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avro1 02-17-2011 07:51 PM

Lost all power and breaker not tripped
I have a bit of a dilemma here that I hope someone can shed some light on (no pun intended):).

My house was built in 53 and the family room downstairs just lost all power. There are three outlets and two ceiling lights and they are all dead. The breaker never tripped but I reset it anyways and still nothing. I also checked for power coming out of it and there is so something between it and the room circuit let go.

I've check all obvious outlets for connection tightness and they all seem good. I then modded an extension cord so that both ends were male and plugged one end into a dead plug and the other end into a good plug and everything came back to life! I have access to the back side of one of the dead plugs so I temporarily wired that to a good plug in the laundry room and all seemed well but it tripped a breaker this time. The breaker that tripped was for the washer so I just left it tripped and used a different one for the washer and for now all is "well".

So that's where I'm at now. My question is what do you guys think went wrong that caused the loss of power, and will "back-feeding the circuit cause any issues?

If there will be no issues with this "back-feeding" then I'll just get another breaker and wire it into the house and take out the circuit to the washer that trips. Other wise all I can think of at this time is a complete re-wire of the family room which I'm not looking forward too at all.:(

Thanks guys. I know there is a lot to read but I figured I'd give as much info as possible.:thumbsup:

dhubz 02-17-2011 08:12 PM

backfeeding is not a good idea-since you have no idea why it has failed. and please fix your modded cord...this is a big no no...its how "accidents happen"
can you trace the wire from the panel at all?
do you have any gfi receptacles? I have seen numerous homes that lost power to whole sections of thier house and it was due to a tripped gfi. I even had one that was outside and it controlled half of the house inside.

AllanJ 02-17-2011 09:26 PM

All is not well.

Remove that double male plug cord right now.

If it turns out that one receptacle you plugged it into was on one side of your 120/240 volt service and the other receptacle was on the other side, and the problem was some loose connection that somehow came back to life --- then instant 240 volt short circuit!

Stubbie 02-17-2011 10:19 PM

How many times have we said "why do people do these things and then ask if it was safe to do?"


With out basic test equipment about all you can do is check the circuit wiring and circuit devices for poor or bad connections.. Always do this with the power off at the circuit breaker ... and always have a voltage tester to verify that power has been removed from the circuit wiring your working on.

I am assuming that the circuit your back feeding had the circuit breaker turned off or you risked a pretty nasty result when you plugged in that resourceful cord you made.

Do you have a voltage tester or what test devices do you have ?

avro1 02-18-2011 05:07 PM

Okay so I've removed the cord and put the female end back on. I guess it wasn't the smartest thing I've done but I was really was getting desparate to have something positive come out of my trouble shooting.

So now what should I do short of ripping the drywall off of the ceiling and walls to physicaly trace the circuit? The home has mostly old two wire cable(non grounded) since it was built in 53 so no GFI plugs.

I can trace all the cables out of the panel only a few feet and then they are covered. There are NO dead breakers, they ALL have some lights or outlets on them because I checked each one looking for the one that powered the room. So now since they all have something on them I have no way to tell which breaker powered the family room's 3 outlets and 2 lights. I was hoping to find a "dead" breaker but no luck.

The only tester I have is one of those common two prong types that you touch on the conductors and if it lights up if there is power.

If you guys have any thoughts here I'd really appreciate it. I REALLY don't want to have to rip into the walls or ceiling.....

a7ecorsair 02-18-2011 05:31 PM

You say the house was built in '53. If you have breakers, does that mean the service was upgraded at some point?
It also sounds like you are not sure which breaker provide power to the family room.
How many breakers do you have? Can you verify that each breaker still has at least one active device - a light or receptacle?

avro1 02-18-2011 06:02 PM

Yes the panel has been upgraded some time in the 90's. There are 13 regular 15A breakers. I have checked the connections at the junction boxes where the new panel wiring meets the old 50's house wiring and all looks good there.

You are correct in that every breaker still has a light or outlet on it. I verified this by turing on all lights in the house and then tripping each breaker and checking which went out as well as checking all outlets with my plug tester. I did this this 13 times(once for each breaker) in every room on each floor and wrote down which lights and outlets were on each breaker and every breaker has something on it.

