40A circuit - Hot to the touch

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  #1  
Old 09-19-06, 05:26 AM
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40A circuit - Hot to the touch

I'm installing a new cooktop in my kitchen renovation and i have run into my first major issue. The old cooktop was 4-wire 120/240V (it had a downdraft vent) and the new one is 3-wire. I ran the wires together and capped off the white, but i noticed that when I switched the circuit breaker on and turned on the cooktop, the wires got VERY hot, enough to deform the wire caps. I killed the power and measured the wires, to confirm that they were 8 gauge, and they are.

Where the heck could the problem lay/lie? (:P)
 
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  #2  
Old 09-19-06, 05:32 AM
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In order to better understand the situation can you answer a couple questions?

Are you sure that the new cooktop is streight 240 and not 120/240 volt?

What is the name plate data from the new cooktop? Voltage, wattage, amperage? Whatever it says.

Is your house wiring copper or aluminum? Is your cooktop wiring copper or aluminum?

Did this happen with all the cooktop switches off, or when you turned them on?
 
  #3  
Old 09-19-06, 05:45 AM
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The plaque on it says (form memory, I can confirm this afternoon) 9KW, 120V/240V, 40A. It's three-wire, though, black, red, and ground.

The entire house is copper, as is the cooktop.

This occurred when I turned on the burners.
 
  #4  
Old 09-19-06, 06:51 AM
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Red face

There's something missing in this equation.
Are you using the same breaker and is it in the same space in the panel? Is it a 40A breaker?
You measured the wires. What does that mean? Is the (supply)wire stranded or solid?
Are you sure that you have a 240V supply voltage? (line to line across the two hot wires). How many wires are in the service supply from the meter to the main panel?
Give the make and model of the cook-top.
steve
 
  #5  
Old 09-19-06, 06:55 AM
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If this is a 120/240 appliance then the third wire is not a ground, it is a neutral. It should be connected to the white wire at the outlet box.

Newer appliances should have both a ground and a neutral wire.

Is this a new appliance? Can you post a link to the mfg installation instructions, or give us the make and model so we can google it to see if they have any?

Is the ground wire that you hooked the "ground" from the cooktop also number 8? Typicaly the ground for a multi conductor #8 cable would be #10.

Loose connections could also cause this problem, but it would be unusual to see the results as fast as you did.

Resistive loads do not have much of an inrush current, so the max amps on the nameplate should work for sizing the wire correctly.
 
  #6  
Old 09-19-06, 08:19 AM
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Still, if he improperly connected the neutral from the cooktop to the grounding conductor, current should still flow normally. The only wire that should be getting hot in that situation would be the bare EGC running back to the service panel. Everything else would be properly sized and OCP'd. If all of the wires are getting hot, something weird is going on. Could be bad splices arcing inside the wire nuts?

iamwiz82, did you actually feel the wires for heat, or just noticed the wire nuts melting? Did all of the wires get hot, or just some of them? Also, can you check the insulation on the wires, it should say the AWG size and type of wire - report that back to us. Don't suppose you have a clamp-on ammeter laying around, do you?

If the nameplate says 120/240, then there's gotta be a neutral somewhere.
 
  #7  
Old 09-19-06, 08:32 AM
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Question

Just thinking out loud....What if he had one of the hot legs and the neutral mixed up on the range supply wiring?
This would place 240V on the 120V circuit and 120V on the 240 circuit in the cook-top.
What would happen?
steve
 
  #8  
Old 09-19-06, 08:35 AM
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Lots of questions to answer:

This is a 40A breaker, the cooktop is the only thing on it.

The supply wire is 8/3 gauge romex.

It's definately 240V

The model of the cooktop is Maytag MEC5536B, it is new. The entire wiring manual consists of two paragraphs. 3-wire, single-phase AC 120/240V 60 hertz, 40Amp service.

The cooktop has 3 wires, that's it, black, red, and ground.

I cannot say which wires got hot, I saw red deform and killed the power.

