Weird problem (Circuit losing power)

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  #1  
Old 09-02-06, 12:50 AM
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Weird problem (Circuit losing power)

For the past few days, I have noticed that one circuit in my house would just lose power, and a few minutes/sec laters, it would regain power.

Could this be a sympton of a faulty circuit breaker? I went out to the main electrical panel and saw that none of the breakers have been tripped.

A month ago, I had my roof redone and noticed that the roofing contractor had opened up the main panel and tapped into the electrical source to power one of his large equipment, could he have caused some damage to my circuit breakers?

Is replacing a circuit breaker an easy DYI task?

(EDIT BY MODERATOR TO REMOVE EMAIL ADDRESS)

Thanks in advanced!
- J
 

Last edited by jwhite; 09-02-06 at 05:02 AM. Reason: Email addresses not allowed in forums
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  #2  
Old 09-02-06, 05:17 AM
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The toughest type of problem to troubleshoot is an intermittant one. Let me say good luck. I can only guarntee that it will be the with the last part of the system that you look at.

It is common for a breaker to fail in the off position, but not common for it to reset itself. It is possible that something is loose in the panel. If so, weather or not the roofer loosened it is impossible to say.

You do have a loose connectoin some where. I need to ask if you are sure that it is only one circuit. Often times we only notice one circuit, because say it is the living room lights so we are usaually in there using the lights when it happens, but other areas could also be having a problem also.

The problem could also be with the utility. We have had some bad weather were I live the past few days. Sometimes the power goes out for just a second and my lights flicker, but my TV seems to work just fine.

Doing any electrical work is easy or hard based on your level of comfort. Doing electrical work in a panel is dangerous. If you make the wrong mistake it can kill you. Even with the main breaker off, there is still live voltage in the panel. I do not reccomend that anyone who is not entirely familiar with the interior of a panel and what does what in there do any work inside the panel.
 
  #3  
Old 09-02-06, 05:22 AM
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I split my post becausee it was getting long.

Determine what areas of the house are having the problem. Next turn the breaker off to that area. Begin checking every box , rec or light or sw that does not work and make sure all of the connections are good. Take them apart and put them back together. Carry a voltage tester with you and test everything as you go. Someone could have snuck another circuit into that box while you were not looking.

If more than one breaker needs to be turnd off post back with details because the troubleshooting methods will change some.

good luck.
 
  #4  
Old 09-03-06, 05:43 AM
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I hate to say what makes you sure that the roof contractor did not mess up your wireing. some of these contractors have no idea of what they are doing. I had a contractor weld a piece of iron to my gate. NEXT DAY i found burnt wire where he conncted his welder. a spot welder is not a welder.Took him to court and believe it or not he claimed he does this all the time no problems i won the case. I would inspect wires for damage. He could fried some connections whereby the connection is intermintent or at least not reliable. I bet on that.
 
  #5  
Old 09-04-06, 09:44 PM
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Exclamation Further info

Thanks you all for the reply.

I have additional information about my electrical problem.
I had initially thought that it was only 1 circuit that was affected. Upon further investigation, it appears that it is happenning to 4 circuit. Thee out of the four are 20 AMP, the last one is a 30 AMP circuit.

I opened up the panel today and was able to swap out one circuit breaker. The hope is that 4 circuit breakers are going bad, so the next time I experience an outage, I am hoping the room that has the new circuit breaker will not be affected.

Now that I have identified which circuits are affected, I am planning to measure the voltage with a multimeter directly on the panel for each circuit that is out to see if I can see any voltage on the otherside of the breaker.

I am hoping that the contractor did not overheat my internal wiring and caused some problems. There is no easy way to tell.

Any suggestions if it turns out not to be a circuit breaker problem?

- J
 
  #6  
Old 09-05-06, 09:47 AM
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What are the breaker numbers that are going out?

The breaker numbers line up in a panel like this:

1......2
3......4
5......6
ECT.

