Low Voltage on Outlet


Old 12-30-04, 10:25 PM
rdn2113's Avatar
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Wally World
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Low Voltage on Outlet

I've been remodeling a bedroom and upgraded the outlets. I tested all the outlets with both a multimeter and by plugging in and running my shopvac.

Today, I noticed that my shopvac wouldn't work when I plugged it into one of the outlets. I tested the outlet with my multimeter and found that the voltage level was only 60 volts, rather than the normal 120.

Any idea where to begin looking to correct this problem?

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Old 12-31-04, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: NW Ohio
Posts: 188
Sounds like you have a partial open on either the hot or neutral side of the ckt. During remodeling is it at all possible you caught a wire with a nail or screw? Did you replace any wire? I would recheck all the outlets and make sure they are on the receptacle screws. It takes a few seconds longer but I always like to bend the end of the conductor into a hook and slip it around the screw and then snug it down. Hot to gold, white/neutral to silver, ground to green. If you made any pigtails in the receptacle boxes you may want to check and make sure those connections are sound as well.

Old 12-31-04, 11:47 AM
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Everything looks good on the bogus outlet wire-wise. I favor using the terminal screws over the back-stab method, so all the outlets were snugged down on the terminals.

I'm going to check where I think the outlet is fed from and see if maybe the neutral is detached. The original builder/electrician fed three outlets from the circuit that supplies the main light in the room, and connected everything in the light fixture box in the ceiling. As a result, there are a lot of 12/2 size wires to twist together.

I had it apart earlier when I pulled in new circuits for accent lighting in the room, and lighting in the closet. (I needed the hole in the ceiling to aid in the fishing process.) When I put all the original wires back together, it's possible one of the neutral wires slipped down in the wire nut and is no longer making contact with the other wires. I'll pull the fixture out again today and give it a look.

Thanks for your help. I'll post back and let you know how it goes.
Old 12-31-04, 04:50 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
A reading such as 60 volts is almost always phantom voltage. One of the probes of your digital multimeter is on a floating wire (disconnected at both ends). That floating wire is capacitively coupled to a nearby wire and picking up voltage from it. So you should treat that 60 volt reading exactly as if it was zero. You have an open circuit. Some wire somewhere has become disconnected. Double-check the conections in all the boxes on the circuit, not just the outlets with problems.

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