Here is the manual: http://www.maytag.com/products/images/products/8101p478-60.pdf
 
  #9  
Old 09-19-06, 08:45 AM
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The instructions you linked to clearly indicate that this is a 120/240 volt cooktop, and that you wire it to a four wire circuit (two hots, a neutral and a ground) unless you have a grandfathered previous setup.

This information does not jive with what you are stating.

Please explain.
 
  #10  
Old 09-19-06, 09:00 AM
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iamwiz, why do you say that the third wire is a ground?

Is the outer covering of the cable from the cook top metal, or some other materail.
 
  #11  
Old 09-19-06, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by hillbilly ace
Just thinking out loud....What if he had one of the hot legs and the neutral mixed up on the range supply wiring?
This would place 240V on the 120V circuit and 120V on the 240 circuit in the cook-top.
What would happen?
steve
I think you'd get some serious problems inside the unit, but I'm not sure that would overheat any wires.

The thing is, the OP is seeing serious overheating on his circuit. It's protected by a 40A OCPD, and it's #8 wire - you should not see overheating problems running 40A of current down #8 wire, period.

By chance, you don't have a Federal Pacific breaker panel, do you? An overload condition could be getting the wires blazing hot, and the breaker wouldn't trip (or would trip way too slow).

I think I get it now, by reading the instructions. It says that "The neutral of this unit is grounded to the frame through the solid copper grounding wire. If used on new branch-circuit installations (1996 NEC), mobile homes, recreational vehicles, or in an area where local codes prohibit grounding through the neutral conductor, untwist or disconnect the solid copper wire and connect the ground wire to ground in accordance with local code."

You can't ground through the neutral. I imagine that your cooktop has a bare copper wire and a white neutral wire-nutted inside the unit. You have to disconnect this wire nut, and separately connect the white neutral to the supply, and the bare ground to the bare ground in the 8-3 supply wire.

It is confusing when a paragraph later it says that "A three-wire, single phase, A.C. 120/240 volt 60 cycle electrical system (properly circuit protected to meet Local Codes of NFPA No. 70) must be provided." I think they're meaning what I'd call a "four-wire" setup, i.e. two hots, neutral, ground. Not the best wording of the instructions. But I think it's clear you NEED to connect the white neutral from your 8-3 supply to a white neutral that's currently connected to the cooktop frame right now.
 
  #12  
Old 09-19-06, 09:19 AM
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There are three wires coming out of the armored sheath. Black, red, and bare, hence my assumption it's ground. I removed the sheath on the end entering the cooktop and that is also 3-wire (red, black, bare) and there is no way to open the cooktop without dismantling it, to see if there is a white.
 
  #13  
Old 09-19-06, 09:25 AM
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If it's bare, then it's a grounding conductor, no two ways about it. The instructions do mention a white neutral wire, and it being connected to the frame through the bare copper grounding wire - there IS a neutral in there somewhere.

I'm still confused by the instructions calling it a 120/240 appliance - that typically means there is a 120V circuit running inside the appliance somewhere.

I'm surprised a new appliance would connect the neutral and the grounding conductors - but the big no-no is using a bare copper grounding wire to carry current during the normal operation of the unit. Grounding wires should never carry current except under fault conditions, however, if your cooktop has a 120V circuit inside of it, that's exactly what the bare grounding wire is doing.

Still, that doesn't explain the overheating, which was your primary issue. Overheating is due to two things, generally - sustained overcurrent, or arcing on an otherwise normal current.
Check your panel, and make sure you don't have a Federal Pacific breaker - those are junk, and could be causing you problems. Loose connections in the wire nuts could cause localized arcing and overheating.
 
  #14  
Old 09-19-06, 09:27 AM
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You need to understand why there is no fourth wire. I would call Maytag. They have service open all day.

Have you verified proper connection of the power? In other words, do you know that the red and black lines from the panel are properly connected to and properly supplying 240 volts? Do you know that the white wire and the ground wire are properly connected to the neutral/ground buss(es)?
 
