Part of our kitchen died. How do I diagnose it?

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Old 09-05-08, 04:03 PM
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Part of our kitchen died. How do I diagnose it?

Ok out kitchen is in two halves. one half is the cooking prep area and the other is the dining area.

I have NO CLUE how these are wired or this would be easier. I can not even determine what BREAKER controls the problem.

the dining area died. We noticed it first when the ceiling fan/light stopped working. Then pops laptop died and the phone died. (it plugs in)

We discovered this whole section is now dead. there are 2 receptacles. One on the wall chest high with the fan control and one ankle level behind the table. Both those outlets and the fan are now dead.

I took apart both outlets and NO set of wires will give me a reading at all on the meter.

.......

Where do I even BEGIN with attempting to diagnose this?

The breakers were not marked so I have no idea which controls these outlets.

They are all marked now :-) but I still have no idea which one controls that section of the house.

Suggestions?
 
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Old 09-05-08, 04:36 PM
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Could you supply the age of the house? Recent codes would prohibit having the dining receptacles and lighting together on the same circuit.

Have you looked for a tripped GFI receptacle? These have the TEST and RESET buttons on them.

Let this show you a lesson of why the breaker panel really needs to be accurately labeled.

I hope that you labeled the wires before you removed them from the switches and receptacles.
 
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Old 09-05-08, 07:29 PM
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Oh, boy! I get to use the sermon. (Thanks, Racraft)

When you first move into a new home (new to you) you need to "map out" the electrical circuits. By this I mean that you need to one-by-one turn off each circuit breaker and check which receptacles and which lights are controlled by that particular circuit breaker.

You need to locate each and every GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle and know if there are any receptacles or lights that are wired "downstream” of this receptacle.

You need to make a detailed "Panel Schedule" that lists all of the above information. Do NOT rely on the existing panel schedule (if there even is one) because it may be wrong.

Keep the panel schedule at the circuit breaker panel and keep a spare copy with your electrical tools. If you make any changes in your electrical system such as adding a receptacle be sure to make a new panel schedule reflecting those changes.

This information is important. Some day it could save your life.


Are you sure the problem isn't a result of all those LED lamps you've been installing? (just kidding)

Anyway, try flipping each branch circuit breaker completely off and then back on. Many breakers have an intermediate position when they trip and it isn't always discernible by just looking.
 
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Old 09-05-08, 09:35 PM
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OK assuming it is not a breaker it could be a connection in an outlet on the same circuit this IS working. Circuits are run in a series fashion starting from the main panel and working down to the last outlet. A connection could be bad in the last GOOD outlet feeding the first BAD outlet. Often in older homes (but not real old homes) outlets that used back stabbed connections were used. They were easy. You could have an outlet in, in a few minutes and not have to fool with rapping wires around and tightening screws. They work by pushing the wire into a hole on the back of the outlet and there is spring metal inside that captures it. Over time with heating and mechanical movement this spring loses grip and arcs and eventually it burns open. At this point you lose contact to that wire.

If you have this type of outlet connection you should move the wires over to the screw connections or (Preferably) replace the outlet. New outlets often have a hole to push in the wire and you then tighten the screw which clamps down on the wire internally. Unlike the grabbing spring of the old type, this works fine and is actually preferred over using the screws.

So since you do not know how this circuit is run (the order of the outlets from the main panel) you will need to pull out all outlets and switches on the affected circuit to determine where the problem is.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 09:35 AM
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Ok the house was built roughly 28-30 years ago. right around 1980 or so.

it DOES IIRC use the stab outlet things (shove the wire in)

The house was built when I was 2 years old or so and has always been our house so I never had the oppurtunity to initially work up a panel schedule :-) I have started to do that now.

Same Circuit

The ceiling fan was not original and was added "after wards" about 10 years ago. There was originally a light fixture there. We replaced the light fixture with a combination ceiling fan light fixtures. So the wiring was unmodified.

I am assuming the wire "feeding" power into this circuit is the culprit but I have no clue how to "figure" this out.

how do you "map" wires in the wall without taking it apart? I know blueprints are public record. Would the "wiring" schematics also be available from when the house was built? ie showing me the path and order of the receptacles etc..

