One Circuit Not Working


Old 12-25-06, 11:20 AM
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Question One Circuit Not Working

I have one circuit in our house that is not working. I have checked all the breakers for being tripped and put a volt meter on them to confirm they are all ok. What else could it be?
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Old 12-25-06, 11:26 AM
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Is the entire circuit out or only a portion of the circuit?

Did you attempt to reset the breaker by turning it completely off and then on?

Did you check for power at the portion if the circuit that is not working? Is the hot nor present, or id the neutral not present?

If the breaker is not tripped and if there is no GFCI that is tripped, then the only two explanations are a disconnected wire or a break in a wire somewhere. A break in a wire is unlikely, unless perhaps you have been doing recent remodeling, including putting in nails.

A disconnected wire is the likely cause. Common reasons for this include using a high power source, such as a vacuum cleaner, a failed connection at a highly used receptacle (vibration), or use of back stab connection that has no failed.

You need to figure out where you do have power on the circuit and where you do not.
Old 12-25-06, 11:46 AM
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Thanks for the input Bob. I will do some more checking on your suggestions. I have checked and rechecked the breakers, I do find a GFCI in the circuit any where. The only remodeling was new guttering put up a week ago, I can't imagine that being the problem but one never knows. I know enough about electricity to be dangerous. I do not know what a back stab connection is or how to check for that.

Last edited by DIYaddict; 12-25-06 at 12:10 PM. Reason: Removed quote
Old 12-25-06, 02:31 PM
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Back stabbed means they are instead into the back of the device instead of around the screw.
Old 12-25-06, 02:46 PM
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Cheaper receptacles and switches have round holes in the back of the device that allows a wire to be inserted into the device. Inside there is a metal plate fastened with a spring. The spring holds the plate against wire. To release the wire you insert a small screwdriver into a release hole (usually rectangular) next to the back stab, which pushes the plate away from the wire and allws the wire to be removed.

These back stab connections are notorious for failing. They generally don't fail all at once, but fail slowly over time. Sometimes you might notice intermittent operation of the device, other times they will simply fail completely. More often than not it is the neutral wire that fails on a receptacle.

Some homeowners like these connections because they are easier and faster to work with than bending the wire around the screw terminal. Some electricians like them for the same reason, but a skilled electrician can often make the screw terminal connection almost as quickly.

The more expensive "commercial grade" devices do not have back stab connections. Most 20 amp devices do not have them either. It used to be true (and may still be true) that 12 gage wire cannot be back stab connected.

While it is not necessary to go looking for and correct back stabbed connections in your house just for the sake of correcting them, it certainly makes sense to correct any that are found.

In your case, if you have to go looking for a problem, I would correct any that I find.

Finally, many new devices, especially in the commercial line, have back wire connections. These are not the same as back stab connections, and can be used safely. Back wire means that a small plate is tightened by the screw which hold pressure on the wire against a back plate. The wires, and they can hold two, one on each side of the screw, are sandwiched between the plates and the connection is solid.

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