  #15  
Old 09-19-06, 09:31 AM
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"There are three wires coming out of the armored sheath. Black, red, and bare, hence my assumption it's ground."

Did you say "ARMOR sheeth"?

The armor is your ground. The other wire is the neutral.
 
  #16  
Old 09-19-06, 09:36 AM
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iamwiz82, with the power off, go home and disassemble this circuit. Then, carefully separate the supply wires, so none are touching - leave a good separation. Now, go turn on the power (make sure everyone else in the house is aware of what you're doing and knows to stay away from the wires at this point).

Go and use a voltage tester to check the supply wires. You should get 240V between the red and black wires, 120V between the red/black and white/bare, and 0V between the white and bare copper wires. Now go shut the power off, come back up and test for resistance between the white and bare copper wire, it should be less than an ohm or so. At this point, you've verified you have proper supply connections.

Look closely at the wires - you may see signs of arcing or burning on the wires, or inside the wire nut.

You do need to figure out where your white neutral wire is. It's mentioned in the instructions, and it's essential for a proper, safe 120V circuit to exist inside your cooktop. Some dissassembly may be required. I'm still surprised at the setup - if this cooktop really has a 120V circuit in it, then the bare copper grounding wire MUST be carrying current - and I can't imagine any idiot engineer would design the unit this way. It wouldn't pass UL anyways. The cooktop is either has no 120V circuit in it, or it was improperly built at the factory. Using the bare copper wire as a neutral in this case is not safe at all.
 
  #17  
Old 09-19-06, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by jwhite
"There are three wires coming out of the armored sheath. Black, red, and bare, hence my assumption it's ground."

Did you say "ARMOR sheeth"?

The armor is your ground. The other wire is the neutral.
But he said the wire is bare. A bare neutral? Does not compute.
 
  #18  
Old 09-19-06, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by arniebuteft
iamwiz82, with the power off, go home and disassemble this circuit. Then, carefully separate the supply wires, so none are touching - leave a good separation. Now, go turn on the power (make sure everyone else in the house is aware of what you're doing and knows to stay away from the wires at this point).

Go and use a voltage tester to check the supply wires. You should get 240V between the red and black wires, 120V between the red/black and white/bare, and 0V between the white and bare copper wires. Now go shut the power off, come back up and test for resistance between the white and bare copper wire, it should be less than an ohm or so. At this point, you've verified you have proper supply connections.

Look closely at the wires - you may see signs of arcing or burning on the wires, or inside the wire nut.

You do need to figure out where your white neutral wire is. It's mentioned in the instructions, and it's essential for a proper, safe 120V circuit to exist inside your cooktop. Some dissassembly may be required. I'm still surprised at the setup - if this cooktop really has a 120V circuit in it, then the bare copper grounding wire MUST be carrying current - and I can't imagine any idiot engineer would design the unit this way. It wouldn't pass UL anyways. The cooktop is either has no 120V circuit in it, or it was improperly built at the factory. Using the bare copper wire as a neutral in this case is not safe at all.
Already done. I checked the power yesterday, actually. Everything is fine, no arcing, the wires are the correct voltages, the breaker box looks fine.

I cannot imagine why the cooktop has 120V, to be honest. The only possibility is the 5 lights for the burners being on, I guess.
 
  #19  
Old 09-19-06, 01:08 PM
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Yeah, burner lights and possibly electronics could be coming off a 120V circuit inside the unit. Without a clamp-on ammeter you can't easily check to see if any current is flowing along the bare grounding wire.

I would call Maytag and figure out what is going on. It may in fact simply be a 240V appliance, and the instructions are wrong. That would jive with a red, black, bare ground, and no white neutral as you described.

As for the overheating, I'm a bit stumped. Did the burners actually start to heat up when you tested the unit? Did you use quality wire-nuts that are UL listed? Do you see any signs of overheating in the wire insulation, as opposed to the wire nut itself? Any darkening, bubbling or peeling of the insulation?
 
