circuit dead

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  #1  
Old 09-27-06, 07:14 AM
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circuit dead

I recently bought a 1950's cape where the upstairs bedrooms were finished in the 60's. The two upstairs bedrooms run off the same circuit as numerous downstairs outlets, etc. I heard it possibly refered to as a double loop? Yesterday, my wife ran the washing machine which was moved by the prior owners from the basement to a first floor bedroom and left the house. She came home and the whole circuit was dead but the circuit breaker wasn't tripped. I checked when I got home and every outlet/light on the circuit was dead. I also tested the wires on several outlets to see if the outlets or loose wiring was the problem, but they weren't. The breaker itself has two skinny switches both say 15 amp. The back of the cloths washer says 10 amps. Here are my novice questions, can a breaker break without the switch on it moving, similar to an old fuse? Should I run a circuit just for the washing machine alone which would be very easy where it is located. I have an electrician coming Saturday to upgrade the very old/close to dangerous main line with 200Amp service and put in a 48 circuit panel. So the bad circuit question may be moot, unless he uses the old circuit breakers in the new panel.

I also have trouble with a window air conditioner upstairs if even one light is on on the circuit at the same time the breaker trips. The electrician recommended running a single circuit to one outlet for the AC alone, but should I also try to break off each upstair bedroom onto their own circuits? From what I read, in a new house 5-8 outlets/lights on one circuit max is the code and each bathroom should be its own circuit. The bedroom ac circuit has 2 bathrooms, 2 hall lights, the 2 lights and 5 outlets in the bedroom with the AC, 2 living room outlets, and a light over the basement pool table. I think thats all off the top of my head. Breaking off the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom may be difficult. Heck, just mapping the house wiring may be difficult. The wiring inside the house is all in good condition. At least it is now that I removed the 50 cent extension cord used to make an overhead light above the kitchen sink that I found hardwired to the kitchen outlet when I put GFI's in the kitchen.
 
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  #2  
Old 09-27-06, 07:26 AM
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The NEC does not limit the number of outlets (an outlet can be a light or a recepacle) on a residential circuit. Local codes might, but the NEC does not.

There are restrictions on combining certain circuits/rooms, etc. For example, kitchen counter receptacles cannot also serve lights.

Your understanding of bathroom circuits is close, but not necessarily correct. Bathrooms now require a 20 amp circuit serving receptacles. That circuit can also serve lights in the same bathroom, or it can serve receptacles in other bathrooms, but not both.

Those two skinny breakers are a tandem breaker. It means that there are two separate circuits.

You should have already determined what is on each circuit. You will at least need to do this after the electrician has finished. You should probably do it now, so you can better discuss your needs and options with him or her.

Yes, a breaker can fail in the on position. However, this is not likely. The likely issue is that a wire has come loose. Your job will be to find it. Start at the breaker and see if it is delivering power. If so then start checking each and every outlet (light or receptacle) on the circuit to see where the problem is.

Your air conditioner needs a dedicated circuit.

Code now requires that your laundy circuit needs to be dedicated. If you are going to call that one bedroom your laundry room then it needs a dedicated 20 amp circuit.

I would split your circuits as much as possible and try to stay within the limits you specified, 8 receptacles or so per circuit. You will need arc fault breakers for any circuits that serve bedrooms.

I would also recommend dedicated circuits for any computer equipment, home theater equipment or other dedicated equipment.
 
  #3  
Old 09-27-06, 09:50 AM
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Thank you.

Thanks for the advice. I will check out the receptacles and probably wire a dedicated 20A circuit for the washer and AC before the electrician comes to install the new panel. Splitting some of the rooms may take a little more time.
 
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Old 09-27-06, 10:16 AM
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Two dedicated circuits, one laundry, one an AC units- is a "given"

I do not reccomend dividing the "general-purpose" circuits for fixtures and non-appliance receptacle-outlets at this point.

Determine exactly what outlets are connected to the individual Branch-Circuits that extend from the Service panel, and record this essential info in table-form.

If you still have an "open-circuit" problem, please consider re-wiring the connections to the receptacle devices that are affected. This may eliminate a defective connection that is the cause of the break in the circuit. Possibly new devices would be a consideration.

Good Luck, & Learn & Enjoy from the Experience!!!
 
  #5  
Old 09-29-06, 09:19 AM
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Thanks

Some of the outlets on the circuit are old and do not have a ground, so I had already purchased new grounded outlets to replace them. I might as well replace those while checking the whole circuit.
 
  #6  
Old 09-29-06, 09:27 AM
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Do not install grounded RECEPTACLES (the correct term) unless the circuit is properly grounded.
 
  #7  
Old 10-02-06, 08:02 AM
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Circuit is grounded

I eventually found the loose neutral connection in a ceiling light. Circuit is up and I will wire a new dedicated 20Amp receptacle for the washer ASAP. New dedicated 20 Amp receptacles for the upstairs window A/Cs can wait until a cold winter weekend.

Fortuanately the whole circuit is properly grounded with ground wires. So, I installed the new grounded receptacles.

On that note, I was skeptical of one of my home inspectors who said even if there are not ground wires in your cable you can just ground to the receptacle box if it is metal? That made no sense to me because then you are grounding to metal attached to nothing but a wood stud. That doesn't make a completed circuit, just puts the charge inside your wall instead of in whatever device you have plugged in. Sounds like a good fire starter. Plus, by having the grounded outlets you encourage the use of devices that require a ground in an improperly grounded outlet.


Thanks for all the help.
 
  #8  
Old 10-02-06, 08:17 AM
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You were right to be skeptical. Connecting the ground terminal of a receptacle to an ungrounded metal box does nothing. If the metal box is grounded then this would create a ground.

However, you shoukd be able to tell if teh box is grounded. Do this as follows:

Visually inspect the wiring for the presence of a ground wire. This would be a bare copper wire or a green insulated wire. Make sure that this ground wire is connected at each end; that is to the ground buss in the panel and to the metal box.

Visually inspect the wiring for metal conduit. The metal conduit needs to be solid or can be flexible, but only if the flex contains a built in ground wire. Again. the conduit needs to be properly connected on each end.

Check for proper grounding of the metal box with a meter and a test device.
 
  #9  
Old 10-02-06, 08:50 AM
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Cool

A discussion on another board reminded me that years ago it was a common, although not necessarily legal, practice to wrap the ground wire around the cable back away from where the sheath was removed and then it was clamped under the romex connector. Often times it is impossible to see this and isn't easily changed. The chances are good this is the case if there are ground wires at the panel and not at device boxes.

In any event, it bad to assume this was done without testing to see if boxes are grounded which may be what your inspector was doing - just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

In any event, you can't assume a metal box isn't grounded just because you can't see the wires. Can't assume it is, either
 
  #10  
Old 10-02-06, 09:05 AM
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Thanks, circuit is grounded

Thanks for the advice. Fortuanately none of the unusual cases apply to our house. The conduit all contains a ground wire, and it is all properly grounded back to the house main. I was a little surpised to find the grounded conduit upstairs which was finished in the mid-60's, I believe, and only had one grounded receptacle; but it was all there and even attached to the receptacle boxes. Made the changeout to grounded receptacles nice and easy.
 
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