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Old 01-18-2011, 10:17 AM   #1
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Mid-circuit problem


See if you can pull up the image, L = light switch, R= receptacle, breaker box is in utility room. All wiring is original (1950's), 2 bedrooms, bathroom, hall, and one other plug are all on the same breaker. This weekend my wife was organizing all of the computer cords located at R3 via a power strip. When she turned the power strip back on everything went off.

I assumed tripped breaker but it wasn't. I thought bad breaker but it still is hot to the voltage tester. I started pulling plugs out thinking an early wire came off but I cannot find any loose or disconnected. Also at this time I discovered that all of our 3 prong outlets in this old part of the house have NO grounds to them. All wires are on screws, not the push-ins. The only hot receptacle is R1, unfortunately I have no way of knowing where the line leads after R1 but all of the other receptacle wires show no current.

Please tell me you have some ideas! I am so confused I can't stand it. My head says a wire is broken somewhere after R1 but could it be mid-run? Is it coincidence that she was working around R3 when the problem happened?
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Old 01-18-2011, 10:40 AM   #2
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Mid-circuit problem


Did you check for loose wire in panel? Maybe neutral if you checked the breaker?
If entire circuit is off then problem is likely the panel or something very close to it.

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Old 01-18-2011, 10:44 AM   #3
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Mid-circuit problem


Its possible there is a hidden junction somewhere after R1, and a splice has failed. Do you have access to areas above the ceiling?

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Old 01-18-2011, 10:49 AM   #4
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Mid-circuit problem


Did not read good enough. If one receptacle is working then the problem is not the panel. Did you check R1? The problem could there even if it is working.
Go the next nearest receptacle, lights switch etc. and look for loose connections.
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Old 01-18-2011, 10:54 AM   #5
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Mid-circuit problem


Older home? Cold winter air? Any chance you have rodents? I recently found in an attic where a mouse had gnawed on a white (neutral) conductor, and the failure came when power was applied to the circuit. Took a bit of looking to find the damage, but that sucker had chewed it enough to break the wire.

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Old 01-18-2011, 12:35 PM   #6
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Mid-circuit problem


1950 home, just had insulation blown into exterior walls in September so it is less cold than it was! Just spent some hours insulating the crawl space walls, and attic space is finished (bungalow), with no sign of rodents above or below. No wires run through the crawl and I finished the attic myself a few years back and the only wires I recall across the ceiling were to the lights.

R1 has power on both sides, (in and out).

One thing that struck me as odd was that L1 and L2 both have only 1 wire bundle in the box. It is not hot in, hot out and whites spliced. Could this mean that the run goes from R1 to the light itself, acting as a junction, and they ran one wire from the light to the switch using both black and white for hot? Then current continues on from light (junction) to R2 or next room?

This is honestly driving me nuts!!!
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Old 01-18-2011, 12:55 PM   #7
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Mid-circuit problem


It is not uncommon to send the power to the light first, and then continue with a switch loop going to the switch. Some frown upon it (and the NEC might change its allowance) but it is not uncommon. In this scenario (the switch loop) the white does act as a 'hot' conductor. The proper method is to identify this conductor with black tape at both ends so one knows it is a 'hot' conductor.

If all of your lights and switches are configured in this manner, then you should have a hot conductor at the light junction box at all times (unless the switch loop splices are not at the light box itself, which I have seen). If you are comfortable enough with understanding this then you could perform some trouble shooting to see where the hots stop. But, if it confuses you then maybe a hired professional would be more efficient.

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Old 01-18-2011, 01:00 PM   #8
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Mid-circuit problem


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Originally Posted by jlmran View Post
It is not uncommon to send the power to the light first, and then continue with a switch loop going to the switch.
So that means I need to check my lights for loose connections. I assumed power to the switch, then to the light; so no power at the switch meant I didn't need to check the light. Here you're saying it could go from R1 to the light and then on to R2? Please correct me if I'm mistaken.... and I'll detach the heavy as heck ceiling fans tonight and see what's under there. Thanks!
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Old 01-18-2011, 01:16 PM   #9
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Mid-circuit problem


Yes, based on your drawing, the power could go from R1 to Light to R2, and the light is controlled by a switch loop to L1. Given the proximity of the panel to R1, that seems like a logical path to start chasing.

Recommend properly using a meter for voltage testing. You mentioned that your receptacles don't have 'grounds' present. What about the lights? Any ground conductors there? Be certain you use the meter properly for testing, especially if grounds aren't present. Don't confuse neutrals with switch loop whites as you may get confusing results.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:37 PM   #10
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Mid-circuit problem


IF R1 works in and out then the problem is at the next box. You just need to figure out which box that is.
If you have a non contact voltage tester, I have on occasion been able to trace a wire up a wall using them. Start at the working recetptacle R1. If you can at least get a direction the cable goes that should be a starting point.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:40 PM   #11
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Mid-circuit problem


1. Double check the connections on R1, making sure there are no wire-nutted connections in the back of the box.
2. Check the connections at the light fixture in that room. In a 50's era home, it is quite possible a connection could have worked loose, especially if the fan was homeowner or handyman installed.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:46 PM   #12
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Mid-circuit problem


Quote:
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...especially if the fan was homeowner or handyman installed.
A pro installation never has this happen?
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:22 PM   #13
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Mid-circuit problem


Ok I think we found the issue... but i need some assistance fixing. I removed the ceiling fan and wow what a mess. 4 bundles coming in. 4 wires taped together and shoved to the back of the box (B B B W), 3 wires twisted to one of the light wires (W W W), one lone B wire twisted to the other light wire. Good news...touching voltage testers to the WWW bundle and B wire I get current when the light switch is on but not when it is off. I have not untaped the BBBW mess yet

From above I took the second pic, a random wire that comes from the direction of the light but is about 3' away, capped with wire nuts and taped up. Guessing I have an excess B/W bundle I can remove from the box.

I know this isn't complicated but I am so frustrated I can't think straight, please help me sort this out.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:55 PM   #14
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Mid-circuit problem


any chance R4, that is in the bathroom is a GFI thats tripped? possible it feeds through to R3.
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Old 01-18-2011, 09:05 PM   #15
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Mid-circuit problem


There is no issue with the wiring configuration you described. It has worked for 60 years evidently. Just need to find the loose connection or broken conductor.

The 4 connected (BBBW) are power, 2 additional feeds (loads), and probably the white of a switch loop. The three WWW are the neutrals. One lone B returns power from the switch. The BBBW could be the source of your problem.

The comment/question about a tripped GFI is one to answer quickly!!

Should all be grounded (bonded) also, now that you've discoverd it is not.

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