Partial circuit out - open neutral

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  #1  
Old 08-23-04, 08:33 PM
Len Kagelmacher
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Partial circuit out - open neutral

I'm hoping someone has a solution for me... I have a 15 amp circuit with 5 grounded receptacles and 2 light fixtures. Two of the receptacles work fine, but the other 3 and the lights are out. My circuit analyzer plugged into any of the dead receptacles tells me that I have an open neutral. I've replaced the circuit breaker, thinking that may be the source of the trouble - but the problem remains.

Everything was working fine up until last Saturday. Any ideas as to what might be causing this?

Thanks,
-len
 
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  #2  
Old 08-23-04, 08:46 PM
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Have you opened the outlet covers and checked to see if the neutral wires (white wire) is tight to the receptical? You might want to start at the last plug that works.

What happened last saturday...?

P.S. Turn your power off first at the breaker.
 
  #3  
Old 08-23-04, 10:32 PM
Len Kagelmacher
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Last Saturday I had a photo strobe plugged into one receptacle. It started blinking, then made a brief high-pitched sound and went out. I thought the light was the problem, but when I plugged it into another receptacle (different circuit), it worked fine.

I checked the receptacle where the problem was and, while it looked ok, I replaced it anyway. All connections there are tight. Are you suggesting that the problem could be at one of the receptacles that work?

Thanks
 
  #4  
Old 08-23-04, 11:03 PM
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Yes, absolutely. What Exile said is correct. Once you have checked all the dead receptacles, start checking nearby working receptacles on the same circuit. Suspect any wires that are simply poked into holes in the back of receptacles. These make terrible connections. Move them to the adjacent screws. No need to replace anything. Just remake the connections.
 
  #5  
Old 08-24-04, 05:25 AM
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An open neutral has nothing to do with the breaker, for a normal non-GFCI breaker. As has been stated, look for an open neutral at one of the recepticles.
 
  #6  
Old 08-24-04, 05:58 AM
Len Kagelmacher
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Solved!!

Exile, John, and racraft: THANKS!! It was indeed an open neutral wire at one of the working recepticles (which was itself pretty ratty, so I replaced it). Once again, this site has proven invaluable to me.

As they say, "it's not what you know, it's who you know...", and knowing the folks here at doityourself.com makes all the difference!

Thanks again,
-len
 
  #7  
Old 09-18-04, 12:26 AM
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Sorry for bumping an old thread, but I figured my question was similar enough to not need a new one.

I'm buying a house, and after the inspector's report earlier today, I found out that every outlet in the house has an open neutral.

The house was built in 1959, but unlike most of the other houses I looked at in the same subdivision, this one has breakers instead of a fuse box. I'm guessing somewhere along the lines, the wiring was replaced or had some additions.

Since outlets on different circuits are coming up as open neutral, is it worthwhile to check every socket in the house? I know very little about wiring, but it seems illogical to me that one improperly installed outlet could impact other circuits.

Assuming I'm right, and this can't be fixed just by finding one bad outlet... is fixing the problem within the grasp of an amateur, or would I need an electrician?

And how "safe" is it for the outlets to remain as they are? I'd like to bring the house as close to current code as possible, but I don't want to spend thousands on a whole-house rewire if the system is safe.
 
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Old 09-18-04, 05:40 AM
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In 1959 it was not code to have grounded receptacles everywhere in a house. To save money most receptacles were ungrounded, and the wiring does not support a ground. My own house (built in 1950 is like this, where the original wiring remains). You may find grounded receptacles in some places, such as the kitchen.

Having grounded (three prong) receptacles installed with no ground is not safe. There is no problem if someone uses a regular two prong device. The problem happens if someone tries to use a three prong device and if a problem occurs with that device.

The ground plug is a safety device. Appliances with a metal frame (washer and dryer for example) sonnect the metal frame to the ground wire. If a short occurs in the appliance and if the hot wire touches the frame, the breaker will trip, assuming the ground wire is properly grounded. If, however, no ground exists, the frame of the appliance will become charged at 120 volts and could kill someone touching it, especially if they also happen to contact a good ground.

You should either have proper grounds installed (new wiring or a ground wire added), or you should GFCI protect those circuits, or you should replace the three prong receptacles with two prong ones.
 
  #9  
Old 09-18-04, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by racraft
You should either have proper grounds installed (new wiring or a ground wire added), or you should GFCI protect those circuits, or you should replace the three prong receptacles with two prong ones.
From what the inspector told me, the house is grounded with an aluminum wire. Again... knowing next to nothing about home electricity, I don't know if that's at all relevant.

By adding a ground wire, is that just a matter of connecting a wire to the metal junction box? (Is that safe?) Or does that involve fishing a single ground wire to each of the outlets I have?

I don't really mind replacing everything with a GFCI, but I'd rather not spend the money if there's another way to safely fix the problem.
 
  #10  
Old 09-18-04, 03:53 PM
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The receptacles themselves must be grounded. You need to fish a wire to the junction box which connects to the redceptacle ground screw and to the circuit breaker panel ground bar.

You will find it much easier to replace the receptacles with two prong receptacles except where you absolutelt need a proper ground.
 
  #11  
Old 09-18-04, 06:01 PM
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Kevin said:
every outlet in the house has an open neutral
but all the discussion since is about an open ground. Are we talking about an open neutral, or an open ground???
 
  #12  
Old 09-18-04, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
but all the discussion since is about an open ground. Are we talking about an open neutral, or an open ground???
Like I said, I know next to nothing about in-house electrical systems.

Every outlet in the house has an open neutral, when a ground tester was applied. From what racraft has led me to believe, this is because none of the outlets are grounded.

Since a lot of the things I use are three-prong (UPS, computers, surge strips), I'd like to fix this without rewiring the entire house.

I'm comfortable changing light switches, and am reasonably sure that I could replace outlets. But re-wiring the house is way beyond my abilities.
 

Last edited by Kevin_28; 09-18-04 at 06:31 PM. Reason: added info
  #13  
Old 09-18-04, 07:36 PM
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Kevin start a new thread about your problem and start over.....Roger
 
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Old 09-18-04, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Roger
Kevin start a new thread about your problem and start over.....Roger
Done.
 
  #15  
Old 09-19-04, 06:57 AM
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Yes, I misread the post. Sorry.
 
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