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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm gonna keep this pretty short and direct... There's an outlet in our basement room which, when in the process of plugging something into it, causes the power to go off in the entire household. It doesn't trip a circuit, doesn't make any terrifying arcs or put out any heat that I can notice but it's still pretty concerning. One thing that's notable though is it's somewhat difficult to plug something into it and from the moment you start pushing it in to the point where it's fully in is when the power in the whole house is killed.

Like any reliable scientific observation it's completely repeatable and I'm wondering how this is even possible (But, I know nothing about electrical engineering so this really isn't too surprising).

Any help would be seriously appreciated as I have no idea if this could be a minor screw up or something that could seriously compromise the safety of this house.
 

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Most likely there are bare wires almost touching inside that do touch when the receptacle is wiggled as you plug something in.
 

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Is this tripping the main breaker when you attempt to plug something in. What do you mean it kills all the power in the house?
 

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Stop plugging stuff into that receptacle.
Unless your entire house is on one circuit, what you describe is not possible unless the main breaker is tripping.

Replace the receptacle.
 

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I have read accounts of short circuits that should trip a branch circuit breaker but trip the main breaker instead. I don't fully understand why this happens but there is a time delay between when the short occurs and when the breaker trips. Hopefully something trips before wires in the wall or anywhere heat up and become a fire hazard. Maybe the main breaker just acts faster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yeah I figured the responses would be something like this as I don't really understand what could be causing it...

Is this tripping the main breaker when you attempt to plug something in. What do you mean it kills all the power in the house?
As far as I know, no breakers inside of the house are tripping (as I've never had to reset one after dealing with this outlet) but the entire household experiences a complete power drop when I plug or unplug something in, usually no more than a second. There's really no simpler way to describe the chain of events.

Stop plugging stuff into that receptacle.
Yep probably a good idea.

Unless your entire house is on one circuit, what you describe is not possible unless the main breaker is tripping.
That's what I would assume as well but it's not like I'm making this up.

Replace the receptacle.
Also a good idea.

However, curiosity really has the best of me and I'd like to see if anyone has theories as to why or how this can happen... kind of like the ones AllanJ mentioned except like I said before no breaker in this house is tripped (unless I have a misconception as to how breakers usually work - I assume that they can only trip to interrupt the circuit?)

Thanks for the input so far, guys.
 

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I'm thinking there is a problem of some sort causing it to short out when you plug something, but with that, the breaker it's on is faulty, so it is not tripping like it should, so the main trips instead. You probably get a very solid short connection when it shorts out, so there's less of a fireworks show. That's my guess anyway.

As for the problem causing the short in first place, I'd guess the receptacle itself is damaged inside and plugging something in causes the hot to touch neutral or ground. First I would replace it, and see if that fixes the problem, if it does, then try to overload the circuit by plugging lot of stuff into it to ensure the breaker trips like it should. If it's a 15 amp breaker then try to draw 20 amps. Don't do this for too long as if it does not trip, then it becomes a hazard. Now I'm not sure how long it should take for a breaker to trip, but I'm sure you can find info on Google based on your breaker brand. Maybe there's a better way to test this though. See what the others have to say.

Oh and is it a stab lok by any chance?
 

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OP said:
"As far as I know, no breakers inside of the house are tripping (as I've never had to reset one after dealing with this outlet) but the entire household experiences a complete power drop when I plug or unplug something in, usually no more than a second. There's really no simpler way to describe the chain of events."

Do you mean that the lights dim in the rest of the house momentarily or the lights go out? What are you plugging into this outlet?
 

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Have you even put a tester on this? If the main is popping--you might have
a 220 short---

No neutral--just two 110 powers from different legs.

Possible--You need to figure this one out with a tester.

There are a lot of electricians in this world---You may wish to call one.

Trouble shooting this problem should not be to difficult.--Mike---
 

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This is different then what I thought was happening. Now it is only power blink. I thought the power in the entire house giong off.
I still can't explain it.

Replace the receptacle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Red Squirrel I'm gonna be replacing this outlet tomorrow most likely so I'll see if it is or not (I have a GFCI outlet laying around). You have an interesting theory but I hope nothing is wrong with the breaker as that's more of a problem than I would want.

OP said:
"... but the entire household experiences a complete power drop when I plug or unplug something in, usually no more than a second. ... "

Do you mean that the lights dim in the rest of the house momentarily or the lights go out? What are you plugging into this outlet?
A complete drop. No dimming, just a momentary power outage in the whole house.

