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okacookie 04-20-2009 09:54 AM

Problem with wiring (really long post sorry)
Well this is what's going on... (this is really long)

My fiance and I just bought a house last week and after we got moved in we started to get everything setup, and we decided to put our mini fridge in the living room(We are lacking furniture). I had just defrosted it and wiped it down so I brought it into the living room and plugged it in, and when I did this half of the house lost power. By half of the house I mean the living room, hallway, the bathroom plug and one light, and the master bedroom.

I first thought we tripped a breaker so I went out to the garage to turn it back on, and I found that non had tripped. So assuming that it did not trip completely I flipped the breaker labeled for that section of the house, and nothing happened. So then I decided to reset every breaker one by one and still that didn't help. My next guess was that there was a gfci somewhere that I had missed so I went around and searched the house 3 times and found not a single gfci.

This is about the time I got really confused and pissed... I went up to the attic to see if I could find anything and to also try and think. I thought I might have missed something out front so I came down and unplugged the shop light for the garage and headed out the front door. This is when she said what did I do because everything is back on... I was confused and said that it was weird.

This all happened a few more times over the last couple of days and I slowly found more and more clues to what was going on... kind of... I realized that the lights would come back on if I plugged the shop light in sometimes... but this could also make it go out. I tracked down what some of the other lights and switches were connected to and what not.

But I did not finally notice that the living room circuit branched off that one garage plug until last night. I decided to pull the cover off of that garage outlet so I turned off the breaker and was just looking and thats when she said that side of the house just went out.

So here is everything that is on this breaker(I still need to map everything out to be 100% positive):
1 garage outlet, 3 living room outlets and a light, hallway outlet and light, the bath room outlet and light, and 3 master bedroom outlets and a light.

To me this seems like a lot and it needs to be split up, also the weirdest thing about our problem is that when the power would go out to half of the house the garage outlet still worked. The reason why they have been using a shop light is because the actual fixture in the garage does not work. I pulled the fixture out to look at the wiring and there is a hot and neutral but no bare ground and I is only getting 20v.

All of the wiring that I have seen in the house is romex and the house was built in 1971. It has a cutler hammer box with a 100amp main, 3 240v breakers, a couple of the large size single poles, and two of the slimlines that have two breakers instead of one. There are 3 open spots at the bottom of the box and two more at the top next to the main breaker. This box has 20 slots in it.

If there is anything else that I left out just say something or if you need more info let me know. Thanks


HouseHelper 04-20-2009 10:11 AM

You have a loose wire, probably at the garage receptacle. My bet is the wires are using the push-in connections. Turn the breaker off, remove the receptacle and rewire using the screws instead of the pushins.

okacookie 04-20-2009 10:25 AM

I will double check for this. Also is it a problem with that much stuff on one breaker?

Yoyizit 04-20-2009 10:39 AM


Originally Posted by okacookie (Post 262808)
half of the house lost power.

If the voltage to the other half of the house is high then it is a bad neutral connection. If not, it is a bad leg.
At the panel or at any 240v outlet you should have 120v, 120v and 240v.

okacookie 04-20-2009 11:11 AM

I forgot to add that the first time the power went out I removed the panel and checked all voltage and everything was hot and at the correct voltage. Once I get off work I will double check the outlet and replace it, and ensure that everything else on this circuit is wired correctly. I believe the PO didn't know what he was doing when he wired a few things (I have found one outlet where the grounds are twisted together but nothing is actually attached to the outlet)... Looks like I am going to have a lot of work ahead of me.


Yoyizit 04-20-2009 11:22 AM


Originally Posted by okacookie (Post 262875)
everything was hot and at the correct voltage.

If you checked it with the symptom present, the problem is downstream of where you checked.
Another way to attack this is to plug in a 10A load like a hair dryer or toaster into outlets and check that the voltage doesn't drop more than ~3vac.

rgsgww 04-20-2009 11:42 AM


Originally Posted by okacookie (Post 262808)
the house was built in 1971

Do you have aluminum wire? (silver like wire, thick).

Does the romex say 12 AL /2 or 12/2 AL

okacookie 04-20-2009 11:49 AM

I am about 99% positive that I do not have aluminium wiring. Everything in the breaker box looked like copper when I had the panel off, I say 99% because I was not looking for aluminium at the time.

okacookie 04-20-2009 10:22 PM

Well here is the update.

I inspected the outlet in the garage and when I removed it the hot line that fed the rest of the circuit simply came out. who ever put a lot of these outlets and switches in decided to back stab them instead of using the screws. So I cleaned up the wire and installed a new outlet without the back stab. This was the minor problem that I ran into...

Next, I tried to figure out what was going with the wired garage light that was not working. I traced the wires in the attic and found where the wires that were suppose to go to a switch dropped down to where the PO had put in a light switch for a kitchen light. The first concerning thing was that there was some romex that came out of the wall into the attic that had just been cut off. I checked for voltage and luckily it was dead, so I headed back down to take a look at that switch. When I removed it there was the set of wires connected to the switch and a set of capped wires.

I thought these might have been the wires coming from the garage light, but these were dead. I removed the old work box to get a better look, and that is when I almost messed my pants. The two capped wires went to that piece of romex that was left free, but the scary thing was that the live wires for the garage light had been cut short and left uncapped in the wall cavity. I checked for voltage and they were indeed live. I decided to unwire this section and tag it as a dead line to prevent the highly possible chance for a fire.

As for the power going out, I hope that these two repairs fix our problems but I have a feeling that I will need to plan on rewiring a few sections of the house to split up some commonly used outlets.

Again thanks for everyones help with this and if I have any more problems I will let you know.


rgsgww 04-21-2009 07:31 AM

Its good you tagged those wires, its actually a code requirement to tag dead lines.

okacookie 04-21-2009 08:54 AM

I figured that it would be a good idea... also I noticed it was a code requirement on here so that is a plus

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