  #20  
Old 09-19-06, 02:18 PM
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I used the supplied wire nuts, maybe that is the issue. They began having issues once I turned on all 5 burners, I assume that the cooktop and wires should be able to handle that, though.

What is the max temp. the wires should be getting to? I assumed that there should not be much rise in temperature at all. I can test it with a temperature gun to find out exactly how high it's getting.

BTW, I called Maytag, and the woman i talked to said that they cannot supply technical information like that. All that she said was that the three pronged plug would plug into the wall. She had no idea about hardwired connections and was concerned that the ground wire was bare. She read back the directions to me word for word as to it being 120/240.
 
  #21  
Old 09-20-06, 06:33 AM
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If Maytag can't even write up proper instructions, I wouldn't trust the wire nuts that came supplied! Get some Ideal brand stuff, you can't go wrong with it. Hopefully it's just bad connections at the wire nuts. To get the best connection, pretwist the wires tightly, then put on the nut. Give it a tug to make sure it feels secure.

At peak current for a few minutes, I'd expect the wires to be very warm, but not 'hot', if that makes any sense. Tough to say what temp that would be. You shouldn't feel afraid that the wiring will melt and burn, that's for sure.
 
  #22  
Old 09-20-06, 06:55 AM
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Unhappy

After re-reading all of the posts again, my opinion is that you have a defective cook-top.
There definitely should be a white (neutral) conductor in the cook-top cable. If they left that out, they (whoever wired this appliance) could have easily done something else wrong.
I would take it back.
steve
 
  #23  
Old 09-20-06, 07:01 AM
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I wonder if the wire nuts were what I call "fake" wire nuts. I see them in ceiling fan fan install kits. There is no wire spring inside, just half a**ed threads impressed into the plastic. I wonder if the OP twisted the wire together before using the wire nuts. Kind of wire nut wouldn't be as important if they were well twisted first.
 
  #24  
Old 09-20-06, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047
I wonder if the wire nuts were what I call "fake" wire nuts. I see them in ceiling fan fan install kits. There is no wire spring inside, just half a**ed threads impressed into the plastic. I wonder if the OP twisted the wire together before using the wire nuts. Kind of wire nut wouldn't be as important if they were well twisted first.
Yes, I did twist them, and they are definately cheap wire nuts. I also have Federal Pacific breakers.

I'm going to replace the wire nuts, replace the breaker, and see what happens. The wires look fine, they aren't blistered and don't have any telltale signs of melting.

Thanks for everyones help.
 
  #25  
Old 09-20-06, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by iamwiz82
Yes, I did twist them, and they are definately cheap wire nuts. I also have Federal Pacific breakers.
Of FPE breakers, the two-pole ones are apparently the worst, at least according to http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm. You could very well have a faulty cooktop that's shorting internally, and pulling over 40A on the breaker. Also, even if FPEs trip, they can take a really, really long time to do so.

If it turns out your FPE breaker is bad, you may want to look at replacing the whole panel.
 
  #26  
Old 09-20-06, 10:17 AM
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If you can afford even a cheap clamp-on amp meter it may be a good investment at this point. Cheaper then an electrician but may give an insight into what's happening.
 
  #27  
Old 09-20-06, 11:53 AM
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I may borrow one to test.

Can someone give me a temperature to look out for on the circuit? How hot is too hot for normal 9kv load?
 
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Old 09-20-06, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by iamwiz82
I may borrow one to test.

Can someone give me a temperature to look out for on the circuit? How hot is too hot for normal 9kv load?
Are you referencing using a amp meter?

Clamp-on amp meters (aka amprobe) measures amps not temperature. The amp reading should closely match that on the name plate. It should certainly be below the size of the breaker. If you only have watts you can get the approximate amperage by dividing the watts by the voltage.

You use it by clamping it on one of the current carrying wires. If you are comfortable working with the cover off the breaker box with the main breaker off carefully move one of the cooktop wires so you can easily and SAFELY clamp on to it. With the cooktop breaker OFF turn on the main breaker. Then standing to one side flip on the cooktop breaker observing the amperage.

