bad breaker maybe?

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Old 08-04-08, 08:20 PM
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bad breaker maybe?

All of a sudden my in-laws lost all power in a couple of adjacent rooms in their house; no lights and no power to anything plugged into the outlets. Looked at the breaker panel and no breaker was tripped. Took one of those testers that light up when you put it near the light switch, or stick it in the receptacle hole, or put it by the light fixture, and it lights up at each location in the darkened rooms. Found the correct circuit breaker for the affected rooms by switching off breakers in the panel until the tester wouldn't light. Switched that breaker on and off and on again, but still no power or light in the affected rooms. Suspected a bad breaker but don't for sure. Considered switching out the bad breaker with a new one, but can't because the main breaker switch that looks like this on the top of the panel is stuck solid tight in the on position and will not budge to turn off. Also, outside of the house there is no other main power switch to turn off (and I think there is supposed to be one, correct?). Any comments/suggestions on what's going on, what I need to do to possibly troubleshoot further to get that power back in those rooms, and what I need to do in order to get that frozen stuck main breaker fixed?
 
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Old 08-04-08, 08:40 PM
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It's probably a lost neutral and not a bad breaker.

However if you still want to try a new one, you don't need to shut the main. They snap in and out with no problem.
 
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Old 08-04-08, 08:42 PM
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You have just verified that the breaker is good. Your problem is that the return parh has been interupted.

Using a 3 light plug-in tester find the last receptacle that works and the fist receptacle that doesn't. Turn the breaker off and pull the devices out and look for a loose connection. Move any back stabbed wires to the screw terminals.

Main breakers have a stiff feel. Try again after turning all the branch circuit breakers off.

Since you have a main breaker inside most likely you would not have nor need an external disconnect. Exterior disconnects are needed when there would be too much unfused cable before the panel.
 
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Old 08-04-08, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Pulpo View Post
It's probably a lost neutral and not a bad breaker.
Please explain "lost" neutral. Do you mean the return path wire, most likely a white one? Do you mean bad or loose connection by lost? Is it probably one of white wire connections into either one of the light switches or the receptacles. Is it probably a loose connection at one of the switches or receptacles, or hard to say? I did see that they are the push-in rather than the screwed terminal connections at the switches and receptacles, and they are old and kinda worn-out looking. thanks
 
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Old 08-04-08, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Using a 3 light plug-in tester find the last receptacle that works and the fist receptacle that doesn't. Turn the breaker off and pull the devices out and look for a loose connection. Move any back stabbed wires to the screw terminals. Main breakers have a stiff feel. Try again after turning all the branch circuit breakers off.
Not sure what a 3 light plug in tester does differently to test, then say perhaps just plugging in a lamp to each receptacle to see if it works. It's just more convenient than lugging around a lamp (if I don't happen to have a 3 light tester)?
Also, from what you're saying you seem to indicate is it likely that the back stabbed wires into the receptacles and outlets are the source of the problem, and that I probably just need to move them to the screw terminals because one of them isn't making a good connection anymore? Correct?

Also, this main breaker is REALLY stuck, not just stiff. I mean, it doesn't begin to want to move when I try to pull it into the off position. If I turn off all the branch circuit breakers and then try, do you really think that will make a difference, considering how really stuck it seems to be? What can cause the main breaker to get so stuck anyway?
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Old 08-04-08, 09:33 PM
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Yes, you could try a lamp to find the loose connection.

Yes when we talk about a lost neutral it does mean a poor or missing connection in the white wires.

Turning the branch circuits off would not change anything with the main breaker. I was just trying to remove the load from the main breaker.
 

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Old 08-04-08, 09:52 PM
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Okay, I'll go ahead and disconnect the back stabbed connections and screw them on instead. I'll post back to let you know how that goes.

Also, to ask again, please, what can cause the main breaker to get so stuck anyway? And how hard is it to pull out and replace, if needed, compared to a regular breaker switch?
 
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Old 08-04-08, 09:57 PM
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I don't know what would have caused the main to get stuck.

