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Old 02-28-2008, 02:20 PM   #1
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Open Neutral

The other day, while away from my house, my wife calls me and tells me that "there are sparks coming out of the kitchen counter receptacle." This started happening while trying to plug in a cell phone charger during a thunderstorm. So, I get home and check the GFI, and sure enough there were burn marks around the hot and neutral slots of the receptacle. I proceed to open up the box of that receptacle and the other receptacle (it's a switch receptacle, swith is to range hood) on the circuit to check the wiring. I pull off the receptacles and turn on the power to the circuit and start measuring voltage. So far so good, 120 to neutral, 120 to ground, 0 volts neutral to ground on the receptacle wiring. I check the load side receptacle for continuity, everything checks out. I turn on the range hood (it's on the same circuit...bad situation... old house that has been remodeled) and the bar lights that share the circuit, and all is working fine.

I ask my wife if she smelled smoke. She answers "Yes, by the cooktop." I go back to the panel, and the cooktop's breaker had tripped. I proceed to turn it back on, but it keeps tripping- nasty ground fault. I pull out the cooktop, flip it upside down, open it up, wire it, and have my wife observe the fault while I turn on the power (I know, a little dangerous, but thank God for grounding). Sure enough, one of the temperature regulators to the burner was shorting. So, I disconnect the burner, put everything back together, the rest of the burners work just fine, life is good.

So, I go to the garage grab a new gfi, replace the burned up one, and put everything back. Everything checks out; however, now the range hood and the bar lights don't work. Now, I know that they probably are not working because of a loose neutral in a junction box that I spotted up in the attic. The j-box was used to provide power to the range hood and the lights. The second cable in the load side receptacle's box is a switch loop, and thus really is not worth checking out, since I had already confirmed that all the connections were tight when I checked the receptacle.

My comment/questions is that it seems extremely weird that all this would happen in succession. My wife thinks that lightning struck the house. However, I have never seen a situation in which fixtures that show no sign of a loose neutral, or any other problem, become disabled in a matter of minutes. It's the weirdest thing. Is there something I'm missing here. To the best of my knowledge, power surges normally don't create this type of trouble. By the way, nothing else in the house has been affected.


Last edited by Manuel6; 02-28-2008 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:07 PM   #2
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By any remote chance, wierd as it may sound, are there both aluminum AND copper wires in your home? It always pays to look at the obvious first BEFORE calling in the Marines. You mentioned thunderstorms and surge, GFCI's et al. Just an out-of-the-box thought here. If, in fact, there are both, one or more of those junctions may have "sizzled" with oxidation and are now open or extremely resistive.


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Old 02-28-2008, 10:19 PM   #3
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When you say the load side of the GFI are you, in fact, using the load terminals? If so, make sure that the reset button is pressed and you should be OK. If it is a loose splice, check in the box you suspect.

(I know the button thing sounds dumb, but you always start simple and work your way out)
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:36 AM   #4
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Sounds like you simply have a loose neutral from re-packing the wires back in the J-box . .OR . .( even harder to find and I just had one of these ) a
broken neutral wire . . .a solid wire...snapped INSIDE the insulation . .

always look where ya just worked for that loose neutral . .if you didnt have that problem before . . . .slide out the splice for the bar lights/rangehood . .use your jumper clips and a 3-light circuit analyzer
. .it'll tell ya whats missing . .or reversed . . .
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Old 03-03-2008, 08:16 AM   #5
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As I suspected, there was in fact a loose neutral in the j-box. Thanks for all your suggestions.
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