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Stuck in the 70's
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A bit of history first. Our house was built in the early 70's. After we moved in we noticed a series of outlets on an exterior brick wall were out. It was fixed by our neighbor's Ex, (a GC, but not a licensed electrician). I don't know exactly what he found.
The same series of outlets went out again last night. After reading a few thread like this one I thought I would do a little exploratory surgery.
http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/outlets-garage-exterior-outlet-stopped-working-110306/

I'm a total electrical newbie, but I turned the breaker off (triple checked) and looked in each outlet one by one for any loose connections or anything obvious.

All of the other outlets had the ground wires connected to the box (red circle) except this one. This one had separated from the box and there was a scorch mark on the inside of the plastic cover where it had separated. None of the others had the green wire either. I assume this is what was done by my neighbors EX but I'm not 100% sure.

Where do I go from here?
Should I be looking for GFCIs in a house of this age?
 

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Super Moderator
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Looks like the ground is connected to the neutral screws.

The original problem appears to be an open neutral. You neighbour created a very serious potential risk by connecting the ground to the neutral.
Put the green ground back on the green screw and connect to the box. Then go looking over the rest of the circuit for a disconnected neutral (white) wire. It could be in a working device box on the circuit.
 

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I=E/R
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I see a ground wire in the box and I see it is wrapped in paper so NM cable was used, at least that is what it looks like.
The electrical box looks rusty, do you think water is getting into it?
If all the boxes have NM cable with a ground wire, the next thing to check is in the main panel to make sure all the circuits terminate correctly in the panel box.
I also see two smaller wires, at least I think that's what is in the picture, so do you know what they are?
 

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Registered
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5,468 Posts
Put the earth wire back were it should be !
Double check all connections on all recepticules,
If boxs rusty, replace if possible, and find/fix water ingress prob.
There was obviously an open circuit neutral somewhere.
Find and fix !
replace if ness,
Use a gfci if in doubt.
 

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Retired Moderator
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Looks like the ground is connected to the neutral screws.

The original problem appears to be an open neutral. You neighbour created a very serious potential risk by connecting the ground to the neutral.
Put the green ground back on the green screw and connect to the box. Then go looking over the rest of the circuit for a disconnected neutral (white) wire. It could be in a working device box on the circuit.
An easy way to see if a neutral is not working-----

You will need a tester (a $2.00 neon tester is fine) and a grounded extension cord.

The outlet may have power but no neutral--to check touch one lead of the tester to the gold screw with the black wire and the other to the metal box. (if the box is grounded the tester will light up)

If nothing happens---plug the extension cord into a good working outlet

then test the black wire again--this time tester to the black wire and stuck probe into the wide slot of the extension cord.

The electricians will yell at me if I steered you wrong---Mike---


If you don't have power at all---look for a gfci breaker or hidden gfci outlet.----Could be anywhere in the house---they were expensive back then and it's not unheard of to find outside outlets back wired to a second floor outlet or one in the basement.
 

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Stuck in the 70's
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I found an old "grounded outlet tester" which shows there is power to the outlets.
I moved the green wire from the neutral back where it should be, from the green screw to the box.

I'll post a pic later, but it has been a long night with sick dogs and other other fun stuff going on so I'm just leaving the breaker off overnight and am going to get some sleep.
Thanks everyone!
 

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Semi-Pro Electro-Geek
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3,403 Posts
Another significant safety issue here: These are outdoor receptacles, and are not GFCI protected. If they were GFCI protected, the GFCI would trip from the ground-neutral connection as soon as a load was applied. GFCI protection for outdoor receptacles was required in the late 1970's (was it '78?) - you must have been before the cutoff. You REALLY should fix this. Replacing the circuit breaker on this circuit with a GFCI, or installing a GFCI receptacle as the first on the circuit, will protect you and your family and friends from electrocution in case of a defective piece of equipment or a water-related "incident" with this circuit. You'll have to fix the ground-neutral connection problem at the same time, or the GFCI will trip continuously.
 
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Stuck in the 70's
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2,208 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This is quickly getting past the point I am comfortable with. I'm gonna call a licensed electrician.
Thanks everyone for your help.
 

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the Musigician
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How many outlets in the 'series'? Outdoor outlets require bubble covers around here now, and GFCI is a plus too.
(GFCI MAY be required in your area, check first.)
"Exterior receptacle outlets do not need to be GFCI protected if they have bubble covers" ( www.inspectionnews.net )
It requires a screwdriver, not an electrician at this point I don't think...... you seem to be pretty handy. :)
Turn off the breaker and replace the outlet covers with bubble cover plates.
Green to green screw, white to silver screws, and black to gold screws. It's pretty basic and you can save a bunch of $$$ doing it yourself.

Good luck!

DM
 

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Master Electrician
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General outdoor receptacles require GFCI protection and be weather resistant. In-use covers required when in wet locations.
 

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Semi-Pro Electro-Geek
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"Exterior receptacle outlets do not need to be GFCI protected if they have bubble covers" ( www.inspectionnews.net )
Not true. Bubble covers ("in-use covers" per the NEC) may ALSO be required, but GFCI protection is definitely required. The quote above doesn't even appear on the linked page, as far as I can tell.
 

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the Musigician
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Not true. Bubble covers ("in-use covers" per the NEC) may ALSO be required, but GFCI protection is definitely required. The quote above doesn't even appear on the linked page, as far as I can tell.
Funny thing that.... I have outdoor outlets and just passed inspection with standard outlets....

Google it to see what I see. You have to sign up as a member to read that there.....

DM
 

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Stuck in the 70's
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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
There are six outlets in the series, while they run along the exterior wall, these are all indoor. The pic was taken in the guest bedroom. We don't live in a brick house, we live in a BRICK house.
This was built by a brick mason for himself. With the exception of the laundry room, every room in the house, including both bathrooms have at least one real brick wall.

The outdoor outlets are all covered.

The electrician will be calling back this afternoon. I will be at work, but DH will be here. I have a list of questions for him including GFCIs as there are none even in the bathrooms.

FWIW there is some rust in the boxes, but no current moisture.
 

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Stuck in the 70's
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Well, everything is working now. He came out, checked out all of the outlets, then stuck his head in the attic and found a junction box with a loose neutral.
Thanks everyone, again!
 

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Retired Moderator
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Keep that fellows phone number---He sounds like a keeper!!
 
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