SAFETY notes: There are still energized parts in the breaker box with the main breaker off. Also I suggest you stand to the side just in case a short causes something to blow. The last is perhaps not so common on a 240v residential circuit but if you have ever seen a dead short on a 480v circuit you'll know why it is just a good habit to get into.
 
  #29  
Old 09-20-06, 03:57 PM
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"Can someone give me a temperature to look out for on the circuit? How hot is too hot for normal 9kv load?"

any hot is too hot. The connections should not get hot.

You have a serious problem and the only reason why you did not trip the breaker is because it is an FPE and they dont trip.
 
  #30  
Old 09-20-06, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jwhite
"Can someone give me a temperature to look out for on the circuit? How hot is too hot for normal 9kv load?"

any hot is too hot. The connections should not get hot.

You have a serious problem and the only reason why you did not trip the breaker is because it is an FPE and they dont trip.
This is what I assumed, but I have read here that they should be warm.

The only thing replacing the breaker will do is end up tripping the circuit, which I want to happen, but that doesn't solve me original problem.

Are you referencing using a amp meter?

Clamp-on amp meters (aka amprobe) measures amps not temperature. The amp reading should closely match that on the name plate. It should certainly be below the size of the breaker. If you only have watts you can get the approximate amperage by dividing the watts by the voltage.

You use it by clamping it on one of the current carrying wires. If you are comfortable working with the cover off the breaker box with the main breaker off carefully move one of the cooktop wires so you can easily and SAFELY clamp on to it. With the cooktop breaker OFF turn on the main breaker. Then standing to one side flip on the cooktop breaker observing the amperage.

SAFETY notes: There are still energized parts in the breaker box with the main breaker off. Also I suggest you stand to the side just in case a short causes something to blow. The last is perhaps not so common on a 240v residential circuit but if you have ever seen a dead short on a 480v circuit you'll know why it is just a good habit to get into.
I was actually talking about temperature of the wire. I'm familiar with an amp meter, but I don't think I have access to one without buying it.
 
  #31  
Old 09-21-06, 05:25 AM
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(Most) Electrical terminals are rated at 60C, 75C and 90C.
Most wire used in residential is NM (romex), it's rated 60C.
Other conductors are rated 40C, 60C, 75C, 90C and above.
The maximum operating temperature of the circuit depends on the temperature rating of the terminal and/or the wire insulation (rating). It will be the lowest of the two.
You will approach these (maximum rated) wire or terminal temperatures when the conductor or terminal is loaded to it's rated ampacity (30C ambient).
Anything hotter is overloaded (above it's rating).
This is not a reliable way to check the amperage of a conductor, and will in no way be exact. It will tell you if the conductor or terminal is getting too hot.
Convert Celcius (C) to Farenheit (F)
(1.8 x temp in celcius)+32
hope this helps
steve
 
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Old 09-21-06, 08:57 AM
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"You will approach these (maximum rated) wire or terminal temperatures when the conductor or terminal is loaded to it's rated ampacity (30C ambient)."

That is a new rule of thumb for me Steve. I have never read it anywhere, or noticed it working in the field.

I do alot of work on commercial switches and such that are rated 90 c , which is very hot to the touch. Almost the boiling point of water.

Where did you learn or read about this? I would like to learn more.
 
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Old 09-22-06, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by jwhite
"You will approach these (maximum rated) wire or terminal temperatures when the conductor or terminal is loaded to it's rated ampacity (30C ambient)."

That is a new rule of thumb for me Steve. I have never read it anywhere, or noticed it working in the field.

I do alot of work on commercial switches and such that are rated 90 c , which is very hot to the touch. Almost the boiling point of water.

