Weird wiring in house
I'm working on an electrical repair, replacing a circuit breaker box with a new box and breakers. Before, an entire section of the house lost power, and I could tell that the box was damaged, worn out and just not serviceable. I picked up a replacement box and breakers of the same amperage, and hooked the entire system up.
Now, the part of the house that was out is working again, but ANOTHER part of the house (that previously WORKED) is having problems. Lights and outlets in that area appear to have no service, except that one flourescent fixture DOES hum when I turn its switch on, but does not light up. This indicates to me the possibility of an open neutral. I looked in the panel but don't see anything wrong, like, no loose connections or anything. That part of the house doesn't have grounded outlets so my 3-prong tester won't work there. I could test for a live hot with my proximity detector, but that won't tell me if it is for certain that we have an open neutral.
The main panel is confusing me, as its wiring appears to have been expanded more than once and just sort of "added" onto the system. This was ALL done by "qualified" electricians, as far as the owner knows. (The entire time they've owned it, every time something major at the main was done it was done by claimed licensed people) There's a main-range-four panel and three subpanels in the main cabinet, but I can't tell exactly which branches the subpanels are feeding off of, and one of them may be feeding off the "range" circuit for 240v service. (I think the range circuit is being used for the A/C because the house is fully gas-heated and has a gas range)
The part I can figure out for sure is as follows: there's two 60-amp cart fuses in the "main" side, and two 60 amp "heavy duty" (with a higher breaking capacity) in the range side. There's two 30-amp plug fuses and two 20 amp plug fuses in the branches. One of the branches is a 4-fuse panel with three 15-amp fuses and one 20-amp fuse. (This panel is labeled, with the 20 amp fuse labeled "Heater" and the other three labeled as sections of the house. I don't get the "heater" fuse because the house doesn't and has never had electric heating beyond the furnace motor, as the entire system is gas) Another panel leads to two 30-amp breakers which, by flicking off, I can tell control the basement circuits, which were added later when the basement was remodeled. The third panel has two 30-amp breakers (this is the one I replaced) and at least powers the parts of the house that were out.
I want to do some tracing though and figure out EXACTLY which wires are leading to which parts of the house. The system could be mislabeled, or the labeling could be outdated. There's clearly a few thick K&T type fabric-sheathed wires leaving that four-fuse box, so that's likely going to the older parts of the house which still have K&T, but the box I replaced apparently feeds a part of the house which I believed still had K&T, but it's wires are Romex... (Splice in the wall somewhere, possibly?) I could probably figure out what circuits go to the subpanels with my continuity tester, but beyond that, I don't know exactly to which parts of the house the subpanels are going.
So, is there a simple way or some good tools I can get that will let me figure out exactly which wires are going where? I'm thinking something like some kind of signal tracer, similar to what you'd use for tracing Cat5 cabling, but with a pigtail that you could attach to any circuit to trace its connection in the main fusebox.
I've heard of tracers made for *breakers*, but they seem to require that the outlet be functioning and they're made for circuit breakers. Ideally I'd like something self-powered that shoots a signal down the line that a receiver can trace.
Last edited by fdmillion; 02-25-2010 at 01:42 AM.