Strange Voltage

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  #1  
Old 05-11-04, 07:15 PM
FrankM1
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Strange Voltage

I am remodeling a bathroom, I removed an outlet and the gang box that the outlet was in was also being used as a distribution junction box with 3 lines, 1 line with power in and 2 with power out and a pig tail for the outlet. The box is original to the house and has never been modified, they soldered the connection in the box. I needed to cut the end off of the soldered wire so I could remove the pig tail for the outlet and put a solid cover on gang box, it will end up being behind the cabinets. I put 2 of the load wires together, after removing the outlet, then when I went to hook up the neutral wires they sparked severley, melting the stripped part of both leads.

I started doing some testing and found the following info, 1 of the load wires was the wire in from the fuse box, which is a GFI breaker, which different trip by the way, the other load wire was a continuation to other outlets. I tested the voltage of the power coming in and it's 124 V, now what's strange is that if I test for V between the 2 load wires I also get 124 volts. The 3rd wire in the junction box wich goes up into the attic is not even hooked up to anything in the gang box and it's showing 20 V. Is it normal to have 124 V when checking between 2 load wires? These wires were all hooked together previously.

Thank You and any help would be appreciated. I do have a friend who is an electrical engineer and worked as an electrician coming over to check it out but he can't come over for a couple weeks. Without this box and breaker I don't have any power in my bedroom.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-11-04, 07:33 PM
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Location: Central New York State
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First things first. You need to rethink your plans. You cannot put a junction box behind a cabinet. That would not be considered permanently accessible. You could perhaps cut a hole in the back of the cabinet and put the blank cover plate there, with an appropriate extension on the box, but you can't hide the box behind the cabinet, cover or not.

When you tested the voltage across the load wires, you were reading the voltage through whatever device was plugged into (or connected to) the circuit. For example, the voltage through a light bulb. This is expected.

Either there is a problem with the circuit to the attic, or you read it incorrectly.

You should not be working on circuits live. The wires sparked and produced heat because that is what loos connections do. Fires get started when loose connections spark for a while, produce heat and cause something to ignite. Your GFCI did not trip because you did not create ground fault.

I hope you learned a valuable lesson. Do not work on circuits hot.
 
  #3  
Old 05-11-04, 08:01 PM
FrankM1
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Bob, Thanks for the quick reply. My wife yelled at me for working on the live circuit also, it was a dumb mistake made out of frustration for the problem I was having at the time.

I would appreciate if you could clarify for me one of your statements: "When you tested the voltage across the load wires, you were reading the voltage through whatever device was plugged into (or connected to) the circuit. For example, the voltage through a light bulb. This is expected."

Are you saying that if nothing is plugged into any of the outlets then there shouldn't be any voltage between the load wires? Also the line to the attic is going to an outlet also and that wire is/was not connected.
 
  #4  
Old 05-12-04, 06:20 AM
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In an electric circuit with nothing drawing current, the voltage from the hot side to the neutral side is 120 volts (more or less). If you break the circuit and still have nothing turned on, and measure across the break you should show nothing. However, as soon as you plug something in and turn it on, or turn on a light, fan, or other hardwired device, you create a path for electricity. With a break in the hot wire, measuring across the hot wire will show 120 volts, because the return path is essentially now through the device plugged in.
 
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