Phantom Electrical Ghost

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  #1  
Old 08-19-02, 08:59 PM
RCMerlin
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Question Phantom Electrical Ghost

I have an electrical circuit in my house that mysteriously turns on and off randomly. It does not trip the breaker. With nothing being just turned on, this circuit will turn off for a few minutes then just come back on. It is a bedroom/garage/bathroom circuit. The bedroom has a ceiling fan/light. The garage has a fluorescent fixture. It does not matter what combination of lights are on. It does not seem to matter the time of day although we notice it more at night. Lastly it does not happen all the time, not every day.
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  #2  
Old 08-19-02, 09:36 PM
Artcarney
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Could be a loose connection.

You might be thinking ghost. Iím thinking real problem. This sounds like a loose connection somewhere in the circuit. It could be a wire connector in a box. Feed through connections in a Recpt. Or many other possibilities. You probably notice it more at night if you are home more in the evening. Loose connections are a leading cause of fires. Iím not sure if spending the time to diagnose your situation is the best answer. Searching for a Electrical contractor in the morning may be your best bet. In the mean time it might help to watch for little habits of doing the same thing (like plugging thing into outlets) that seem to have some effect on the circuit. Might be valuable in helping an Electrician diagnosing the problem.
 
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Old 08-20-02, 09:24 AM
RCMerlin
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Artcarney,
Thanks for the insight. Nothing gets plugged into this circuit on a normal basis. I suspect the ceiling fan or the electronic switch (but I have replaced it once). Would a faulty circuit breaker have this characteristic? It is complicated by the randomness. It is hard to track down.
 
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Old 08-20-02, 09:43 AM
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Originally posted by RCMerlin
Artcarney,
Thanks for the insight. Nothing gets plugged into this circuit on a normal basis. I suspect the ceiling fan or the electronic switch (but I have replaced it once). Would a faulty circuit breaker have this characteristic? It is complicated by the randomness. It is hard to track down.
This is most likely a connection rather than a device like a circuit breaker. These intermittent failures may be associated with a loose connection which can result in a series arc. Arcing generates a lot of heat and can cause a fire. The tracing techniques for these intermittent failures are beyond the scope of do it yourself work unless you are willing to open every device and outlet box to check every connection. Any thing beyond that involves lifting the circuits from their terminations in the panel, applying a DC test voltage and hunting for the fault with a polarity sensing meter or low voltage tester. Unless you are sure you have the skills needed to work in an energized panel you should call in an electrical contractor.
--
Tom
 
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Old 08-26-02, 11:26 PM
RCMerlin
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Ok here is the latest on the ghost circuit.
I checked most of the fixtures and boxes, nothing seems strange.
I disconnected the ceiling fan and electronic switch and some
other light fixtures I had replaced previously.
Ghost still playing tricks.

Tonight the lights went out. I went to the circuit box to check.
The breaker had not tripped, but when I cycled the breaker
just to be sure, it sparked and the lights came back on...

So now I know I can toggle the breaker to get the lights to
come back on at least for a little while.

Do I assume correctly that breakers should not spark!!!??

I'm guessing it's off to breakers-r-us.
 
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Old 08-27-02, 07:31 AM
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All switches, breakers included, spark when turned on or off. Most of the time you don't notice, and some switches spark more than others. We can't see the spark you're talking about (so we don't know how serious it is), but it's possible that you may just be hypersensitive right now, i.e., you're paying more attention than usual.
 
  #7  
Old 08-28-02, 09:55 PM
bwetzel
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Take the panel cover off and look at the breaker. See if you notice any black or dark color where the breaker snaps onto the buss. You could have a weak breaker and it is a loose fit on the buss of the panel. I have seen this many times. Most of the time you have to replace the breaker and move it to a different spot in the panel because it has burnt the buss up.
 
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Old 08-28-02, 10:23 PM
RCMerlin
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Wink

Well unfortunately i did two things at once so I'm not sure of which one seems to have fixed the problem. I reseated the breaker, nothing seemed unusual there. But I also noticed I had a buzzing old wall switch. I replaced it also. Everything seems to be working. My money is on the wall switch.

Thanks everyone.
 
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