No power to receptacle or switch

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  #1  
Old 07-25-06, 02:37 PM
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No power to receptacle or switch

In my bedroom, one switch and two receptacles do not have power running to them. I disconnected the switch and it tested fine for continuity but the wires had no voltage with all of the breakers turned on. The other switches and receptacles in the room have power going to them and work fine.

I also removed the cover at the panel to look for disconnected wires but everything looked ok and I do not have any tripped breakers.

Here are my questions:

1) If I have a bad breaker, would it be tripped, or could it still be in the on position but not providing power? How can I test a breaker for continuity?

2) Could the cause of this be a loose wire on one of the receptacles (or a bad receptacle) thus kiling the run to the other receptacle and switch?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
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  #2  
Old 07-25-06, 03:26 PM
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Did this just happen or has it always been this way? Do you know if the outlets (or one of them) are controlled by the switch?

It is entirely possible that you have a bad breaker but before gettiing any testing tools out I suggest that you manually flip each breaker to its OFF position and then back to ON. Some brands of breakers "trip" in an intermediate position and it is not always discernable that the breaker has indeed tripped.

If you want to test that each individual breaker is passing electricity when ON and not passing when OFF I sugggest that you use a solenoid-type tester such as the Square D Wiggy Voltage Tester.

http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS....jsp?pn=162357

Hold one of the probes on the neutral bar and then with the other probe test the screw connection on each individual breaker when it is both ON and OFF.
 
  #3  
Old 07-25-06, 03:34 PM
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Are there outlets in other rooms that are also affected?

Do you have a tripped GFCI receptacle? These are the ones typically found in bathrooms, kitchens, and garages that have a button you use to test it every month.
 
  #4  
Old 07-25-06, 05:33 PM
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It could be a loose connection. If your receptacles use the pushin connectors then the wires should be moved to the screw connections. The back stab connections are known to be a source of bad connection problems.
You need to check all the devices on the circuit. The loose connection could be in a working device or a no working device. It could be in a receptalce or a switch or a junction box with no device.
 
  #5  
Old 07-25-06, 06:24 PM
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new or old construction?

Seceral questions for you.
1> is this house new or old construction?
2> If new construction, have these devices ever worked?
3>if old construction, what has changed?
4>Is there no power or now neutral? (Explaination: Sometimes you run into a situation, mostly on new construction, the electrician uses the "stab-ins" on the back of the plug and the neutral may be loose in one of your other plugs)...easiest way to check is go to home depot and buy a "plug tester" its very self explainatory.
5> if new construction and they never worked (I.E. no power). turn off power and check all other plugs.

There are other suggestions but i wouldn't unnecesarily go to the breaker box first...If the Car stops running check the gas gauge before popping the hood...

SthrnAmp
 
  #6  
Old 07-25-06, 06:40 PM
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Thanks for your replies. To answer your questions:

1) The switch and two outlets have not worked since I bought the house one month ago. The house was vacant so I don't know how long the problem has persisted. It is the only electrical problem in the house that I have seen however.

2) There are no tripped GFCI receptacles in the house.

3) The house was built in 1971.

Directly above the wall switch are two other switches: a rotary dimmer that controls some other lights in the room and a horizontal toggle switch with a red light that illuminates in the on position. There is power to both switches and they both work, although I am still not sure what the switch with the red light controls. I thought it controlled the attic light but it does not.

I was able to isolate the circuit that controls the above switches and all of the other receptacles in the room. The breaker seems to be fine. But since there is no power to my non-working switch and receptacles when the breaker is on, I don't know if they are on a different circuit.

Also, the non-working switch appears to control a ceiling fan w/light because there is no power going to that fixture and all of the other ceiling fans in the house are controlled by the same type of toggle switch. I am not sure if the switch controls the non-working receptacles.

Thanks again for the help.
 
  #7  
Old 07-25-06, 06:56 PM
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1) Built in the '70s, The problem may be in the non-working fan box. Go buy an inexspensive tester (I can't say CHEAP, (you know who you are)) and this will help. Sometimes we fed the light box first. or check the outlets that do not work.
The switch with the "pilot" (red) light, Are you in a cold part of the country? This could be for heat tape to prevent ice dambs on the roof.
(Part of the reason people should list a "GENERAL" location of we're their at).
 
  #8  
Old 07-26-06, 08:04 AM
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The heat tape would make sense since I am in the Boston area.
 
  #9  
Old 07-26-06, 09:55 AM
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not sure about your switch, but a receptacle circuit in a single room would typically be daisy chained. a "first receptacle" with a power feed, second wire on that one to the next one, and so on to the end of the chain. If the wall the outlets are on backs up to another bedroom, those outlets could be on the chain too.

If this is the case, most likely a wire attached to the last outlet that works has come off.
 
  #10  
Old 07-26-06, 04:33 PM
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OK, so I checked the switch, ceiling fan and receptacles and there are no loose wires. I also reset all of the breakers and still no power to those items. This makes me think I have a bad breaker.

But if these items don't have power when all of my breakers are on, how do I locate the bad breaker? Is there a way to test the breakers without pulling each one out and testing for continuity?
 
  #11  
Old 07-26-06, 08:02 PM
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From post #2

If you want to test that each individual breaker is passing electricity when ON and not passing when OFF I sugggest that you use a solenoid-type tester such as the Square D Wiggy Voltage Tester.

http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS....jsp?pn=162357

Hold one of the probes on the neutral bar and then with the other probe test the screw connection on each individual breaker when it is both ON and OFF.
 