And in my experience thus far anything will cause the outlet to do this. I've plugged in lamps, a fan, and a vacuum cleaner.
 

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Measure the 240vac and the 120vac on each side of the neutral at the load center while you plug or unplug something into your troublesome outlet. You can access these voltages at an unused elec. dryer outlet without removing the CB panel.
If the 240vac is weird you need to call PoCo.

If not, measure the panel voltages downstream of this point while you plug or unplug something into your troublesome outlet

This is about as odd as it gets. For sure, this thread will be teaching some lesson.
 

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Have you even put a tester on this? If the main is popping--you might have
a 220 short---

No neutral--just two 110 powers from different legs.

Possible--You need to figure this one out with a tester.

There are a lot of electricians in this world---You may wish to call one.:thumbsup:

Trouble shooting this problem should not be to difficult.--Mike---

I agree,something bad AND dangerous is happening here.
 

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Ok so when you unplug the item, does the power come back?! I just automatically assumed it was tripping the main. If it's not, then this is indeed a even stranger problem.

I remember once as a little kid I was playing with 4 light sockets (yes, 120v ones lol) and connecting them together randomly, and then plugging it into the wall. I knew how series and paralel worked, so I was trying more interesting stuff. I had them connected some weird way I don't recall, but if I would unscrew one of the bulbs, the 3 others would go on. If I recall, one was dim, the other two were normal. When I screwed the other bulb back in, the 3 lights would go off, slowly (well maybe 1-2 secs, but not instant) and the one bulb would go on. I don't recall if this is exactly what happened, but it was something to that extent. Very strange. I'm sure there's a better explanation for it. Maybe this is what is going on with that outlet?

If you plugged something in, and a non working outlet or lights started to work, then I'd say it's a bad neutral somewhere, but since everything goes off when you plug something in... then yeah, very interesting lol.
 

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Ok so when you unplug the item, does the power come back?! I just automatically assumed it was tripping the main. If it's not, then this is indeed a even stranger problem.

I remember once as a little kid I was playing with 4 light sockets (yes, 120v ones lol) and connecting them together randomly, and then plugging it into the wall. I knew how series and paralel worked, so I was trying more interesting stuff. I had them connected some weird way I don't recall, but if I would unscrew one of the bulbs, the 3 others would go on. If I recall, one was dim, the other two were normal. When I screwed the other bulb back in, the 3 lights would go off, slowly (well maybe 1-2 secs, but not instant) and the one bulb would go on. I don't recall if this is exactly what happened, but it was something to that extent. Very strange. I'm sure there's a better explanation for it. Maybe this is what is going on with that outlet?

If you plugged something in, and a non working outlet or lights started to work, then I'd say it's a bad neutral somewhere, but since everything goes off when you plug something in... then yeah, very interesting lol.
You probably had the one bulb in parallel and the other three were series in parallel with it. When all the bulbs were in, most of the current flowed through the single bulb (had only 1/3 the resistance of the 3 in series) and the 3 in series didn't get enough amperage to light up. When you unscrewed the single bulb, all the current went through the 3 in series and they lit up (though probably somewhat dimly). The one that was dimmer was probably a higher wattage bulb than the other two.

Would he be having some sort of connection problem with his hot bus where a similar situation is happening. This particular plug might have a good connection and when something is plugged into it, most of the current for the house is flowing through it (would suspect a breaker to trip though).

To the OP, do you have a multimeter? If you do, do you still have any voltage at the other outlets in the rest of the house when something is plugged into this troublesome plug? Is the voltage normal when nothing is plugged into it?
 

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You probably had the one bulb in parallel and the other three were series in parallel with it. When all the bulbs were in, most of the current flowed through the single bulb (had only 1/3 the resistance of the 3 in series) and the 3 in series didn't get enough amperage to light up. When you unscrewed the single bulb, all the current went through the 3 in series and they lit up (though probably somewhat dimly). The one that was dimmer was probably a higher wattage bulb than the other two.

Would he be having some sort of connection problem with his hot bus where a similar situation is happening. This particular plug might have a good connection and when something is plugged into it, most of the current for the house is flowing through it (would suspect a breaker to trip though).

To the OP, do you have a multimeter? If you do, do you still have any voltage at the other outlets in the rest of the house when something is plugged into this troublesome plug? Is the voltage normal when nothing is plugged into it?
Hmm yeah that makes sense, I sorta thought of something like that but was not sure. Was too long ago. I was maybe like 8? lol. Don't ask what I was doing playing with mains at that age. :whistling2: Most of my projects were rejected for the science fair, as being too dangerous.
 
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