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cantwin1 03-14-2010 10:29 AM

Partial circuit outage

Older house, 1950 or so, when purchased I replaced an interior sub panel that had screw in fuses with a breaker panel. Did not modify existing wiring, however I did add a few circuits to a couple 'scabbed' on rooms. Have always had an issue with the microwave occasionally tripping the kitchen circuit, reset breaker, everything works.

Yesterday, same thing happened, but the fridge didn't come back on. Started looking at how things are wired, fridge is tied in with a bedroom, turns out two bedrooms share the circuit with the kitchen. No wonder that 15 amp breaker would trip!

At one point, I turned on a light switch and with a bit of delay the light came on and the fridge fired up. So I started pulling switches and receptacles looking for a loose or burnt wire. Nothing. Pulled the cover off the sub panel made sure everything was tight.

Now how the heck do I go about tracing the problem beyond what I've done? I do recall a j-box or two in the attic. Now covered in insulation, under a 3/12 pitch, of course with a/c duct right down the middle! Should I go get one of those 'non-contact' testers and climb up in the attic and start digging? I did not use a tester to see if any of the switches or receptacles had power going in but not out. Just at a loss on how to proceed. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

wirenut1110 03-14-2010 10:41 AM

I would first check to see if any switches and receptacles are back stabbed. If so, move the wires to the screws.

If they're multiple wires in the device and they used the back stab and screws, make a pigtail and come off to the screw(s).

brric 03-14-2010 10:42 AM

Install new circuits to the mw and fridge.

cantwin1 03-14-2010 10:57 AM

Nothing back stabbed, checked that yesterday. New circuits would be a nightmare to run, no attic space above sub-panel, just sheet rock, 2x6, and roofing. Plus this wouldn't get my two bedrooms working, plus...there's an issue somewhere that is causing the outage..possible fire hazard. I really need to find where the fault is, then look for a way to permanently separate.

AllanJ 03-14-2010 11:47 AM

Junction boxes have to be accessible. You will not go wrong by unearthing them up in the attic right now even if you figure out the problem without opening them.

You do need to be able to trace the circuit in terms of the order in which the various outlets are daisy chained.

A long (say, 14 gauge) single wire with alligator clips on the ends, that you stretch from one room to another or even up or down stairs can come in handy when doing voltage measurements, especially to narrow down on a possible break between outlets.

cantwin1 03-14-2010 12:01 PM

That's one of the problems...don't know the order. Just figured out a bit ago that the range hood is not working. That is the only item in the kitchen not working. The fridge was run thru the wall into another 'room'. I'll see if I can figure out what the range hood ties into. that would be the closest 'break' in the chain.

How do you use a long wire to help isolate this?

jbfan 03-14-2010 12:09 PM

If you have a meter, you can use an extension cord, from a kown working circuit.
Check the receptacle you have not working to the cord to try to determine if you have an open hot or an open neutral.
You are going to have to check every junction you can find on this circuit, including the lights, if you only have switch legs at the switchs.

cantwin1 03-14-2010 12:23 PM

And to do this, I use a tester for voltage off one leg of the recept. to one leg of the 'hot' extension cord..correct?

Scuba_Dave 03-14-2010 12:24 PM

Is the Microwave a counter top model or built in ?
I'd run a dedicated circuit for the fridge just to eliminate that from the circuit -one of the 1st things I did

The problem with circuits in multiple rooms is the wires run everywhere
So you have to worry about junctions
1st thing I did in my house was verify what was on each circuit
I created a spread sheet & listed every outlet & light under the correct breaker
Once something is not working its harder to trace where the problem exists

Locate & check every GFCI
Verify what outlets have power & which do not
Check the cabinets near the range hood to see if it plugs into an outlet

How many counter top circuits in the kitchen ?
Any plans to remodel th kitchen ?

cantwin1 03-14-2010 12:56 PM

Microwave is counter top.
Would be a good idea to run a new circuit for the fridge, just have to figure out how to fish it thru the ceiling of the laundry room which has the sub-panel on the furthest wall.

Yes, wires are run all over! Even found a couple boxes with open lines coming in, nothing on the white or the black, no caps, or tape.
I did find one recept. inside a cabinet that I haven't checked yet. Not near the range hood, tho. Currently have the fridge running of an extension cord into an outlet behind the stove, so it's not an overload issue within the kitchen. There are only 3 outlets in the kitchen, tied in with the two bedrooms, all on one 15 amp circuit. Didn't have plans for a kitchen remodel.... Off to depot for a tester, then into the attic...

wirenut1110 03-14-2010 01:11 PM

You can run wire on the wall/ceiling and then build a little chase around it.
Install some sections with screws to be able to access it for future runs.

Using wiremold is another option. It CAN be done and you can do it:thumbup:

cantwin1 03-14-2010 01:27 PM

Good point. Always have run electric on bare studs, am well aware of the products you can buy to surface mount...just didn't think about them! I'd only have to surface mount the 6' or so of the laundry ceiling, then could punch into the attic. Sub panel isn't even half full, I could run new lines to each bedroom and the fridge. Now I just have to figure out how to isolate them from the existing circuit. Thanks!!

Scuba_Dave 03-14-2010 01:37 PM

My house is from the 50's
In the bedrooms & main rooms I have left the old circuits
I've run new circuits & added new outlets
Old circuits I usually only had 1 outlet on a wall

So adding more outlets was easier then messing with existing circuits

cantwin1 03-14-2010 06:13 PM it! While at depot buying a tester wife calls and says the washer / dryer aren't on either. Now I know...since I put the sheetrock on those walls that they are on a different / newer circuit than the old wiring. Therefore the problem has to be closer to the sub-panel than I had thought. Get home with a non-contact tester and go straight to the sub-panel..sure enough...had lost one leg. Go outside to the main panel, pull the breaker, lots of corrosion on the contact. Guess with all the rain we've been getting here water had leaked down and messed it up. Cleaned the best I could with a screwdriver put the breaker back on and everything is back to normal. Moral of the story here...check the easy things first. Thanks for the help guys!

Scuba_Dave 03-14-2010 06:15 PM

The Laundry area is also supposed to have a dedicated 20a circuit :wink:
My washer is rated to pull around 7a
Glad you are all set for now

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