Howdy - ever seen a single wire electric outlet?

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  #1  
Old 02-22-06, 07:46 PM
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Howdy - ever seen a single wire electric outlet?

Hi, wow how long did it take me to find THIS forum? Hard to believe I haven't been here before.


Anyway I am pretty sure I know what the advice is going to be, but wondered if anybody had ever seen this. 125 year old house, probably originally wired in the 40's or early fifties (REA) then worked on by the proverbial brother in law in the 70's. In the late 80's the tin covered garage had glowing nail holes and I shorted something big out on the main house so we had the whole place (house, garage/shop/barn and corrals redone by a local guy...Except for two rooms in the main house(long story) one of which contains my problem.

regular looking outlet - even had a grounded three hole thingy in it. Started to act erratically a few weeks ago (wouldn't charge the cell phone) , when I tried to run the vacuum from there it seemed like it wasn't getting enough juice, had an old lamp plugged into it that seemed to have a problem with it's switch, - bypassed that and figured out finally that it must be the fixture itself (even imagined I could see a broken of "prong" in one of the slits - teenagers in the house)

Being totally scared of electricity and not sure which breaker to turn off etc I bought a cheapo continuity tester and tried it in the outlets - it lit up BUT not very britghtly so decided to change that and see if that would solve problem. Well, when I got the cover off low! The ground (?silver screw) was connected to the box and ONLY ONE WIRE was coming through the conduit! It looks like a black, greasy, cloth covered antiquity. If I touch the tester to the end of this wire and the side of the box it glows dimly, if I touch the end of the wire and the nut that holds the conduit (I hope) that the wire is coming into the box from, it glows quite a bit brighter but not as good as one of the other functional outlets in the room.

What do you think? I think it sounds like a freaking nightmare of tearing up the walls to get to the stuff. Is there some way from this end to fix this? Going in the attic is pretty much out of the question and since this room didn't get done I am afraid to look at the remaining outlets....sigh.

And to think I had the computer plugged to that outlet for several years!
 
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  #2  
Old 02-22-06, 08:27 PM
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Welcome! Interesting situation!

You already know the answer.

In the mean time, do not use it!
 
  #3  
Old 02-22-06, 09:37 PM
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If the counduit was properly installed, the wiring should be repaceable without opening the walls.

FWIW, sometime in the 40s, to save on material, they used some sort of coaxial cable, which had a rubber coated conductor in the middle, an some spiral metak shield on the outside, which acted as the neutral.
 
  #4  
Old 02-23-06, 04:26 AM
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It sounds to me like they are using the conduit as the neutral. Whether this was originally done, or done later on I don't know, but it's wrong. I suspect that the conduit is now not making a decent connection somewhere along the way, resulting in the problem.

Have new wires run through the existing conduit, including a ground wire. Certainly if any problems are found with the conduit then correct them, but you may not be able to find where the problem exists.
 
  #5  
Old 02-26-06, 05:55 PM
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Thanks for the welcome

put a cap back on the wire and some duct tape over the hole. It will be a while before I can find anybody to get into the attic - if its even doable. bleh
 
  #6  
Old 02-26-06, 07:09 PM
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Instead of the duct tape, put a blank cover over the hole...I just bought one at Wal-Mart for 24 cents. Not often you can buy safety protection for less than a quarter.
 
  #7  
Old 04-24-06, 09:14 PM
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humm...

Sounds like the old knob and tubing wire they used in the 20's and 30's. Wondered if it ever worked at all or wire is missing inside the conduit. With all said, I would definitly check your earth grounding system at your meter and panel because it shouldn't do anything but trip the breaker.
 
  #8  
Old 04-25-06, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by jamead65
Sounds like the old knob and tubing wire they used in the 20's and 30's. Wondered if it ever worked at all or wire is missing inside the conduit. With all said, I would definitly check your earth grounding system at your meter and panel because it shouldn't do anything but trip the breaker.
Knob and tube wire isn't in conduit. However fabric covered, rubber insulated wire was used into the 50s and is found pulled in conduit and in cable similar to romex in looks. If the circuit was in fact using the conduit as a neutral this would't trip the breaker.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the earth ground at the meter (service). If all the lights and receptacles in the house were acting up (bright/dim lights, things burning up or not working) then I'd suspect a loose neutral. But, since only one receptacle seems to be an issue and a wiring problem has been identified, that's not likely.

Best bet is to call an electrician and have the situation with this one receptacle checked out. I'd think from your description a fix may not be that difficult. (I'd probably fix something like this for $50.00-$150.00 depending on the issues involved) It is is entirely possible you have other receptacles in the rooms that weren't re-wired that have the same issue. If so it's not a good idea to be using them.
 
  #9  
Old 04-25-06, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by old ranch house
Hi, wow how long did it take me to find THIS forum? Hard to believe I haven't been here before.


Anyway I am pretty sure I know what the advice is going to be, but wondered if anybody had ever seen this. 125 year old house, probably originally wired in the 40's or early fifties (REA) then worked on by the proverbial brother in law in the 70's. In the late 80's the tin covered garage had glowing nail holes and I shorted something big out on the main house so we had the whole place (house, garage/shop/barn and corrals redone by a local guy...Except for two rooms in the main house(long story) one of which contains my problem.

regular looking outlet - even had a grounded three hole thingy in it. Started to act erratically a few weeks ago (wouldn't charge the cell phone) , when I tried to run the vacuum from there it seemed like it wasn't getting enough juice, had an old lamp plugged into it that seemed to have a problem with it's switch, - bypassed that and figured out finally that it must be the fixture itself (even imagined I could see a broken of "prong" in one of the slits - teenagers in the house)

Being totally scared of electricity and not sure which breaker to turn off etc I bought a cheapo continuity tester and tried it in the outlets - it lit up BUT not very britghtly so decided to change that and see if that would solve problem. Well, when I got the cover off low! The ground (?silver screw) was connected to the box and ONLY ONE WIRE was coming through the conduit! It looks like a black, greasy, cloth covered antiquity. If I touch the tester to the end of this wire and the side of the box it glows dimly, if I touch the end of the wire and the nut that holds the conduit (I hope) that the wire is coming into the box from, it glows quite a bit brighter but not as good as one of the other functional outlets in the room.

What do you think? I think it sounds like a freaking nightmare of tearing up the walls to get to the stuff. Is there some way from this end to fix this? Going in the attic is pretty much out of the question and since this room didn't get done I am afraid to look at the remaining outlets....sigh.

And to think I had the computer plugged to that outlet for several years!
yes i came across this a few times at jobs first let me tell you its a fire trap ....... if u pull the box out of the wall u might find the 2nd wire hope and pray . if not u will have to get a new wire to the outlet if not i would just wire nut the wire and put a blank cover on it this is a good reason to have a real electrician do the work we would never never do that kind of a thing
 
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