I do not know of these 2 receptacles and light are on there own breaker or part of another circuit. I have several breakers that I have marked with a a ? because they "appear" to do nothing. One of them could be for this or not. I have already tried flipping every single breaker specifically looking for that intermediate position thing. Some of the smaller breakers when they do that you can not tell visually but have to flip it to tell.

I am going to try to better map the breakers. Thats gonna be fun :-) hehe

there is a GFCI in the bathroom but its not part of that circuit as best I can tell and is working properly.

I already pulled the outlets and metered every pair of wires there (did not remove any if I could help it the ones I did remove I removed one pair at a time and replaced them to avoid miswiring them)

Nothing on any set of wires. so it seems there is a single set of "feed" wires. and the connection is broken on that end.

I MIGHT have a way to figure this part out. I will have to check again but I am hoping one of these outlets is the terminus. ie just ONE set of wires. while the other should have TWO sets. one to go from this outlet to the other and one to come FROM the source of power.

I in theory should be able to continuity test these wires against the terminus outlet. when I get continuity thats the one going to the other outlet so the "other" paid is the feed. Will that even work or am I missing something?

Then how do I figure out where they come from? They might even be directly fed from the panel since the garage is only a few feet away from them. (panel is in the garage)

I already tested for "bad" breakers. Every breaker that was "unknown" I swapped with a known working breaker. No joy.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 10:29 AM
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Mapping the wires is difficult. The only way would be to have taken photographs when it was built and we know that did not happen.

The problem is the back stabbed outlets and switches. Replace them! Go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy a quantity pack of outlets and switches and systematically replace every one in your house. Does not have to happen all in one day but it is just a good idea. Guaranteed another one will eventually fail and it will not be at a good time!

Don't buy the cheapest devices either. The new ones should have a wire in the back feature BUT they are tightened with the side screw and are very good.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 10:49 AM
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You may have lost power from a receptacle that is still working so it may be necessary to remove even the receptacles that you think are on a different circuit and check the wiring.

It could also be in a junction box in the attic, basement (or crawl space) or a lighting fixture, even a lighting fixture that is still working. This is perhaps the most time consuming and frustrating things that can happen.

And while standard prints for your house design may be on file in some municipal archive I guarantee that there are NO "as builts" of any residence on file. Furthermore, even houses made to the same stock prints may have significant differences in how the wiring is installed. How the wiring is installed is almost always at the discretion of the electrician doing the job as long as he or she follows the code requirements.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 11:10 AM
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Well I am not going to go replacing outlets without cause. They are just too expensive (I never buy the cheap stuff)

but YES as we have to replace outlets we are replacing them with those new ones. I LOVE them. the convenience of the slide the wire in terminal with the security of the screw hold down. To replace all our outlets would cost far more money than I have.

I just wish I had a clue where to begin. It might end up being easier to just run NEW power to the source outlet from the breaker box.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 12:20 PM
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Ok well thats your call. Outlets are about $3 a piece in quantity. less, maybe far less, than $100 would replace every one in your home. Small price to pay for safety and security!
 
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Old 09-06-08, 12:28 PM
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Hmm last time I bought one it was $5.50 for the outlet (we have over 40 outlets in the house.

Second safety? unsafe how? when it fails they just stop working. It takes less time for me to replace an outlet than the DRIVE to home depot to buy the outlet. Not much "security" issues there :-)

as I end up having to replace each outlet I just make sure to get the newer better ones.

Give me one good reason to blow $233 and spend the next week replacing outlets when there is NO imminent safety or security reason to do so? that $233 will buy me another 20 LED tubes or 43 regular sized LED bulbs. I have better things to do with my money. Plus I don't have $200 handy.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 03:43 PM
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While it is unlikely outlets have been known to start fires and it is usually a poor arcing connection.

I am just saying if it were my house I would put into effect a plan to replace them. Maybe a room at a time over several months. Outlets also do wear out and at 30 years it might be time to replace them anyway. You can bet that the outlets that were used were not the best quality anyway.
 
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Old 09-06-08, 07:22 PM
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I don't doubt it. Most of the outlets have been replaced at one time or another (when plugs fit loose etc..)

ever since I found those new ones that slide in and screw lock thats all I use anymore. it just "makes sense"

but even of those I have had big quality swings. Thin materials etc.. so I always buy the best I can get.
 
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