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Jim Owens 07-01-2007 02:20 PM

I've lost power at my barn
Hello to all:
I'm a newbie at this site, and will be grateful for any assistance.
I built my home, a geodesic dome, in 1978, Shortly after I built a barn and ran direct burial wire #10 to the barn, but didn't put it in conduit. Since the barn was 350 feet long and the roll of wire was only 300, I spliced the extra wire and put it in a junction box, wrapped it in goo, and taped it heavily. I have a 30 amp breaker at the main and a 60 amp at the barn in a sub box.
No problems for 9 years.
Now however, I've lost power to my barn and would like to tell you the trouble shooting I've done and see if there's anything I've missed.
I checked the breaker at the main it wasn't popped and couldn't see any problems. When I used a circuit tester on the breaker it showed power by placing one of the tips on the tightening screw. When I popped the breaker, it did not light up, so I assumed that the breaker was good.
I went to the barn and tested the wire coming into the sub but there is no power there. I tested it by checking the breaker and also by undoing the wires and testing them outside the breaker. Nothing.
I do have rabbits, squirrels and gophers, and have redug my trench to see if there are any problems in their area, but nothing.
I don't think they'd chew through the solid copper wire even if they chewed the insulating covers. I'd assume that if they exposed one of the wires, it would pop the breaker at the main or the sub.
What am I missing in my steps?
Again, thanks for any suggestions

Dan101 07-01-2007 02:48 PM

First thing I would do is kill the power and check that junction box.

Did you kill power at main and check/tighten all lugs?

I would look next for a broken wire or connection. Your breakers will pop when wires are shorted but not when one wire is disconnected.

Disconnected wires one at a time and check for contunity from main to junction box and JBox to Sub-Panel. Hope this helps! Good luck with your troubleshooting!

Jim Owens 07-01-2007 04:57 PM

follow up to Dan's post
Thanks Dan for the reply. I've done all that you mentioned with the exception of checking the junction box.
I forgot to mention that the junction box is under concrete and lawn. it's my worst fear. I had no problems for ten years before the concrete and lawn went in.
That's a problem with adding to an acreage. I had no choice and just had to hope for the best. I may have run out of good luck (20 years of no problems with the line) and may have to figure out a way to work around it.

Dan101 07-01-2007 05:15 PM

If you can determine that you have good continuity on each wire between the main and the sub panel, you will not have to dig up the junction box.

If you do not have continuity between the house and barn, you are gonna have to get some new wires out there somehow. Depending on where you live, it might be less expensive to have electric company put in a new service to your barn. Good luck on your project!

redline 07-01-2007 05:16 PM

can you dig up the trench just before it goes under the concrete and test the wire for current?

can you dig up the trench just after the concrete and test the wire for current?

Stubbie 07-01-2007 09:26 PM


Dan has pretty much summed it up. You have also proven it for yourself. The only thing you didnt say is if you had a 240 volt feed to the barn or 120 volt. Regardless... if there is nothing inbetween the barn and house but a junction box and you have power at the breaker and no power at the barn you have an open in the hot/hots or a complete severing of the feeder. Tree roots, ground settlement, critters can all cause this. So if the cable is ok everwhere it is accessible then your problem is underground. You also know why you never want to bury a junction box yet alone under concrete.
No your breaker will not trip it must be shorted to the neutral or ground wire to trip the breaker. Contact with the earth will not trip the breaker. so if you want peace of mind you can do the continuity check but I dont see where it is going to help much. Best thing for continuity test is turn the power off and disconnect the wires at both ends. If you have a 120 volt feeder then twist the black and white (hot wire and neutral) together in a wire nut. Go to the other end and test between the two wires. If no continuity then one or both is open. You can then check which one is open by doing the same test by pairing them in a wirenut with the ground wire. If still no continuity then the feeder is severed. But this will tell if all wires are open or which one is open. 240 volts just do the same test with the other hot wire. It would appear obvious that the hot or hots are open from what you have said. Ain't no miracles if thats the case your going to have to run new wire.


4just1don 10-11-2008 01:19 AM

Some elctricians have a device that tells them WHERE the problem is so you only have to dig at the RIGHT spot. I dont like wires NOT in conduit because of ground squirrel and gophers/moles WILL chew thru them every time. YES, they will bite right thru a copper wire. In fact I was told conduit MUST be 2" or larger to prevent them from getting there jaws over it and chewing thru THAT too!!! smaller will sucumb to the critters. IF you have to replace the wire,do so INSIDE a 2" or larger conduit with an extra wire of junk status in there to pull in additional or NEW wires. Less is false economy!!!

ScottR 10-11-2008 02:24 AM


smaller will sucumb to the critters. IF you have to replace the wire,do so INSIDE a 2" or larger conduit with an extra wire of junk status in there to pull in additional or NEW wires. Less is false economy!!!

Billy_Bob 10-11-2008 04:17 AM

How did you splice the wires together in the junction box?

I seen wires just twisted together and taped lose their connection after many years. (no wire nut)

If you have to run a new line, I would suggest installing conduit this time. Might be able to just run conduit to the other side of the concrete and install an underground junction box with an accessible lid.

I like conduit run underground extra large! Especially if it is run to another building. Then you have the option to pull larger wire in the future.

Wildie 10-11-2008 09:38 PM

I've seen cases similar to this and the cable was damaged by a lightning strike.
Varmits seem to like to eat insulation and all it takes is a few nibbles through the insulation, allowing moisture in, then corrosion will damage the wire nuts.
There are properly designed splicing kits, for use underground. Perhaps you can dig a trench around the perimeter of the slab and splice in a new section, if it turns out that the old splice is the problem.

Termite 10-11-2008 09:43 PM

This is a one year old post that got resurrected for some reason guys. The OP hasn't been back to the site since the day he posted.

Wildie 10-11-2008 10:58 PM


Originally Posted by thekctermite (Post 171144)
This is a one year old post that got resurrected for some reason guys. The OP hasn't been back to the site since the day he posted.

Hope he turned off the power when he decided to open up the cable!:wink:

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