Lights going out

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Old 09-01-09, 02:49 PM
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Lights going out

Sorry Folks the search function isn't working at 5:44 pm est. and I'm sure it's in here somewhere.

I have a apt. where half the lights go out at around 4:30pm everyday. The power company says it's not their issue. I can get everything working by resetting the main breaker. I turn off all the breakers and go to the main and flip it on off a few times.

Do I have a bad main breaker????

If so, to change I pull the meter and replace??? Thanks in advance for your help!!!
 
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Old 09-01-09, 02:55 PM
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Well, legally if its an apartment..you can't do any work in it. Now if yer the owner and live in the same complex..maybe.

You need to get the maintenance people and landlord involved.

That said...

Resetting the mail multiple times sounds like a loose connection on one leg of the main.

I own my house..and I'd probably call a Pro for this kinda problem.
 
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Old 09-01-09, 03:05 PM
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I own multi rental units and this is a new situation with this apt. I have only reset it twice. I'm more looking to diagnose the problem and then make a decision on how to fix it. Thanks for your input!!!
 
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Old 09-01-09, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by feihin View Post
I have a apt. where half the lights go out at around 4:30pm everyday.
You've gotta find what's causing that first. Perhaps all of your tenants start cooking dinner at the same time? Maybe an irrigation pump starts up? Something like that?

My gut feeling is that something is happening in your daily load pattern that is causing a legitimate overload on the service.

Do I have a bad main breaker????
Bad breakers usually aren't regular.

The first diagnostic I would do it to throw an amp clamp or data logging amp clamp on the service conductors during the time you expect it to trip and try to determine if there's a true overload.
 
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Old 09-01-09, 03:27 PM
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More info would be helpful. I just hate to post too long.

It has happened three times (sorry I said everyday) in the last 7 days. Nothing trips, just half the apt is out. There doesn't seem to be a pattern as to what is out breaker wise. It's not one side of the box or every other one. I have reset it twice and once it righted itself.

Once it came back on by itself about 6 hours later.

My info is from tenants who aren't very precise. Thanks
 
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Old 09-01-09, 05:31 PM
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Okay, that does sound like a bad main breaker, main lug or bus.

If it is just a bad breaker then the replacement is pretty straightforward for an electrician. The meter must be pulled, then it's just a matter of pulling the bolts and swapping the breaker. Note that if you have an old or rare brand of panel the main breaker could be special order which may delay the repair or add to the cost.

If the problem is more than just the main breaker, like the lug or bus then your electrician may need to replace all or part of the panel. Hopefully it won't come to that, because that job is expensive. If there was heat damage inside the box from a loose connection, the main breaker stabs or bus bar could be warped and corroded which would require complete replacement of the panel.
 
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Old 09-01-09, 05:40 PM
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Thanks for the answer....... I was thinking of pulling the meter and doing it myself!!!! I think it might be GE's.

The tenants only have the basic breaker boxes in the units, the main breakers are in the basement where they have no access.
 
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Old 09-01-09, 06:27 PM
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Pulling a meter without the proper protective gear and training is not a DIY job. Most power companies do not want anyone in their sockets.

Hire a professional.
 
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Old 09-01-09, 08:15 PM
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I agree that you shouldn't pull the meter yourself. It can be really dangerous if you slip. Moreover, the power company can issue a fine for breaking the seal on the meter.

Most power companies will do this on a service call for free. You can meet a power company tech at a scheduled time, he will pull the meter and have some coffee while you change the breaker, then power it back up. It should take less than an hour as long as there is no damage other than the bad breaker.

Pay attention to the torque specifications on the main breaker bolts.
 
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Old 09-02-09, 06:08 AM
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here in florida it`s illegal to mess with the meter as it is power company property. that`s why there is a little plastic/metal seal on the door. You most likely have to have power company pull the meter, unless your electrician follows his own rules. but the power company will fine you if they catch you here.
 
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Old 09-02-09, 11:09 AM
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New Wrinkle

As Per The Tenant: "I Plugged something into one of the dead outlets and it sparked and the lights came back on".

I guess this makes sense if half the house is on one breaker. At the very least it's a new place to start!!!!

Any thoughts????
 
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Old 09-02-09, 12:24 PM
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That is consistent with either a bad phase conductor or neutral conductor in the service entrance. Your plan of starting with the main breaker is a decent place to start, but the problem could be anywhere along the service entrance from the pole/pad transformer to the meter or to the lugs or bus bars in the panel.