I suspect that you are actually loosing one half of your panel at a time. You should call the utility company and have the check the wiring from the transformer to the house including inside the meter box..
 
  #7  
Old 09-05-06, 01:32 PM
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I was thinking along the same lines,, a problem with losing half the panel,, your going to have to take some voltage readings in the panel when this happens again,,
 
  #8  
Old 09-05-06, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by jwhite
What are the breaker numbers that are going out?

The breaker numbers line up in a panel like this:

1......2
3......4
5......6
ECT.

I suspect that you are actually loosing one half of your panel at a time. You should call the utility company and have the check the wiring from the transformer to the house including inside the meter box..
I have an old Federated Pacific panel (which apparently has some fire hazard warning from googling about it). The funny thing is that once I swapped one one of the circuit breakers, I haven't experienced this problem yet. I will definately check the the panel when it happens again. I did noticed that both sides of the panel are affected, so it is hard to correlate.
 
  #9  
Old 09-05-06, 01:43 PM
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If you have an FP panel, you should endeavor to repalce it ASAP. While that does not mean today or tomorrow, it does mean as soon as reasonably possible. They are indeed a fire hazard.

I especially state this given that the roofing contractor messed with your panel. FYI, under no circumstances should you let any contractor except an electrcial contractor you hire, or one hired by a contractor you hire, mess with your panel.

What we are asking is if the problem effects half of your incoming 240 volts. While this does mean half of your panel, it means that elkectrcially. It does not mean physically.

Panels are designed so that when you properly install a 240 volt breaker you contact each of the two hot legs of the incoming 240 volts, thus providing 240 volts for the circuit.

If every other breaker is out when the problem occurs, then indeed half of your service is effected.
 
  #10  
Old 09-05-06, 01:48 PM
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One of your hot line has a loose connection. Call POCO asap. describ ethe problem. Tell them it is on more than one circuit. they will come and check the connections.
 
  #11  
Old 09-05-06, 01:51 PM
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Daym, racraft beat me to the punch again.

I just want to add that FPE panels are known for two things. Breakers not tripping when needed, and breakers opening when not actually tripped.

I did reciently hear of one nuesance tripping.. that is odd.

I suspect now that your main breaker is the cause. When you replaced the other breaker, it was wiggled arround just so that the connections are , for the time being, made.

Replace that panel as soon as possible.
 
  #12  
Old 09-05-06, 02:15 PM
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Panel replacement

1. How much would a panel replacement job would be so that I can start budgeting for this.

2. Given that the breakers did not reset, could my internal wiring be damaged?

3. What is POCO ? Is that PG&E?

Thanks
 
  #13  
Old 09-05-06, 02:19 PM
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1. Depends on the location and work involved. In my location under 2000.

2. Your house wireing is probably still ok.

3. POwer COmapany.
 
  #14  
Old 09-05-06, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by jwhite
Daym, racraft beat me to the punch again.

I just want to add that FPE panels are known for two things. Breakers not tripping when needed, and breakers opening when not actually tripped.

I did reciently hear of one nuesance tripping.. that is odd.

I suspect now that your main breaker is the cause. When you replaced the other breaker, it was wiggled arround just so that the connections are , for the time being, made.

Replace that panel as soon as possible.

So you think I might have wiggled 4 breakers during the install so that each of them have better contact?

- J
 
  #15  
Old 09-05-06, 02:31 PM
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No, I think you wiggled the main while installing the cover.
 
  #16  
Old 09-05-06, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by racraft
If you have an FP panel, you should endeavor to repalce it ASAP. While that does not mean today or tomorrow, it does mean as soon as reasonably possible. They are indeed a fire hazard.

I especially state this given that the roofing contractor messed with your panel. FYI, under no circumstances should you let any contractor except an electrcial contractor you hire, or one hired by a contractor you hire, mess with your panel.

What we are asking is if the problem effects half of your incoming 240 volts. While this does mean half of your panel, it means that elkectrcially. It does not mean physically.

