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Old 06-04-2012, 09:27 AM   #1
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


My basement is finished and has a number of GFI outlets. When one of them clicks off, they all click off.

Last night the outlets (all of them) would "flicker" off for less than a second and then back on. (Of course this means that my cable modem and cable box need to reset, which takes about 10 minutes) But my point is, the outlets would go off and on unpredictably for over the course of an hour, maybe 5 or 6 times.

THEN, power went out to 1) the lights in the top floor bedrooms, 2) outlets to the top floor bedrooms, 3) power to the kitchen appliances, 4) power to each of the two bathrooms, 4) power to the lights in the living room, 5) power to the outlets in the living room. HOWEVER, power stayed on to 1)lights in the basement, 2) the AC unit and thermostat, 3) the microwave in the kitchen.

My question is.... well..... wth is going on? I clearly didn't lose power coming into the house because some things in my house are still getting power. I didn't flip a single circuit breaker (I checked). What else could it be and how can I troubleshoot this problem?

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Old 06-04-2012, 09:34 AM   #2
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Since you had to come here to ask, this is most likely beyond your ability to diagnose. There are numerous possibilities and it could take quite a while for us to take you through all you need to do to diagnose the problem.

I'd say it's time to call an electrician.

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Old 06-04-2012, 09:40 AM   #3
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I'm thinking there is something going on with one leg of the service. Whether it is a POCO problem or a loose connection on the main breaker or meter socket, its hard to tell. Was there a storm when this happened?

As for the GFI's, the only thing I can tell you is that if these are in a finished basement, there is no need for GFI's.

I would call an electrician to come out and take a look. You have alot of stuff going on and I'm not going to tell you to start tightening the live connections on your main breaker.

Keep in mind that it is going to be really hard to pinpoint any problem when the problem isn't occurring. Ask some of your neighbors if they were having any issues.
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Old 06-04-2012, 11:50 AM   #4
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Who did the electrical work in the finished basement? How many GFCI's do you have? How new or old is the installation/finishing the basement.
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Old 06-04-2012, 11:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JulieMor View Post
Since you had to come here to ask, this is most likely beyond your ability to diagnose. There are numerous possibilities and it could take quite a while for us to take you through all you need to do to diagnose the problem.

I'd say it's time to call an electrician.
Not bad advice and an electrician is coming this afternoon. Nevertheless, I'd appreciate a run down of possibilities to see if I can't make some headway on my own. I'm trying not to read your response as condescending but let me point out that I am quite skilled with electric. I do small biomedical device design so I am well versed on the concepts, though not at the large-scale level.
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Old 06-04-2012, 11:55 AM   #6
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Main electrical connections to a house which carry a LOT of amperage are "unique" connections. If aluminum, they need to have anti-oxidation goop applied to them prior to installation. And then must be installed using a torque wrench to get the connections to be the correct tightness. "Tight" is not good enough for these. If they are not tight enough or the goop was not applied, then these connections can heat up/cool down and work themselves loose. And you can in some situations loose "half" your power.

With that said, these connections ALWAYS have live power. Turning off the main breaker does not remove power from these connections. So not a do-it-yourself thing.

Call your electric company and explain the problem. Say you need them to re-torque your main electrical connections. And as said, this could also be a problem with the main connections on the electric pole.

Edit: Or have the electrician do that...
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Old 06-04-2012, 11:57 AM   #7
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Quote:
Originally Posted by k_buz View Post
I'm thinking there is something going on with one leg of the service. Whether it is a POCO problem or a loose connection on the main breaker or meter socket, its hard to tell. Was there a storm when this happened?

As for the GFI's, the only thing I can tell you is that if these are in a finished basement, there is no need for GFI's.

I would call an electrician to come out and take a look. You have alot of stuff going on and I'm not going to tell you to start tightening the live connections on your main breaker.

Keep in mind that it is going to be really hard to pinpoint any problem when the problem isn't occurring. Ask some of your neighbors if they were having any issues.
I mean this is my thinking as well. There was a storm but according to the power company our unit was the only one to report an outage. I feel like this must be a problem at the main breaker. Is it not the case that the feed line into the house runs through the main breaker and then branches out? Could a disconnect down the line affect multiple breakers? That makes no sense to me.