You said the power company already came out and checked their side? If not, it would be a good idea to have them out since the call is usually free. This type of symptom can be the result of a loose connection up on the pole. However flipping the main breaker off and back on probably wouldn't solve that, so it leads me to believe the problem is in your main panel.

What is probably happening is that power was backfeeding through the plugged in appliance and powering the light circuit. Does the outage problem affect multiple circuits throughout the whole building or just one unit? Is it only lights, or some receptacles too that have lost power?

Added: Actually now that I think about it a little more... The latest symptom actually suggests a problem with a neutral more strongly than a problem with the main breaker or a hot. Has there been any evidence of lights getting brighter in some areas while getting dimmer in others? Have you inspected the inside of this panel for any evidence of corroded or loose connections?
 
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Old 09-02-09, 02:34 PM
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Thank you to Ben and all for staying with this.

My Plan is..... Pull the cover off the sparked outlet and make sure everything there is okay.

2) pull the panel cover off the box in the apt. and see if anything is loose or burnt.

3) pull the cover off the basement main box and see if anything is loose or burnt there.

4) Report back with findings if any!!!!

If I understand the tenant correctly.. He plugged something in and the spark spooked him and he pulled it back out and the lights stayed on. From what I can tell and been told, there doesn't seem to be any one more dim/bright, just on or off.

The power co. has been out and found nothing.
This is the only unit of three with any trouble.
It is both light fixtures and outlets.

Again thanks to all for staying with this!!!!
 
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Old 09-02-09, 03:05 PM
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This is the only unit of three with any trouble.
Based on this, I think you'll find the problem at one of these two:

Originally Posted by feihin View Post
My Plan is..... Pull the cover off the sparked outlet and make sure everything there is okay.

2) pull the panel cover off the box in the apt. and see if anything is loose or burnt.
If you find backstab connections on the receptacle (wire poked into a hole), move the connection to the adjacent screw terminal.
 
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Old 09-02-09, 03:40 PM
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I know that many of the old houses and rentals had only 60 amp service with pull out buss fuse mains and were good for literally having half the house on one fuse. Then if they updated the house with say a 100 amp circuit breaker panel box and did little to split up the house more, you could still have some circuit in there that has half the house on it.

The fact sparks flew at outlet and lights came and stayed on could mean either a lucky power surge caused some loose panel box connection to to connect up better, temporarily - or, you have a lot of daisy-chain(ing) going on with that one circuit, with one bad outlet connection or wire nut causing this. I'd start by checking the latter, as Ipbooks mentioned in his last post.
 
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Old 09-02-09, 05:06 PM
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update

Sorry, I have to clarify some disinformation. These very nice people are Spanish and English can be a barrier.

The lights went out when the outlet sparked.

Everything was in great shape. I pulled the main cover and it wasn't even dusty in there. I would have taken it for new work. (Fact is it's at least 10 years old.) GE was box maker. There's a double 40 breaker.

Pulled upstairs panel cover and everything looked good. Eight breakers 4 on each side. No pattern or anything such as every other one working. I tried mapping them and only 3 were mappable. I know at least one is for the furnace. Three bedrooms railroading each other are dark as well as the hallway connecting them.

Pulled sparky outlet and apart from a gang of dust everything was fine. Plastic box no burn marks.

Wasn't able to jump service back on by turning main breaker off and on this time. Figures as I wanted to map everything and bring you guys as much info as possible.

Any thoughts????

Again, sorry for the earlier disinformation.
 
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Old 09-02-09, 05:43 PM
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Were the wires on old sparky wrapped around the screws or stabbed in the back?
Pulled sparky outlet and apart from a gang of dust everything was fine. Plastic box no burn marks.
 
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Old 09-02-09, 05:46 PM
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The wires on the outlet that sparked were in the back!!!!

2 sets
 
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Old 09-02-09, 06:42 PM
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Back stabs are notorious for failure. Move the wires to the screws. If this receptacle feeds the light or lights that went out this could be your cause. Now the bad news probably all the receptacles in the apartments are back stabbed and pron to this kind of problem. Ideally, best practice, the wires should to be swapped out to the screws. The backstabs do meet code and are still UL approved for #14 so you can leave them just expect future problems.
 
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