As far as changing it out it is more complicated. You would need to call the power company to schedule an outage so that the incoming feed would be dead.
 
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Old 08-04-08, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
I don't know what would have caused the main to get stuck. As far as changing it out it is more complicated. You would need to call the power company to schedule an outage so that the incoming feed would be dead.
Thank you pcboss. Am gonna head over now and re-connect those wires onto the screws. Will post back to let you know how it goes. Is it possible that a bad switch or outlet could also be the problem, to cause the issue as I described? Or not really, more likely a loose/bad neutral connection?
 
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Old 08-05-08, 12:05 AM
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The QO breakers they are pretty good and normally most of the time they don't have much issue with it.

Yeah.,, The main breaker useally take little more grunts to move the handle but if really stuck then something got inside of it and get it jammed up.

If you take the cover off you can see if any water damage in there it will show the water marks there so you know you got issue there.

But the other way can get the main breaker fail is loaded up near the limit and get the wires hot and cause failure inside of it.

Really there is few diffrent variation of cause of damage.

That main breaker isQOM100VH If I recall it right.

Some big box store may stock this one but otherwise a electrical supply centre will stock this

This part you have no choice but call the POCO for sheduled disconnection due the main lugs from meter is unfused.

{ please note the best way is call the POCO to remove the meter so you can work on the main breaker box for repair or replace the breaker box and pretty good percent of POCO have pretty strict rules on the metering devices }

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 08-05-08, 12:19 AM
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Thanks french for that info on the main breaker.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Move any back stabbed wires to the screw terminals.
Okay did that but no luck still.
Further advice needed.
Thanks
 
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Old 08-05-08, 12:33 AM
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If everything go smooth it should not take more than half hours top depending how crowded the wires in the box.

Unless if other issue in the box let us know.

Just want to head up with alum service conductors you will have to buy antioxiation compound stuff specifcally for alum wires. { they are common item so you will find them in big box store otherwise electrical supply centre will have this on hand.}

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 08-05-08, 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by sgull View Post
Okay did that but no luck still.
Further advice needed.
Thanks
I will speak for PCboss behalf .,,

The next step you will have to open up switch box and ceiling luminaires double check the connections along on that affected circuit somewhere it have wirenut[s] get loosen up and if you don't mind telling me what room this circuit is affected ??

If in the bathroom or basement or kitchen there is a GFCI recpectale somewhere along the way try to reset it and sometime in older home it will be in oddball place where ya never think about it.

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 08-05-08, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by french277V View Post
The next step you will have to open up switch box and ceiling luminaires double check the connections along on that affected circuit somewhere it have wirenut[s] get loosen up and if you don't mind telling me what room this circuit is affected ? If in the bathroom or basement or kitchen there is a GFCI recpectale somewhere along the way try to reset it and sometime in older home it will be in oddball place where ya never think about it.
Marc the only two rooms affected are bathrooms which are close to each other and on the same breaker circuit. It is an older home but not that old (1970's). No GFCI receptacles anywhere. I could take the light/fan switches out again and look at the connections at the wire nuts I guess. And I could remove the light fixtures and look at the wire nuts there too I suppose. Probably won't notice any looseness of wires within the wire nuts. What is a ceiling luminaire? What do I check next if I can't notice any looseness of any wires within all the wire nuts? Are we sure its not a bad breaker?
 
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Old 08-05-08, 06:16 AM
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Luminaire is what is more commonly called a light fixture.

Since this seems to effect the whole circuit your problem may be in the panel where the neutral is terminated on the buss. All the neutral wires and possibly the grounds will be attached here. Be careful as there are electrically hot parts that you could come in contact with if you touched the wrong parts. Turn the breaker off for the circuit that you are having problems with. Follow the black wire back from the breaker until you can find the cable that contains its neutral. Now follow that neutral down to the buss and see if it is secure. If it is not tighten the screw down.

You may need to identify all the junction boxes that are part of the circuit and look for your loose wire in all of them.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 06:51 AM
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My guess is that the problem is in a junction box. I had one like that a few weeks ago. I tightned the wire nut and the problem was solved.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 07:56 AM
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In reading over this thread it still seems that there may be an upstream outlet that is back stabbed causing the problem. This will not be apparent because THAT outlet will work, It is the feed to the next outlet in the circuit, because of a bad back stabbed connection in this working outlet that is the problem.

So you need to determine ALL outlets that do not work when this breaker is off and then open each one and screw the terminals on.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 09:01 AM
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While you're at it, PLEASE install a slot cover in the open slot, breaker position 1. Very dangerous to leave it open like that...

willis
 
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Old 08-05-08, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by dsc3507 View Post
In reading over this thread it still seems that there may be an upstream outlet that is back stabbed causing the problem. This will not be apparent because THAT outlet will work, It is the feed to the next outlet in the circuit, because of a bad back stabbed connection in this working outlet that is the problem. So you need to determine ALL outlets that do not work when this breaker is off and then open each one and screw the terminals on.
I'm pretty sure I've already determined all outlets (except one) that does not work when this breaker is off and have opened each and screwed the terminals on. This one exception doesn't have screw terminals like the others, only has back stab type connections available. Also, this outlet (receptacle) happens to have six wires back stabbed into the back, three on each side. I tugged on each of those and they seem secure.

From what I am understanding in your post, I need to determine which (working) outlet is the first one in a different circuit upstream from the affected circuit, and even though it works go ahead and screw the terminals on?
 
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Old 08-05-08, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by williswires View Post
While you're at it, PLEASE install a slot cover in the open slot, breaker position 1. Very dangerous to leave it open like that
Okay, will do. Thanks. Why is it dangerous? In case somebody pokes something in there?
 
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Old 08-05-08, 10:49 AM
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Yes. It could be that one GOOD outlet that is not supplying power to the others because of a bad back stabbed connection.

You said different circuit... this would be on the same bad circuit
 
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Old 08-05-08, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by dsc3507 View Post
Yes. It could be that one GOOD outlet that is not supplying power to the others because of a bad back stabbed connection. You said different circuit... this would be on the same bad circuit
I'm confused because there are no GOOD outlets in the bad circuit. None of the outlets in the bad circuit work.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by sgull View Post
Okay, will do. Thanks. Why is it dangerous? In case somebody pokes something in there?
Exactly. Something like... a finger.

willis
 
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Old 08-05-08, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by sgull View Post
I'm confused because there are no GOOD outlets in the bad circuit. None of the outlets in the bad circuit work.
Ok in that case if you have looked at all those bad outlets - pulled them and screw connected wires - then you obviously have to look elsewhere.

Just to review...
If you have power at the breaker for this circuit when it is on and the neutral (white wire) that goes with the black wire for this circuit is securely connected to the neutral bus in the panel then try to follow where the cable associated with this circuit goes when it leaves the panel. A general location maybe and then see if you can determine what outlet or box it goes to first. This would be the next logical place to check.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by dsc3507 View Post
If you have power at the breaker for this circuit when it is on and the neutral (white wire) that goes with the black wire for this circuit is securely connected to the neutral bus in the panel then try to follow where the cable associated with this circuit goes when it leaves the panel. A general location maybe and then see if you can determine what outlet or box it goes to first. This would be the next logical place to check.
As you suggest, I can "try" to follow where the cable associated with this circuit goes when it leaves the box, but that is much easier said than done. The wire, of course, disappears immediately into the wall after it leaves the panel and is completely enclosed within drywalled walls and ceilings from the panel location which is in the basement and the affected rooms which are upstairs. I was hoping there might be some easier way to determine/discover where the problem lies.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 09:50 PM
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There is a method where you use a transmitter and receiver to sense where the lead goes. Usually you plug the transmitter into and outlet and you can find which breaker is associated with it.

The receiver makes a tone when you are over the breaker. Something like this...

http://www.digitalhoop.com/ac-circui...er-p33276.html

Nice to have to test what breaker is associated with what circuit if you do not know.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by dsc3507 View Post
There is a method where you use a transmitter and receiver to sense where the lead goes. Usually you plug the transmitter into and outlet and you can find which breaker is associated with it. The receiver makes a tone when you are over the breaker. Something like this...http://www.digitalhoop.com/ac-circui...er-p33276.html Nice to have to test what breaker is associated with what circuit if you do not know.
That definitely looks like a handy gadget to have, thanks for the link. With my current issue, though, I already know which particular circuit breaker is associated with the outlets that don't work. As I mentioned in previous post in this thread, I used one of those detectors that light up on the end when they sense electrical power when you put them near a switch, in a receptacle, near a light fixture, etc. In these such locations in my affected rooms where nothing works when plugged into the outlets and the lights don't come on, etc. the detector lights up and "senses" the electricity at these locations until I turn off a particular breaker, and that's how I am already sure which breaker is associated with them.
If I was to give up and just call in an electrician instead of continuing to hunt and guess at finding the source of the problem myself, I'll bet he'd find the problem relatively quickly. But how would he find it, that's the question. If he tried doing what I've done so far, he wouldn't, that's for sure.
 
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Old 08-05-08, 10:50 PM
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Since this unit I mentioned depends on a "connected" circuit it should be able to detect a break. If you plug it in to each outlet you could detect the path of the circuit. With some of these units you might even be able to detect a wire in a wall. You will have to read the specs.

Phone technicians often use this method to fine correct pairs.

Not saying this will work for you but it might.

If you have done all the things you said you have correctly then I think an electrician would be somewhat stymied also. Short of tearing out walls you have to find the path of the circuit and determine where the break is.

So You checked every outlet and switch associated with this circuit. Are you sure you did not miss something?
 
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Old 08-05-08, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by dsc3507 View Post
So You checked every outlet and switch associated with this circuit. Are you sure you did not miss something?
No I cannot be sure did not miss something. I think at my workplace we have a circuit testing unit similar to the one you suggested I might try, and I can probably borrow it. But probably me learning how to use it correctly will be the next issue.
thanks
 
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Old 08-06-08, 12:30 AM
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http://www.wirtanen.com/INSTMENT/Spe...e_Test_kit.pdf
I was able to borrow a Woodhead 1750 circuit tester as shown in the link above. Looks simple to use, and one thing it does is detect open neutral. Think it'll help? I'll give it a try and post back, hopefully with a success story next time. Won't get a chance to try it until later tomorrow. Meanwhile, any suggestions or comments otherwise about trying to use this tester to find the fault?
 
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Old 08-07-08, 09:35 AM
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Using the Woodhead 1750 circuit tester confirmed open ground in the outlets of the affected rooms. In one of the rooms is a backstabbed receptacle with three pairs of wires (total six) with terminals backstabbed into six separate holes (four pairs of holes are there, and three pairs are being utilized). There are no screws on this receptacle to which to connect the terminals instead. I'd like to change this receptacle out with one that I can screw the wires onto. I went to the hardware store but didn't really see a receptacle with six screws to which I could connect each of the six wires. So, do I just get a new receptacle with four screws and then double up one pair of wires on two of the screws?
 
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Old 08-07-08, 11:33 AM
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The best thing to do is connect all three blacks and a short stub black together with a wirenut. Then connect the stub to on of the two brass screws. Do the same with the whites to the silver screw on the other side of the outlet.
 
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Old 02-08-09, 08:16 PM
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Lights out all rooms, one breaker tripped

I'll bump this discussion because it has been helpful so far, but my lights are still out. The only lights or outlets that work are in the basement and kitchen. I checked every receptical and light switch except for the GFCI and appliances. I checked a few of the GFCI outlets and they seem new and have the screw-in type terminals, and all of them are on the same circuit.

I think the next step is to check all lamps in all rooms. Then after that I'll start in the basement - I should be able to find the first and last lamp there because all wiring is exposed.

If the electrician ever calls back, I'll ask him to check the junction box, breaker, and panel. I'm glad I found this thread at the beginning of the weekend because I could never afford the cost of an electrician doing everything that I've done this weekend, albeit it might have gone quicker.
 
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Old 02-08-09, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Hemingway View Post
I'll bump this discussion because it has been helpful so far, but my lights are still out. The only lights or outlets that work are in the basement and kitchen. I checked every receptical and light switch except for the GFCI and appliances. I checked a few of the GFCI outlets and they seem new and have the screw-in type terminals, and all of them are on the same circuit.

I think the next step is to check all lamps in all rooms. Then after that I'll start in the basement - I should be able to find the first and last lamp there because all wiring is exposed.

If the electrician ever calls back, I'll ask him to check the junction box, breaker, and panel. I'm glad I found this thread at the beginning of the weekend because I could never afford the cost of an electrician doing everything that I've done this weekend, albeit it might have gone quicker.
Don't know if this will help, but my issue was finally solved after I double-checked to make absolutely positively sure that I had checked each and every possible outlet and switch on the circuit. At first I thought I had considered them all, but it turned out to be a bad backstabbed outlet in a bedroom across the hall in a completely different area where the circuit was being interrupted. Good luck to you!
 
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Old 02-09-09, 01:01 PM
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Thanks. That does encourage me to keep digging. First I'll check all lamps, then go next to the basement, then to the rest of the GFCI outlets. If I can't find it there, and I've checked all other outlets, switches, and lights, then I guess I'll have to start looking at applicances.

I kept thinking of the response from the guy who said to move furniture for hidden outlets. My impulse was, how could any of these be the problem if nobody ever uses them, but I kept digging anyway and did find a few hidden outlets.

Also, there were several aha! moments where I found a loose or broken wire and assumed I had found the problem. In two cases, when I pulled the receptical out of the socket, the backstabbed wire didn't come along. I screwed it to a terminal and tried the breaker and no success. In another case, when I pulled a wire, it snapped where the installer had stripped it (obviously cut too deeply) and again I thought I had found it.
 
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Old 02-09-09, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Hemingway View Post
I kept thinking of the response from the guy who said to move furniture for hidden outlets. My impulse was, how could any of these be the problem if nobody ever uses them
I recall my culprit outlet was alongside a bed and this particular outlet was rarely if ever was used at all. I learned during the process that the first upstream switch or outlet before the affected area can still be a working outlet, but if it has an open neutral it affects the switches/outlets immediately beyond it downstream. In other words, you might plug a lamp into it, the lamp lights and you think okay that outlet is fine, but not true if it has an open neutral, apparently typically caused by poor backstabbed connection. I recall one of the backstabbed wires on that receptacle had corrosion built up badly on it. Again, good luck to you...
 
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Old 02-10-09, 07:27 PM
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Okay I took a deep breath and checked every everhead fixture. I haven't done the big chadellier in the living room, hoping for a miracle. I changed the breaker and checked all junction boxes in the basement. The basement lights and outlets appear newish, as well as the GFCI outlets. I suspect the conduit that runs from the basement outlet, outside of the house, and up the outside walls on the 2nd, 3rd floors.

Hopefully the electrician will come tomorrow. Hopefully he'll bring some FM.
 
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Old 02-12-09, 07:56 AM
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Electrician came by and got a few circuits up, and then stopped before he started costing me too much. It turns out the seller (did I mention I just bought this house) had told us the house had been re-wired but much of the first floor and basement still had the original wiring. I had figured all that old stuff hanging in the ceiling of the basement was not connected, just left in place. The home inspection should have caught this.

Fortunately, the current (heh) problem is with the mess of wires and junction boxes in the basement, which are all exposed. The electrician proposed replacing all of the flex steel conduit and ancient wires with romax - and drilling holes in the beams to run them.

This looks like something I could do. You just connect white to white, black to black, copper to box. Right? I could even just run the romax myself and let him come in to connect it.
 
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