SPINA ELECTRIC 02-18-2011 08:36 PM

Check your ceiling lights make sure the splices are good in a house that old they used to feed through the lights

avro1 02-19-2011 06:01 PM

Well I thought they were good but I'll recheck them again. I see that the wire terminals are actualy all crimped together with a copper crimp and then taped with cloth tape. Pretty old school stuff.....

Now if I don't find anything I guess I'll be looking at rewiring the room.:(

I've more or less figured how to do it with a minimal of wall and ceiling damage but what do I do with the old wires? I was thinking that I should just cut them off at the old outlets and light boxes and terminate them with Merrit connectors. BUT someplace there will still be power to the original break that caused the whole problem. Is this really an issue though since all the other old wires that were in the circuit will all open and terminated???

Thanks again.

jadbad2004 02-19-2011 06:25 PM

old wires
The NEC says any unused wiring shall be removed. This is for a reason, you need to remove all the old wires you are replacing. Not only does removing them keep things neet but also eliminate possible fire hazzards. You need to find out where the bad connection is and remove/fix the problem. If you lost power due to a poor connection it has the potential to be a fire hazzard. Loose connections generate heat!

frenchelectrican 02-19-2011 08:57 PM

To do the basic trouble shooting you will need basic items

* a NCV tester { Non concat voltage tester } however this item will indecaited that you will have power there but not the best acture tester.

* Simple neon test light That run only couple Euros that way you can test it {I will cover this part later }

Now for basic troubleshooting on this one.,

You will have to take the receptale cover off and unscrew it from the junction box but DO NOT remove any conductors {wires} and look for loose connection the most common cuprit is backstabbing which it mean just poke the conductor in the device and it hold with a spring { backwired is diffrent than backstabbed and both are not the same so keep it in your mind }

The other common cupit is useally bad wirenut { Marrite } Check them out to make sure they are tight { if you remove the old wirenuts it will be wise to get a new one due the old one can get weaken over the time so prepare to get few anyway }

And for this part above you will need NCV tester to confirm if you have power there or not { but make sure you find the breaker for this circuit and turn it off before you poke around or remove the device from the wall }

Some case you will find it at the first receptale some case at other location so it may take little time to find it quick and some will take time to find it in latter part.


avro1 02-23-2011 11:56 PM

Well I just wanted to thank you all for your help. I think I found the problem joint but with some luck...

For some reason when I went down to start blasting holes in the walls I flicked the switch and the lights came on! I then went over to the breaker panel and started flipping breakers until I found the one for the room. Now at least I knew where the power was supposed to be coming from and not guessing. I traced it to a light at the bottom of the stairs and once I pulled the fixture down I could see what was probably the problem.

When the room was added some 30-50 years ago what they did was just wrap the wire ends around the crimped terminal and then wrap it in that cloth tape. There never was a firm connection and I guess it finaly failed. They were heavily corroded so I cut the bad ends off and attached them with proper Marett connectors and all seems well.

I guess I got lucky because I hate drywall work.:thumbsup:

busman 02-24-2011 05:23 AM


Originally Posted by jadbad2004 (Post 594094)
The NEC says any unused wiring shall be removed.

No it doesn't.


boman47k 02-24-2011 08:17 AM

On the unused wire thing, how are you supposed to remove old wiring if it stapled to the stud near the rec without tearing out dw? That is if it is stapled to near the rec as I understand code to be on new contruction.

Of course this may not have been code when these older houses were new contruction.

No intent to hijack, just curious as one posted removal of old wire is code, and another says it is not in the code.

busman 02-24-2011 08:27 AM


Originally Posted by boman47k (Post 597015)
On the unused wire thing, how are you supposed to remove old wiring if it stapled to the stud near the rec without tearing out dw? That is if it is stapled to near the rec as I understand code to be on new contruction.

Of course this may not have been code when these older houses were new contruction.

No intent to hijack, just curious as one posted removal of old wire is code, and another says it is not in the code.

Hard to prove what's not in the code. I'd ask for a code reference if someone is telling you that something is in the code. The only way to know what's really in the Code is to read and understand it for yourself.


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