Where did you learn or read about this? I would like to learn more.
I should have put "In my experience" in front of that statement.
I used to design and build ovens for industrial use. One particular oven was used by a plastic molding company to carbonize plastic residue remaining on the steel molds to aid in cleaning.
This oven was electrically heated (resistive) and operated up to 1000F, so selection of internal and external wiring and insulation was important. My conclusions were arrived at by measuring the temperature of the conductors during operation of the oven at various temperatures. Various current loads (up to maximum rated) on the (external circuit) conductors at fixed (and variable) ambient temperatures produced temperatures in the conductors (and insulation) that resembled those listed in the NEC tables. This led me to believe that the listed temperatures shown in the tables were to be expected in the wire insulation when operating these conductors at maximum listed current and ambient (surrounding air) temperature. Considering the operating temperature of the ovens and the ambient conditions in the plastics plant, we were working at the upper limits for most (common) conductor insulation. Also, the conductor material and insulation for the internal wiring that we finally selected was very expensive (special alloys and insulation).
Anyway...It's something that I experienced. I don't know if it does or doesn't follow any published scientific fact, but I saw it with my own eyes.
This was years ago, before computers and the internet and it's vast amount of readily available information. I'm going to read up on the topic and run some new expermients in my shop to refresh my memory and hopefully verify my results.
You work on 90C switches and wiring? Have you measured any operating temperatures on the conductors and terminals when the conductors were fully (max rated) loaded?
steve
 
  #34  
Old 09-22-06, 09:03 AM
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"You work on 90C switches and wiring? Have you measured any operating temperatures on the conductors and terminals when the conductors were fully (max rated) loaded?"

No but I have seen insulation melted on 20 amp circuits that did not trip the breaker while pulling a 25 amp load and while the wires where hot to the touch, they did not seem to be as hot as boiling water. 125 deg is enough to cause a scald or skin burn. These wires did neither.

I can easily see that with higher ambient temps the wire temp could reach max by code. I just cant see it happening in an air conditioned house.

I still am not sure... that is why I am asking.
 
  #35  
Old 09-22-06, 09:59 AM
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If it melted the insulation on the wire, it was a lot hotter than 125 degrees (F). 125C maybe.
steve
 
  #36  
Old 09-22-06, 10:34 AM
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No it was not hotter. It had just been doing this for a long time.
 
  #37  
Old 09-23-06, 07:00 AM
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60C, the rating of NMB is 140 degrees F.
I've never seen listed wire nuts or nmb insulation melt or deform at 140F.
Even if continually loaded for a long, long time.
It would never get a UL listing if it did.
Most connections are rated 75C, that is 167 degrees F.
THHN wire is rated 90C, that is 194 degrees F.
I've never seen THHN insulation melt (or deform) at this temperature.
Why? Because it won't.
Most plastics melt between 175 and 250C (350-480F).
Their softening temperature is somewhat less, but still well above the 60, 75 or 90C rating of electrical insulation and terminals.
The chemical environment that surrounds the plastic is more of a concern, especially when heated.
Just my opinion
steve
 
  #38  
Old 09-23-06, 07:16 AM
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Question

Originally Posted by iamwiz82
There are three wires coming out of the armored sheath. Black, red, and bare, hence my assumption it's ground. I removed the sheath on the end entering the cooktop and that is also 3-wire (red, black, bare) and there is no way to open the cooktop without dismantling it, to see if there is a white.

Sorry if I repeat (have not read all posts yet).

Could this be a quality control issue. Someone forgot the white at the factory?
I've not seen one with the bare as a neutral,and the sheath for the ground.

I would cord & plug this unit when you get it figured out.
 
  #39  
Old 09-24-06, 06:49 AM
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Well I tore apart the cooktop and there is not a single white anywhere. In electric ranges, the instructions say that the white should be tied to the ground in the frame. I see the ground screw, but only the ground is there.

I replaced the breaker. It still doesn't break, but the wire nuts (also new) still gets hot. Also, the lights for the burners do turn on with the three wires attached.
 
  #40  
Old 09-24-06, 07:37 AM
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Appears your doing your part. Perhaps it is time for a call to the lonely repair man?

I'm still leaning bad unit. Can you see a floor model at Sears?
 
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