Little or No Power

Old 05-07-04, 11:11 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Little or No Power

Appliances and outlets on circuit used by furnace; water heater; computer and microwave have little or no power.

This is a troublesome circuit that has triggered circuit breaker countless times over the years (I know I should have done something about it).

Series of events over past few weeks:

About three weeks ago - overhead flourescent light in computer room would barely turn on (older fixture - Thought it might be - ballast - no action taken, but would sometimes forget and leave it turned on - faint flickering light - sometimes it would turn on).
About two weeks ago I noticed that the Ground Fault Interrupter for outlet in bathroom had triggered (I think) - because portable 600 watt oil filled radiator was not on - even though switched on (Thought it might be - tempermental GFI (sometimes I think I accidently push the GFI test button); outlet is little loose - not solidly anchored to studd.).
Last week I heard the gas furnace motor go "clunkity" in the attic and then seemed to stall - sounded like the motor was struggling to turn. I turned it off by turning down thermostat - still trying to blow - I hit circuit breaker to kill power.
Thought it might be - old furnace's time final winter. Very old furnace - possibly original - house built mid-fifties. Fan has been noisy this winter maybe loose bearings in motor or or blower flange? Checked furnace later - fan turns freely - wasn't jammed as I thought.
Computer turns off by self. Didn't seem like a tripped circuit. Thought it might be - "sasser worm" that had been reported past couple days (causes computer to shut down). Then - Thought it might be - the fact that my feet were touching power strip off/on switch.


Volt meter (digital) shows 120 volts, but when I turn on something that is plugged into that outlet that needs a lot of power (like instant water boiler) the volt meter drops to 64 volts.
Micro wave will run but not heat.
Kitchen outlet reads "open ground" with test plug. Pulled outlet out. Two black wires; two white ; no bare or green ground wire available to attach.

House wiring appears to be all copper.

In this old house circuit panel is about 12 inches from water heater - code issues?

Possible Cause and solution:

"Think it might be"
I think it is just old worn out power panel - maybe not making good contact - or a bad circuit breaker.???

Short term - re-work panel so I can get hot water to take a shower.

Replace old service panel and try to spread load out to more circuits.

Determine appropriate amp breaker for each circuit.

Help, please ?
Old 05-08-04, 05:52 AM
jughead's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Davenport, Iowa
Posts: 597
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
When you have a voltage drop under load that means that there is a bad connection somewhere in the circuit. It should be investigated quickly because that bad connection will generate heat, and that heat can start a fire. Start your checking at the panel to see if the voltage drop is there, then start working your way out. You better not put things off too long as your "ole house" could burn down any day now.
Old 05-08-04, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: port chester n y
Posts: 2,117
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
If the Service-Entrance conductors are Aluminum conductors, it's quite probable there is a corroded connection, a common problem with Aluminum conductors. The defective connection may be in one of three locations--- where the Utility cable connects to the Service-Entrance cable--- the Line/Load terminations in the Meter-Socket-- the 3 Line-terminations in the Service panel.

If you press one lead of a voltmeter against the lug on the Main Circuit-Breaker, and press the other lead against the conductor that terminates on the lug, it's possible to read a voltage-drop of 60 volts across the connection because of internal corrosion despite the fact that the conductor appears to be "crunched" under the lug-screw.

The obvious problem is that the location of the defective connection may be on the "Line" side of the Main-Breaker, and extreme caution is necessary in working on such connections.

Advise that you refer the problem to an experienced professional.

Good Luck & Enjoy the Experience!!!!!!!!!!!
Old 05-08-04, 07:06 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
might have it

Thank you Jugghead and Pat for your rapid and very helpful response.

Pat, you were apparently right about it being before the power panel.

If I can ask a follow-up to verify what I've done. Can someone look at the pictures here - and give me a little feedback?

Old 05-08-04, 09:44 PM
jughead's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Davenport, Iowa
Posts: 597
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
OK, PATTBAA was dead on. Your basic problems were loose connections. It's common too. Loose connections can and do cause heat damage. IF you can disconnect the power I would try to clean things up a bit and make an attempt clean up and/or replace the burned hardware. Anything you can do to cut the resistance of the connection will help your voltage drop problem. I wouldn't try it, though, if you can't make the panel dead.

Very good pictures, but the way, there isn't much doubt about your problem after seeing them.
Old 05-22-04, 12:05 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
repair at contact

It was okay for a day or two after tightening up the connection, but problems are back and now no noticeable current is passing this lead to panel.

"I wouldn't try it, though, if you can't make the panel dead."

In the picture - the bad contact is between the meter and the panel.
When you say "...make the panel dead." - are you saying turn off all breakers in panel - or (as I suspect) kill the power before it reaches the contacts?

The only way (safely) I can see to do that is to pay the power company to de-energize??

thanks again
Old 05-22-04, 12:48 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 80
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Given the damage already done to the meter socket, which is clearly visible from the photos you posted, my opinion is that you need to replace the meter socket completely. Depending on the condition/length of the wires, etc, you may also have to replace the wires coming from the masthead and from the socket to the manin panel. Given all the variables, I would hire a professional electrician to do the work if it was me (and I'm not squeamish about doing stuff like this myself at all). There are just so many variables (e.g. is the service-side wire copper or aluminum? aluminum is very bad about being re-connected, needs to be prepared properly and torqued accurately. How much damage is done to the copper wire that has the insulation melted, etc).

The power company will disconnect your power whenever you ask, but they won't reconnect (in most places) until an inspector has signed off on the work. Which means a permit, and scheduling things with both the utility and the inspector such that you aren't sitting without power for days waiting first for an inspection and then the reconnection. And in my experience, most inspectors really don't like homeowners doing their own service work, and may be a pain about allowing the permit in the first place, and will most certainly be very ready to fail your work. A good pro will handle all of this for you, and it will be worth it.

You do have to get this fixed asap, it's not just inconvenient, it's downright dangerous.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: