No 220v - weather related?

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  #1  
Old 01-17-07, 05:34 AM
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No 220v - weather related?

This is my first post, lots of great information here!

Monday my electric hot water heater quit. Now, we're still in the grips of the ice storm, all the wires and trees are covered. Many of my neighbors are without any power but we never lost power at all. I tried flipping the breakers, the heater is on a separate box and meter. Since there was current at the heater (using one of those testers that just check for any current), I assumed the problem was the heater. I tested out the elements and thermostat, all okay. So I tried a multimeter, what I found was that both the red and the black wires feeding the junction on the heater were 110v, but when I tested across them, rather than 240v I get zero. Before I go chasing a problem with the breakers (they are pretty old and decrepit looking), I'm curious whether a problem exists with the incoming power, which seems entirely likely given the situation outside (ice over everything). Has anyone ever seen this?
 
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  #2  
Old 01-17-07, 05:40 AM
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The incoming wires are likely the problem. It may not be on the power company side of the incoming wires and could be on your side, but the incoming wires are most likely the problem. Unless of course you have been doing any work that might have precipitated the problem.

I suggest that you call the power company and get on the list.

In the mean time, turn off the breaker for your water heater. Also, if there are problems with any other 240 volt devices in your house, turn off those breakers as well.
 
  #3  
Old 01-17-07, 05:56 AM
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Thanks! I will call them and happily get on the list, at least I have heat, it was 10 degrees this morning (southeast Michigan).
 
  #4  
Old 01-17-07, 10:41 AM
jn
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I'm puzzled.
I understand it would be normal to think that nonworking 240V items are not working because you are missing power from one of the main feeder lines from the power company.

You say you have 110V on both the red and black wires at your heater. I would think that you would only have 110V on one of the wires, not the other.
If you truely have 110V on each wire when checked to ground and 0V when you check across them, then it would seem that both wires are on the same phase at the panel. I can think of no way that this could have happened by itself.

I would be checking the incoming power at the circuit breaker panel.
Check across the two main power wires for 240V.
Check each one to ground for 110V.
If one of the legs is dead - the power company is likely going to fix the situation.
If you have 240V at the panel already, then I think we need more insight on what happened to this water heater wiring.
 
  #5  
Old 01-17-07, 10:49 AM
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He is reading 120 volts on one of the hot wires through the water heater. Id he turns the water heater off, or disconnects the wire from the heater he will not read any voltage on the line, it will be open.
 
  #6  
Old 01-17-07, 11:04 AM
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Neither leg is dead. When I discovered (after replacing the thermostat incorrectly) that I still had no current at the elements, I checked both hot leads into the junction box on top of the heater. The way it was wired, one goes to the red wire, one to the black. There are two other wires in the box that are capped (unused neutral wires?) and a ground. This has worked fine for the past year, at which time I replaced the water heater and mirrored the old wiring setup. I checked each one by contacting one probe, then the other probe on ground. Both read 120v. When I test across both leads, I get zero volts. I also repeated this with the wireds still hooked up, by testing the top two screw terminals on the thermostat that the red/black wires attach to. Same result. I tried testing between the terminals in the breaker box that would logically give me 240v and got zero as well. I did not try to repeat the 120v reading inside the box because, frankly, I'm not clear where to try, there's not a big green 'ground' wire, this wiring is all 50 y/o cloth stuff.

I know from reading other posts that the first suspect is any recent work, but again, there's been none. The new event is ice EVERYWHERE, on the lines, the service drop to the house, etc. The meter is ice-free since I have 2 ft. overhangs.
 
  #7  
Old 01-17-07, 11:11 AM
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If you hare reading 120 volts the the wires are not connected to the heater, and0 volts between them, then you are reading through something. If it is not the water heater, it is another 240 volt device in your house.
 
  #8  
Old 01-17-07, 11:26 AM
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I tried this two ways. First I disconnected the two wires feeding the heater, spread them a safe distance apart (safe being relative), and had my assistant turn on the breaker. 120v each (tested to ground), zero between the 2. Next I hooked them back up and ran the same test between the screw terminals on the thermostat. 120v each when tested to ground, zero when tested to each other. When the breaker is off, I get no voltage reading at all.

Here's what I found on the web last night that led me to test this:

http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/wiring/msg0603155412395.html
 
  #9  
Old 01-17-07, 11:28 AM
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What other 240 volt appliances do you have in the house? Do they work? Repeat your measurements with ALL the 240 volt breakers (except the main breaker) turned off. You will also need to turn off any breakers that are part of a multi-wire circuit.
 
  #10  
Old 01-17-07, 11:38 AM
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There's a stove (which seems to work), and an unused dryer circuit. All the 110v stuff works. But those are in the main box. This is a separately metered breaker box for just the HWH. My bill says it's 'interruptible service' but it doesn't have anything on it that looks like my last place (had a little box on the A/C).

I'm not at home now, but tonight I'll test the dryer plug. The power company said they'd have someone check their stuff outside some time before midnight.

Thanks for all the help, I'll update when I've gotten more info or a solution.
 
  #11  
Old 01-17-07, 11:58 AM
jn
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I suspect that you actually are missing a leg of main power to this panel.
The stove may "appear" to work because the indicator lights etc are powered from the working 110V leg.
The 110V you see at the water heater could be voltage reading through the stove.
Since the dryer outlet is unused, it would probably just read like your wires at the HWH

If you open up the breaker panel that powers up this stuff, you should see three large wires...probably all black..feeding in at the top of the panel.
1 of the wires will be attached to a bar where all the whites and bare wires are screwed down. This is the neutral.
The 2 other, probably larger wires should be tightened down to allen lugs at the top by the main breaker.
If you turn all the breakers off in this panel, you should be able to check between the 2 power wires and from each power wire to neutral.
I think if you do this you will find the dead leg.
 
  #12  
Old 01-17-07, 05:06 PM
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Still have not heard from the power company. But man, this setup is completely different. Here's what I have:

It's a 'Water Heater Control' box, 4 wires coming in the bottom and 4 going out the top. Can't discern color, they're 50 year old cloth. 2 double pole breakers, 1 30A and 1 20A (who knows). The incoming wires attach to 4 screws in 'T' pattern with 4 screws. With the breakers on, all 4 of the bottom screws test 120v to ground. With breakers off, only 2 of them, one on each breaker. But breakers on or off, no combination of any 2 of the 4screws reads 240v on the multimeter. Am I using it right, because I thought if I touched a probe to both 'phases' (assuming I have both) it would show 240?

I'm now not so sure it's a power company problem, my neighbors are all back on now. Anyway, thanks for all the advice, I think I may be calling a pro tomorrow.
 
  #13  
Old 01-17-07, 06:40 PM
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It's a power company problem. One of your incoming legs is not present.
 
  #14  
Old 01-18-07, 04:42 PM
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Update - success!

Our hot water is back. The first power company guy came when we weren't here, and reported it fixed. After I came home and determined it wasn't, I got bold and took the cover off the main box, 240v there across the two sides. So now that my tester (and it's operator) knew what we were doing, I checked the water heater box again, still no 240v.

What we have is a 2nd meter on one side of the meter for the HWH, then on the other side is an intteruptible disconnect. Means we pay about 1/2 the rate to heat our water ($20/month for the two of us). Then the wire comes out of the bottom of the first meter and goes to the water heater box. I say wire, it appears to be 50 y/o cloth romex wrapped in heavy tape. Also, there's no separate disconnect on this box. Not confidence inspiring, but hey, it's worked so far.

Anyway, the second guy showed up 1 hour after I called again, told him what was going on, he opened the meters and removed the blue wire that attached to the disconnect. Said they can fail. Since the disconnect only works on 1 leg, that's why I still had power (120v) to the HWH. Bingo! He said the first guy, since no one was home, wouldn't likely stick around to see if the other meter started spinning. Which it wouldn't have anyway, since I had the breaker off.

Thanks again to everyone here, I sort-of know what I'm doing but your advice definitely helped when I started poking around looking for current. And as a bonus, the service guy said he'd 'put in the comments' that someone needs to replace my bypassed interruption device. Like that will ever happen.
 
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