Devices on circuit don't work but circuit is energized


  #1  
Old 11-24-03, 03:36 PM
chip
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Question Devices on circuit don't work but circuit is energized

The breaker did not trip but everything on the circuit went dark. My multitester showed continuity across the terminals of the breaker but I replaced it anyway because this particular one had worked itself loose in the past and the associate at Home Depot said my old one was a piggyback breaker and may not have been making a good contact. Anyway, the new breaker did not change the situation.

There are two junction boxes in the attic wired in series that supply most of the lights and receptacles on this circuit and both are receiving 120v. There is apparently another j-box preceeding this one because two receptacles on this circuit remain energized, that may or not be relevant, I don't know, and I was unable to locate the box. The most puzzling thing to me is when I disconnect the black wire that leads from the first attic j-box to the second---which I would assume would render that conductor dead---I can read 120v from that wire to ground.

For now, the breaker is off and fortunately there is nothing on that circuit that we cannot live without for a week if need be. I left a voice mail message with an electrical contractor I've relied on in the past and if I have to wait a few days for him to return, so be it, I trust him like he was my brother. Meanwhile, can anyone enlighten me on what may be happening? Thanks for your time.
 
  #2  
Old 11-24-03, 06:06 PM
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Bad splice, open neutral, open hot, Bad receptacle Dozens of guesses this is a common problem discussed often an it usualy ends up being a backstabbed receptacle or a bad splice. If you have a receptacle tester and are comfortable with electricity you may be abl to diagnose this problem yourself. Post back if you want to persu this further.
 
  #3  
Old 11-24-03, 06:27 PM
J
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When you tell us you have 120 volts, tell us to what. Is it to ground or to neutral. It makes a big difference.
 
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Old 11-24-03, 07:08 PM
chip
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Thanks for the input.

Sparky: I checked the receptacles with my tester and they are all dead. My house is nearing 50 years in age, the wiring has been extended and added to over the years and many of the receptacles are not wired in series, for example one junction box sends two seperate cables to a bedroom for different receptacles and then feeds another junction box which feeds additional receptacles in another bedroom as well as a cable for a bathroom receptacle and fan switch. Upstream of all this is the original house wiring in the living room where the receptacles are wired in series. One of the things I'm not grasping is why the hot to the junction box is live but nothing spliced to it is, even though they are fed individually .

joed: 120v to ground.
 
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Old 11-24-03, 08:33 PM
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What do you get hot to neutral and neutral to ground. with all those junction boxes a bad splice is likely however you never said are the recepts backstabbed or are the wires landed on the screws?
 
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Old 11-24-03, 09:35 PM
chip
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Sparky: The wires are screwed to the receptacles. Hot to neutral showed no voltage in either junction box. In the second j--box neutral to ground showed 120. I don't remember checking neutral to ground in the first box.
 
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Old 11-24-03, 09:54 PM
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120 volts Neutral to ground is an open neutral. you need to look at all the white wires and make sure the splices and terminations are up to par. Start with the last place you can read 120 v hot to neutral. remember to turn the power off while working on the circuit and only turn it on for testing purposes.
 
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Old 11-24-03, 11:06 PM
chip
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Sparky, just so I'm clear. If I go to the second junction box where I read 120 volts neutral to ground, undo the spliced neutral wires and ground each one in turn, can I find the open neutral that way, then go the corresponding receptacle and check the connections? Thanks for sharing your time and knowledge.
 
  #9  
Old 11-25-03, 05:44 AM
J
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If you are reading 120 neutral to ground, the neutral wire coming to that box is open. It could be the connection in that box or the connection in a box before the that one.
 
  #10  
Old 11-25-03, 09:24 PM
chip
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Thumbs up

Problem solved! Thanks joed and Sparky.

I was unable to locate an open neutral, so as a last resort I disconnected the GFCE receptacle in the bathroom (which feeds the exhaust fan switch). With the GFCI out of the circuit, everything works again. The GFCI was only 4 1/2 years old but I guess it failed internally. Ran to Home Depot for a replacement GFCI and all seems to be well. Incidentally the old GFCI was back wired and the wires were not long enough to make the side connections on the new GFCI, so I had no resort but to back wire the new one.

Thanks again for sharing your expertise. You have my gratitude.

 
 

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