Panels are designed so that when you properly install a 240 volt breaker you contact each of the two hot legs of the incoming 240 volts, thus providing 240 volts for the circuit.

If every other breaker is out when the problem occurs, then indeed half of your service is effected.
How can you tell which breaker contacts which leg of the panel? I see that there are 12 breakers, (1 of which is the 100Amp breaker), and 4 of them are affected. So, not entirely 50% of the circuit breakers are affected.

I am calling POCO now, to see if I can get someone to come out to take a look at it.

Thanks for all the advice thus far.
 
  #17  
Old 09-05-06, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by thejipster
I have an old Federated Pacific panel
Eeekk... I had one of those in my house when we first moved in, it was one of the first things I got rid of myself. From what I know around my area, it's about 1200-1500 to replace the panel. If you've got any interest in remodeling and adding space to your house, you may also want to look at an upgrade in your service if it's undersized. It will almost certainly be cheaper to upgrade the service and put in a new panel at the same time, than to do it at two separate times.

Even before I moved into my current house, the old owners had already replaced the preexisting FPE main breaker with a Siemens model. Who knows, they might have had the same problems you're having now.
 
  #18  
Old 09-05-06, 02:48 PM
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Breaker numbers go like this.

1....2
3....4
5....6
ect


One and two are on A phase.
Three and four are on B phase
Five and six are on A phase

etc.
 
  #19  
Old 09-05-06, 02:55 PM
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Jeff,

Not all panels are numbered that way. Mine isn't. Mine is numbered:

1..........11
2..........12
3..........13
4..........14
5..........15
6..........16
7..........17
8..........18
9..........19
10.........20
 
  #20  
Old 09-05-06, 02:59 PM
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I should have said "most panels"

I have seen them with all a phase on the left and all b phase on the right too.....


I need to be more specific when posting.
 
  #21  
Old 09-05-06, 03:09 PM
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No! they are not left and right by phase (sic). 1 and 2 on my panel make 240 volts. So do 2 and 3, etc.
 
  #22  
Old 09-05-06, 03:37 PM
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oops I was unclear again. I was saying that I have seen them that way....

numbered wrong
phased wrong
both.

I wish people would just by standard equipment.
 
  #23  
Old 09-05-06, 03:42 PM
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Sorry, misunderstood you.

It's not the people, it's the manufacturers who make the panels and the electricians who buy and install them. My panel was bought and installed by an electrician. I should have paid more attention to what he was specifying, but I didn't.

But in reality, it doesn't matter how it is numbered. I can just as easily ignore the small numbers written on the panel chart, especially since I covered over it with my own larger chart anyway.
 
  #24  
Old 09-06-06, 02:30 PM
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POCO reinstalled something

The POCO came out today and reinstalled this

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/thejipster2003/detail?.dir=/d5aescd&.dnm=7e24scd.jpg&.src=ph

I hope this is the culprid.
 
  #25  
Old 09-06-06, 02:45 PM
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Those are your two hot and one neutral connections. One of them being loose could certainly have been the problem.
 
  #26  
Old 09-06-06, 02:52 PM
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Hot and Neutral

So, would a lose connection on one of the wires caused some of my circuits to be out? I don't quite understand the significance of two hot wires.

Does each hot wire provide 110-120, and is divided up amongst the circuits in my panel?


- J
 
  #27  
Old 09-06-06, 02:57 PM
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Each leg provides 120v to neutral. Leg to leg provides 240.

If one hot were out, you would loose half your 120 v circuits, and all 240 volt loads.
 
  #28  
Old 09-18-06, 11:15 AM
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Problem fix

After PG&E had replaced the connections, the problem didn't reoccur again.

Thanks you all who have provided feedback and assistance on this matter. You guys/gals are great!

I did get a quote from an electrical person who I had worked w/ before and he quoted me 1300 to replace the panel, which is what he charges to general contractors.

Thanks
- J
 
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