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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

Last autumn at the cabin, all of the outlets/lights on one circuit barely had any electricity getting to them. They all still worked, but a lamp, for example, would be very dim. I replaced the breaker with another breaker that I was certain was working properly, but the circuit still had little power getting to it. The rest of the cabin seems to be fine (electrically speaking), but I can't say for certain whether any other circuits are showing increased amounts of power (e.g. the lights burning brighter than normal).

The cabin was built in the late 1960's, and the fellow who built it wasn't an electrician.

It's possible that before I noticed the above problem with the reduced power, somebody might have replaced an outlet (it's therefore possible that I have a multiwire branch circuit that has been damaged because the person didn't remove the tab between the two hots on the outlet).

It's also possible that a porcupine (who lives under the cabin sometimes when people aren't around) might have chewed a wire.

I'm fairly competent at basic wiring, and if necessary, I'll be rewiring the entire circuit (which is not actually very easy given the structure of the cabin). What I was wondering is whether anybody can give me the troubleshooting steps I should take so that I can determine/fix the problem starting with the easiest fix (e.g. a loose wire) to the most unpleasant (e.g. crawling under the cabin in porcupine poo to replace the entire circuit, and drilling new holes to feed wires).

I'm opening the cabin up in a few weeks - any help would be much appreciated. Given that the cabin is remote (e.g. there are no electricians around) I'm on my own with this problem.

By the way, this is my first post, but I've learned a lot from a lot of you guys that are extremely talented at electricity.

Thanks,

Jim
 

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all of the outlets/lights on one circuit barely had any electricity getting to them. They all still worked, but a lamp, for example, would be very dim. I replaced the breaker with another breaker that I was certain was working properly, but the circuit still had little power getting to it.
Each outlet loaded with 10A, like a hair dryer or toaster, should drop no more than 3vac.
The main panel loaded with 10A should drop no more than 0.5vac.
A good closed breaker carrying rated current should have less than 100 mvac across it, a bad one more than 200 mvac.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well, I can't say that I really understand how your response addresses my question, but thank you very much for replying anyway.

Jim
 

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Let me clear some stuff up from the previous post.

"10A" means "10 amps" or "amperes" which is the amount of electricity running through a conductor.

VAC means volts ac or volts alternating current. The voltage in your house is ac, unline direct current or "dc" which batteries use. Volts is kind of like the speed or "push" of electricity.

MVAC is mili volts ac. Which is obviously less than 1 volt.

Do you have a means of measuring voltage? If you plug in a load like a space heater or hair dryer you should not see a voltage drop of 3 vac as mentioned.

If a mwbc or "multi wire branch circuit" was installed on a receptacle without the tab being removed, the circuit breaker should trip or when engaged it would make a pop or crackle. As this is a direct short circuit.

I'd say that there is a loose hot wire somewhere.

Does this house have aluminum wire? I doubt it since AL was used after 65.

Is the wire underneath the house romex? Its possible the porcupine has bitten the sheath.
 

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Your problem is likely a loose connection somewhere on the circuit. It could be the white or the black wire. If the entire circuit is bad then the problem is likely in the panel. Since you replaced the breaker I would be checking the neutral connection for that circuit.
 

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Yes, I would be pretty careful with it or not do it at all if you don't understand some theory and practice of electricity and stuff related to it.
 

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Do you have an electric HWT, heat or range or anything else 220V? Do they work for sure? Reason I am asking this is if you dropped one phase or leg of your service you can get a "dim"circuit on the bad phase because it will try and draw current thru the HWT element. Turn off the HWT circuit breaker and see if the lights go off on the dim circuit. If so, try and reset your main breaker and see if it changes things. If not call your utility to verify both phases are hot.

This may be way out there and a long shot but I have seen it before. BTW, I am not sure how that response was supposed to help you either.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Good tips

Thanks guys - very useful.

Unclduey - thanks for the suggestion to turn off (via the breaker) other circuits. That one is so obvious that I'm embarrassed to admit I hadn't thought of that. If I only turn on the breaker to the circuit that I'm concerned about, then I'll see if the troublesome circuit is still getting reduced power, or if it is getting full power. I would think that if it's still getting reduced power, then I have a bad connection, or a chewed wire. If it's getting full power, then I think I've got leakage - e.g. multiwire branch circuit or something similar.
 

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Dim lights and bright lights = bad connection in the neutral.
Dim lights only = bad connection upstream somewhere.
 
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