Water Heater Circuit - No Power

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Old 10-03-06, 09:57 AM
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Water Heater Circuit - No Power

Yesterday a water heater circuit (20 amp - 115 volt) was working fine. Today there's no power to the outlet. I checked the panel and the breaker had not tripped.

I assume that there's a break someplace in the wiring and I'll start with the outlet itself to see if there's something wrong there. I'll also check the panel to make sure that the connection there is not loose.

Any additional suggestions would be welcome.
 
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Old 10-03-06, 10:08 AM
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BTW, I have a "circuit finder" which I'd like to use to verify the breaker serves this outlet. If there's a loose connection in the circuit, will my circuit finder still identify it? I know these things are very sensitive to magnetic fields so I would guess that they will "span" a slightly loose connection.
 
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Old 10-03-06, 10:12 AM
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Joe,
What I am reading is that you know what to do, you just do not have enough experience to believe in yourself.

Check voltage hot to neutral, hot to ground and neutral to ground.

If you have no voltage neutral to ground, check resistance neutral to ground.

Post back with results.

Tracers are tough to learn how to use. If the wire is open you may not see the signal at the other end, or what you see may not be an accurate result. I suggest learning on a circuit that you are sure is good, then trying it on the bad one.

also cheep tacers are a complete waste of time. IMHO. if you paid less than a thousand dollars for it, it is probably not relyable.
 
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Old 10-03-06, 10:23 AM
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Thanks, I'll check it out this afternoon and report back. I do suspect that it's at the outlet itself. I used that outlet to do some work in the crawlspace and probably dislodged a connection when I removed the plug of my saw.

The water heater is a small electric under the house for an add on bathroom that's about 6 yrs old. I would guess that a cheap outlet was used so I'll replace it with a good quality GFCI.
 
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Old 10-03-06, 10:34 AM
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Ahh, I missed one of your suggestions.

Hot to neutral (no voltage).
Hot to ground (115 volts).

Obviously, there's a loose connection on the neutral. My saw worked because it has a 3-prong plug. The plumber was trying to use a 2 prong plug on his saw and got nothing (since he often works on older homes where there are only ungrounded outlets, he cut the ground prong off of the plug on his sawzall - bad move).

Very interesting to see how that worked. Now I'll check everything in the house for similar problems.
 
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Old 10-03-06, 10:56 AM
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Your saw should not have worked either, unless neutral and ground are illegaly shorted inside the saw.
 
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Old 10-03-06, 01:54 PM
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Your saw did NOT work because it had a three prong plug. Your saw worked because, at the time, the neutral was making contact. The third wire, the ground wire, is not used for normal operation.

I doubt that the cheap receptacle is the cause of the failure. I suspect that a poorly made connection is the culprit.
 
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Old 10-05-06, 06:43 PM
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Solved Problem.

My receptacle tester confirmed an open neutral. However, it was at the panel, not at the receptacle itself. There were 2 neutrals going to a single screw on the neutral buss. The water heater circuit wire was behind the other wire. I tightened the screw (about 3/4 turn) and everything is fine.

What I don't understand is why the other circuit didn't also fail with such a loose connection. Also, why did this suddenly occur when it's been working for 6 years?

-Joe
 
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Old 10-05-06, 07:08 PM
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You have found one reason why you are not allowed to have more than one neutral per connection on the buss. I recommend that you fix this code violation. I cannot explain why the other circuit worked and this one did not.
 
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Old 10-05-06, 08:29 PM
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Only one neutral per screw is allowed. Double grounds are allowed if that will get you more single slots for neutrals.
 
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Old 10-06-06, 09:36 AM
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Exclamation

Originally Posted by joed
Only one neutral per screw is allowed. Double grounds are allowed if that will get you more single slots for neutrals.
Double grounds are not allowed either!!!! Nowhere in the NEC are you given permission to "double lug".

The proper way to correct the issue with the neutrals would be to install a pigtail for those neutrals. Using a short piece of white wire, you would remove the two existing neutrals from the neutral bar and install the new short piece of white wire and make a joint from the new white wire to the existing neutrals with a wire nut.
 
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Old 10-06-06, 10:37 AM
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Professor,
You are wrong on several of your statements in your last post.

First the code says that you cannot put two neutrals under one lug.

Second pigtailing more than one neutral would only be acceptable if you were to upsize the neutral for the additioinal load.

Third, many mfg allow more than one ground under one lug, one needs to read the documantion with the panel or sticker on the panel cover to decide.

Last pigtailing grounds could be done without upsizing the wire.
 
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Old 10-06-06, 11:08 AM
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I am not sure if you are allowed to pigtail neutrals even if you upsize the neutral. I have never heard of this being allowed. However, I could be wrong.

What you can do is to pigtail the ground wires. You can combine grounds and then run a single pigtail to the ground buss. This is fairly easy and straight forward, and the ground pigtail only needs to be as large as the largest ground wire in the bunch.
 
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