  #12  
Old 07-26-06, 08:55 PM
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What is the proximity of the non-working outlet to the next/previous working outlet? Do bedrooms back up to it or Living rm. etc..? House style; Split, Ranch,Colonial etc..
 
  #13  
Old 07-27-06, 08:20 AM
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Your problem could be in a working device. You need to check any devices that might be on the same circuit as the dead devices.
Pay specific attention to devices with the back stab pushin connectors. They are very common source of this problem.
 
  #14  
Old 07-27-06, 08:40 AM
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The house is a colonial. The bedroom in question is on the second floor. The two non-working receptacles are on the exterior walls (one on each wall) and are probably about 8 to 10 feet apart.

I haven't checked the working switches and receptacles yet. I will do that tonight. So far all of the dead ones have the wires attached to the terminals and not through the pushin connecters.

But wouldn't a loose connection in one of the working receptacles cause it not to work? Or is it that the connection could be secure enough to power the working receptacle but loose enough to keep the circuit open and not power the other receptacles?
 
  #15  
Old 07-27-06, 12:01 PM
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A working receptacle could have two connections. One for in coming power and one for out going power. If the out going one is loose the receptacle will still work.
 
  #16  
Old 07-27-06, 05:07 PM
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OK, so I think I found the problem but I need to make sure I wire it correctly now.

There is a dimmer on the circuit. I pulled the dimmer out and there are two cables coming into the box (I assume one for the wall-mounted lights in the room and one for the ceiling fan). Each cable has one hot, one neutral and one ground. The dimmer has only two black wires.

The dimmer was wired with the two hots from the wall (one from each cable) attached to the two black wires from the dimmer, and the two neutrals (one from each cable) were spliced together. I assume (and hope) that this is where my problem is.

So my questions are:

1) What type of switch should I have on there?

2) How do I wire it?

Thanks.
 
  #17  
Old 07-27-06, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by markmin1
OK, so I think I found the problem but I need to make sure I wire it correctly now.

There is a dimmer on the circuit. I pulled the dimmer out and there are two cables coming into the box (I assume one for the wall-mounted lights in the room and one for the ceiling fan). Each cable has one hot, one neutral and one ground. The dimmer has only two black wires.

The dimmer was wired with the two hots from the wall (one from each cable) attached to the two black wires from the dimmer, and the two neutrals (one from each cable) were spliced together. I assume (and hope) that this is where my problem is.

So my questions are:

1) What type of switch should I have on there?

2) How do I wire it?

Thanks.

This sounds typical,Chances are the problem is not with this dimmer switch. Put it back in, and start with the recepticals.
Or are there closet lights? Perhaps pull chains. If so start with the one in the affected area. TURN OFF THE POWER FIRST!
 
  #18  
Old 07-28-06, 06:57 AM
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But with the dimmer in the middle of the run, wouldn't I connect the hot wire from one cable to the dimmer and the neutral wire from the other cable to the dimmer (making the neutral wire hot)?
 
  #19  
Old 07-28-06, 08:00 AM
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A neutral is never connected to a dimmer or switch. The dimmer... if a single pole dimmer.... will have the incoming hot (black) connected to one of its black wires and the hot (black) of the cable to the load to its other black wire. So sounds like the dimmer is wired correctly.

I think at this point I would start doing continuity checks on the cables to see where they are coming from. In particular I would be most interested on what cable is the incoming power cable to the dimmer and where it is coming from.... a receptacle or other point in the circuit.

Roger
 
  #20  
Old 07-28-06, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by markmin1
But with the dimmer in the middle of the run, wouldn't I connect the hot wire from one cable to the dimmer and the neutral wire from the other cable to the dimmer (making the neutral wire hot)?
The dimmer-switch connections are correct. The pupose of a switch is to Open/Close the circuit of a switch-controlled outlet.

The NEC specifically prohibits connecting ANY circuit-opening device in the Neutral ( White wire ) conductor of a circuit.

The most probably cause of you problem is a defective connection at a receptacle at an outlet-box with a 2 cables, a "Feed-In" cable and a "Feed-Out" cable.

If the defective receptacle connection is the "Feed-In" cable connection, then the receptacle will be "dead", along with all outlets connected to the "Feed-Out" cable.

If the defective connection is in the "Feed-Out" cable to other outlets, the receptacle will appear "Live" , but the outlets connected to the "Feed-Out" cable will be "dead".

This means you will have to check "Live" outlets for a defective connection.
 
  #21  
Old 07-28-06, 08:27 AM
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I;d check those two exterior outlets first,, ran into a problem a few other times like this and water had gotten into the outlets,, corroding them
 
  #22  
Old 07-31-06, 07:01 PM
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I finally figured this problem out.

There is a bad cable between two of the receptacles. I connected the last working receptacle in the loop to the first non-working receptacle in the loop with a piece of Romex, and that brought power to all of the non-working receptacles.

I am having an electrician come to feed the new cable through the wall. I figure with two guys they can get it done quickly, as opposed to me doing it by myself, which will take forever.

I think the problem was caused by a cable jack that the prior owner had installed on the wall between the two receptacles. It is likely that the cable installer nicked the electrical cable. It will be interesting to see if that was the case.

Thanks for all of your help.
 
  #23  
Old 08-01-06, 05:32 AM
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You probably will not learn what the problem is. A cable properly installed in a wall (when the wall was open) will be stapled to the studs and cannot usually be removed.

If an electrician is replacing a cable, he or she will generally abandon the existing cable (removing the ends from the boxes and leaving the cable in the wall). The new cable will then be run, which may or may not follow the same path as the old cable.
 
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