wire from the connection where it has been for 29 years?

Erik
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:25 AM   #5
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This is NOT a multiwire circuit, but a circuit that carries both a constant hot and switched hot to the receptacles.

You have a loose neutral. Look for a loose push-in connection at one of the receptacles, many times on one that is still working. Reattach the wires to the corresponding screws. Over time, push-in connections will work loose. The large in-rush current of a vacuum starting will cause the connection to fail completely.
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Old 08-31-2007, 09:15 AM   #6
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House is correct....
There should be ZERO volts between the black and red...they are the same circuit. One of them just happens to be switched.
You have a loose neutral somewhere.
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Old 08-31-2007, 09:21 AM   #7
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I have been doing some reading, and I am pretty sure I have a loose nuetral in one of the outlets or the switch.
Is the best practice to remove them one at a time and check the nuetral wire to see if it is loose?
Is there anywhere else the nuetral could be loose other than in one of the outlets or the switches?
I read about melting the coating on the wires somwhere in my wall. Is this something I should be concerned about?

Thanks,
Erik
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Old 08-31-2007, 10:02 AM   #8
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I'd say 90% of the time the problem is at a receptacle and usually at one that still functions normally.
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Old 08-31-2007, 10:03 AM   #9
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Erik, Check the outlet that you plug the vacuum in at first.

That little tug to get to the far corner may have provided enough mechanical action to let your white neutral lose.

Do not let the baby watch you play with outlets. And do not forget to flip your breaker off.

Good luck.
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Old 08-31-2007, 01:22 PM   #10
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The child is down for a nap so I started pulling outlets, and here is what I found. One of the outlets has red/black connected to one side, and white/white to the other with a ground at the bottom. Both of the whites have turned black and green from heat apparently. Some of the insulation is also melted off. I am assuming this is my problem outlet because I have never seen anything like it and it can't be good. I now have to wait for the child to wake up so I can go get a new outlet.

Is it possible that this outlet was overloaded? (there was nothing plugged into it at the time) Or was this outlet just the weak link?

I also remembered that there used to be a dimmer control to these outlets when I moved in, but it didn't work so I removed it. Maybe this could have put added stress on the outlets??

Should I get a new outlet, plug it in, and see what happens or does this seem like this may be a symptom of a larger problem?

Thanks,
Erik
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Old 08-31-2007, 01:28 PM   #11
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A dimmer should NEVER be used to control a receptacle.

If the receptacle itself is not damaged, just cut back the wire to an undamaged area and replace it exactly as before using the screws.

If the receptacle is damaged, replace it, but remember to break off the tab between the two brass screws (that side only) to maintain the switched/unswitched function.

I would also check other receptacles on this circuit for similar damage.
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Old 08-31-2007, 01:46 PM   #12
ErikH45
 
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I removed the dimmer because I had read that here. I am going to replace the receptacle. It looks like it took some pretty good heat and they are cheap.
The dimmer has been off for a while now and I installed a switch. Is it possible that the receptacle had some amount of damage before and the vacuum just pushed it to it's limit?
My concern is that this receptacle is just the beginning of a larger problem. Could it be just as easy as replacing a receptacle?

Erik
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Old 08-31-2007, 01:57 PM   #13
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PM some lotto numbers to me. You seem to be lucky.

Follow Houses advise in above post... replace the receptacle .. bend that tab off.
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Old 08-31-2007, 02:09 PM   #14
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Bob,
U made me realize something else I have been doing wrong all these years. I should be picking the numbers, not letting the machine do it.

I really appreciate all of the advice. I will let you know how it turns out.

Thanks,
Erik
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Old 08-31-2007, 10:01 PM   #15
ErikH45
 
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Thanks for all of the input. It turned out the outlet was the problem. I replaced it, and the next one in line seeing as it showed signs of heat. I turned the breaker back on, and everything checks out normal.
Thanks to all who offered advice. You saved me from a bigger headache.

Erik

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