Outlet Problem - AGAIN

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  #1  
Old 06-16-05, 07:16 PM
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Angry Outlet Problem - AGAIN

The same problem I had a month ago has reoccurred; so now I have an outlet tester. I turned on the AirConditioner, and the outlet went dead. When I plug the tester in it says I have an open neutral; but, if I plug anything into the other socket is says I have a hot/grnd reverse. There are other outlets on the same circuit that are unaffected. There are two outlets affected, one inside, and an outside outlet on the other side of the wall.

Where do I go next? At least this time it's not 90 degrees out so I can survive without the AC until I can fix it, but I'm not sure where to look. Could the outside outlet have gotten wet and causing the problem? Why would it occur when I put a load on (ie turning on the AC)?

Please help, thanks

James
 
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  #2  
Old 06-17-05, 04:23 AM
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You have an open neutral. Ignore the reading when you plug something into the other half of the receptacle, as you are reading through it.
 
  #3  
Old 06-17-05, 05:58 AM
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Hot ground reversed is also an indication of an open neutral. The problem could be in a working receptacle, light, switch, or junction box anywhere on the circuit. It could also be in the breaker box.
 
  #4  
Old 06-17-05, 07:20 AM
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Question

The last time this happened, I replaced 3 recceptacles on the circuit, and moved all the wires from backstabs to the side screws. This time the problem only seems to be affecting the 2 last receptacles at the end of the circuit, instead of most of the circuit. Since this circuit contains outside receptacles, could moisture be causing the problem?

Where does one start looking for the problem? Now that I'm armed with the outlet tester I thought it would be easier to troubleshoot.

Also, why does turning on an electric load cause the outlet to die?

Thanks,

James
 
  #5  
Old 06-17-05, 10:15 AM
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Since this circuit contains outside receptacles, it could be as simple as a tripped GFCI. Yes moisture could be the problem.
 
  #6  
Old 06-17-05, 11:58 AM
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Here's what might add to the problem. The circuit which covers my bathroom outlet, outside outlets, as well as one inside outlet (probably because of convenience sake, being on the other side of the wall of one outside outlet), was controlled by a GFCI circuit breaker. That circuit breaker went bad, and I couldn't find a replacement so I put in a standard 10 amp breaker. Probably dangerous and stupid.

Should I go out and get GFCI outlets for the bathroom and outside? Why would turning on the AC create the problem? Or what clues might that provide? As opposed to last time, only 2 outlets are affected. Does this mean I only have to investigate those 2 and the next one upstream as the source of the problem? Or do I still have to go through the other working outlets even though the 2 bad ones are at the end of the run?

Frustrated,

James
 
  #7  
Old 06-17-05, 12:07 PM
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Ignore the air conditioner having anything to do with it. Current is passing through the air conditioner and making it look like the circuit works when it doesn't.

Unplug and/or remove ALL loads on the circuit. You will see that you have the problem.

I am going to assume that you mis-typed when you types 10 amp breaker. Yes, you need to replace the GFCI breaker with another GFCI breaker or use one or more GFCI receptacles to protect the bathroom and outside receptacles.

On the subject of the GFCI breaker going bad, what makes you think it was going bad? Perhaps it was working just fine, and indicating your problem.
 
  #8  
Old 06-17-05, 01:53 PM
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Exclamation

> Ignore the air conditioner having anything to do with it. Current is passing through the air conditioner and making it look like the circuit works when it doesn't. <

I was only pointing out the issue with the air conditioner as the outlet went dead when I turned it on (or actually when the compressor went to kick in) hoping that might provide some sort of clue.

> I am going to assume that you mis-typed when you types 10 amp breaker. Yes, you need to replace the GFCI breaker with another GFCI breaker or use one or more GFCI receptacles to protect the bathroom and outside receptacles. <

No mistype. I think it was a 10 amp GFCI breaker in the panel, and I replaced it with a plain vanilla 10 amp breaker.

> On the subject of the GFCI breaker going bad, what makes you think it was going bad? Perhaps it was working just fine, and indicating your problem. <

It was a few years ago, but I think there was something that indicated it was bad. It didn't trip, just couldn't be set to hold to the on position.

I'm not really sure what to do next. Should I start going down the line and removing outlets till the problem goes away? If I remove the last outlet at the end of a run do I need to do anything other than cover the exposed wires? I'm not even sure what open neutral means. Is it that somewhere the neutral is not connected?

Any other tips to finding where the problem is?

Thanks again.
 
  #9  
Old 06-17-05, 02:20 PM
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As has been said several times, you have an open neutral. This is a bad connection of a white wire. Just shut off the breaker, open up every single last box on the circuit, and remake the connections of the white wires. It's time-consuming but easy.
 
  #10  
Old 06-17-05, 02:22 PM
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You should not have a 10 amp breaker protecting a branch circuit. Check the wire on the circuit, ALL of the circuit, then install a 15 or 20 amp breaker as appropriate.