In my area GFIs are required by code in a finished basement. At least that is what the inspector said when I obtained my permit.

I agree it might be time for a licensed-electrician to get involved.
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Old 06-04-2012, 11:58 AM   #8
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


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Originally Posted by J. V. View Post
Who did the electrical work in the finished basement? How many GFCI's do you have? How new or old is the installation/finishing the basement.
I finished the basement myself 6 years ago. Obtained all necessary permits and had the work inspected by the town, electrical and all.
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Old 06-04-2012, 12:00 PM   #9
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy_Bob View Post
Main electrical connections to a house which carry a LOT of amperage are "unique" connections. If aluminum, they need to have anti-oxidation goop applied to them prior to installation. And then must be installed using a torque wrench to get the connections to be the correct tightness. "Tight" is not good enough for these. If they are not tight enough or the goop was not applied, then these connections can heat up/cool down and work themselves loose. And you can in some situations loose "half" your power.

With that said, these connections ALWAYS have live power. Turning off the main breaker does not remove power from these connections. So not a do-it-yourself thing.

Call your electric company and explain the problem. Say you need them to re-torque your main electrical connections. And as said, this could also be a problem with the main connections on the electric pole.

Edit: Or have the electrician do that...



Thanks everyone. I agree this is one for the pros. I am waiting on an electrician but I like to get all the info, at least to have a good understand of the potential problems when I talk to the professional. Thanks again.
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Old 06-04-2012, 12:37 PM   #10
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


When one of them clicks off, they all click off.
>That is pretty strange, even if they are downstream of one another.

Last night the outlets (all of them) would "flicker" off for less than a second and then back on.
>Could be a single bad connection upstream of all these outlets. A hair dryer plugged in may cause the connection to open more or less permanently, in which case it's easier to troubleshoot.
I hope you don't have backstabbed outlets.

THEN, power went out to 1) the lights in the top floor bedrooms, 2) outlets to the top floor bedrooms, 3) power to the kitchen appliances, 4) power to each of the two bathrooms, 4) power to the lights in the living room, 5) power to the outlets in the living room. HOWEVER, power stayed on to 1)lights in the basement, 2) the AC unit and thermostat, 3) the microwave in the kitchen.
>See above

Last edited by Yoyizit; 06-04-2012 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 06-04-2012, 01:06 PM   #11
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Quote:
When one of them clicks off, they all click off.
>That is pretty strange, even if they are downstream of one another.
Not strange at all. This is exactly the way it should work. When the GFI trips anything wired to the load terminals will have the power cut off to it.
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Old 06-04-2012, 04:00 PM   #12
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Very odd problem - Need help diagnosing


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
When one of them clicks off, they all click off.
>That is pretty strange, even if they are downstream of one another.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
Not strange at all. This is exactly the way it should work. When the GFI trips anything wired to the load terminals will have the power cut off to it.
Precisely, the point of the GFI is that if one clicks off they all do.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
Last night the outlets (all of them) would "flicker" off for less than a second and then back on.
>Could be a single bad connection upstream of all these outlets. A hair dryer plugged in may cause the connection to open more or less permanently, in which case it's easier to troubleshoot.
I hope you don't have backstabbed outlets.

THEN, power went out to 1) the lights in the top floor bedrooms, 2) outlets to the top floor bedrooms, 3) power to the kitchen appliances, 4) power to each of the two bathrooms, 4) power to the lights in the living room, 5) power to the outlets in the living room. HOWEVER, power stayed on to 1)lights in the basement, 2) the AC unit and thermostat, 3) the microwave in the kitchen.
>See above
See what above, lol? The other bedrooms, etc., are on different breakers so the GFI tripping the load, maybe the breaker, but wouldnt trip the box



The verdict: Electrician could tell in 30 seconds that a leg of the power coming into the box was out. It was a 100amp fuse in the meter at the end of the building of condo units in which my condo is located. The HOA had to be called to remove their lock and it was replaced free of charge.

Thanks again to all who responded.

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