I suspect that the breaker did not go bad, but rather a ground fault developed and tripped the breaker. You then could not turn it on because of the fault. I suspect this fault has finally caused a problem and now you have an open.

Since you have to check each and every junction box to check the wire gage, start furthest from the panel. Open the box and examine the wiring. Check for proper power at the device. Do this with nothing plugged in and all light bulbs removed from any wired fixtures.

If you check each and every junction box you will eventually find the problem.
 
  #11  
Old 06-17-05, 02:48 PM
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I've been pulling apart all my outlet boxes on the circuit. Would it help to hook an ohmmeter up from one outlet to the next to see if there are any breaks in the wall somewhere?

Thanks
 
  #12  
Old 06-17-05, 03:05 PM
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Do not use an ohmmeter. Use a tester, preferrably a two wire variety, and test for power at each location. If you have a break, it will be between a junction box with power and one without.
 
  #13  
Old 06-17-05, 03:31 PM
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For clarity.
You can have a break or lose connection on an outlet or any box that is working properly (on the same circuit).
its just, not sending power to the outlets down stream.

To help with you voltage checks.
Plug a lamp in the Not working outlet with the switch on this will load down any phantom voltage readings.
 
  #14  
Old 06-18-05, 09:06 AM
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I'm getting more confused as time goes on. Wire gauge, amperage, junction boxes, circuit breakers, phantom voltage, etc. So let's start again and I'll tell you what I can. Hopefully I can get an idea of what to do.

1. This problem (outlet dying) has occured twice. Both times it has mysteriously gone away. Both times it has happened when the compressor on my AC has kicked in. Neither time has it tripped the circuit breaker.

2. The circuit involved is for outside outlets, bathroom outlets and bathroom lighting. There are two inside outlets also coveered by the circuit (only because they are in close proximity to outside outlets).

3. Most of the circuit breakers for the house are the same size (about 1/2" wide) using the same gauge wiring. Circuits for fridge, kitchen, general lighting, furnace, etc. None of the wiring is marked as to gauge, but are smaller than a 14awg wire that is marked (at leased I'm assuming that 14awg refers to gauge).

4. Last time I had the problem, it was suggested that I purchase a cheap 3-prong tester that will test for open ground, hot, neutral or reversed wires. I got one. The problem is an open neutral. Last time it afffected a several outlets, this time only two outlets. One of the affected outlets is at the end of a run (only one set of wires coming to the receptacle). the other affected outlet is outside, and the closest to the other bad one (on the other side of the wall, about 2' away).

5. Many years ago the circuit breaker was a GFCI. I thought it went bad (maybe I was wrong), couldn't find a similar one, so replaced it with a 10 amp standard circuit breaker and everything worked fine until now (other than exposing myself to non protected outlets and creating a dangerous situation).

6. Last time I had the problem, I replaced the outside receptacles, and one inside receptacle. Moved all connections from backstab to sidescrew connections, made sure they were all clean and tight.

So here I am now, things are mysteriously working again (through nothing I've done). My plan is to replace the three outside outlets and bathroom outlet with GFCI outlets (or should I try to find another GFCI circuit breaker?).

Is there anything I can do to trace the problem while things are working? Other than the GFCI outlets, is there something else I should do (racraft said I should not be using a 10 amp breaker)?

I appreciate all the advice so far, but fear this will happen again when the temperature is unbearable and I will have no AC, so I'd like to address this proactively.

Thanks,

James
 
  #15  
Old 06-18-05, 10:36 AM
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Is your A/C 240 volts ?
Is your A/C on a separate circuit other then the two outlets that are not working (now working) ?
If not, check a third outlet that feeds the power to the not working outlets.
 
  #16  
Old 06-18-05, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by GWIZ
Is your A/C 240 volts ?
Is your A/C on a separate circuit other then the two outlets that are not working (now working) ?
If not, check a third outlet that feeds the power to the not working outlets.
No, the AC is 120. We're talking about only one circuit (if you consider being controlled by one circuit breaker as being a circuit). I flipped off the circuit breaker and checked all outlets and lights to see which it controlled. There appear to be 2 runs, as I've found two receptacles that have a feed in but not out). The only ones that stopped working this time were the last two on one run (where the AC was plugged in). The next outlet upstream appeared to be working fine (no open neutral, all connections clean and tight). All three (the two not working and the next one upstream) were replaced last time I had the problem. Both times I had the problem, it mysteriously solved itself.
 
  #17  
Old 06-18-05, 01:43 PM
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You are making this far more difficult than you need to. You have an open neutral. Unplug everything on the circuit. Figure out which receptacles work and which do not. Somewhere between the last working receptacle and the first non-working one you have an open neutral. Check the two receptacles (the last working one and the first non-working one). Your problem is probably at either of those locations.
 
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