Troubleshooting outlets not working (pic)

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Old 04-15-10, 08:34 AM
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Troubleshooting outlets not working (pic)

Hello, first post here from a weekend DIY'er. Please excuse the length but I've been spending many hours on this and really need your help.

A string of 7 outlets across 3 rooms (living room (2), spare bedroom (3), bedroom (2)) stopped working recently. The unit is about 11 years old. I've tested all the GFI receptacles and verified that they are all working and not tripped. I've also searched the unit for any hidden GFI outlets (including outside) but could not find any others except the 2 in the kitchen and 2 in both bathrooms.

I began to go through each receptacle to test power and noticed that one of the non-functioning outlets in the spare bedroom was split so that the top was fed by a red hot wire and controlled by the light switch (working). The bottom had a black hot wire going in (not working). When I replaced the receptacle with a new one, I did not remove the tab connecting the hot wires, so when I turned the circuit breakers back on, not only was the bottom working, but all the previously non-functioning outlets had power! When I broke the tab off, the outlets stopped working again. I also checked the wire nut for the black hot in the junction box but my voltage tester did not show any power going through any of the black wires.

Picture of spare bedroom receptacle


I'm guessing all the other outlets are downstream of this bad outlet. However, could the problem with the black hot wire be traced back even further, possibly to the panel? Should I continue to check all the other bad outlets to see if one had power coming in but no power going out? I haven't done this earlier because some outlets are behind heavy furniture.

Note: also understand that those backstab connections need to be replaced to real ones but want to restore power first!

Any help is much appreciated! Thanks!
 
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Old 04-15-10, 08:57 AM
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Good job troubleshooting. I think you need to find the receptacle or switch upstream of the non-working receptacle. Look in the last working or first non-working receptacle for a loose connection. As you already know, move the wires to the screw terminals for a more reliable connection. Make a clockwise under and place the wire under the screw and tighten.
 
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Old 04-15-10, 09:31 AM
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Morimoto or Michiba-

When you do move the backstabs, you'll need to join the whites with a wirenut. Run a single pigtail to the receptacle. The neutral in a multiwire circuit cannot depend on the device for continuity.

You also might want to consider changing the two single pole breakers on this circuit to a single double-pole breaker. It is safer for a number of reasons and is required by recent code, although your installation would be grandfathered if left as-is.

(More of a Chen Kenichi fan myself)
 
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Old 04-15-10, 10:53 AM
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Again, I agree with psboss. You can check the black wire to you ground wire and see if you have a 120 volts. If you do then you know that you should be looking for a loose or broken neutral wire in the circuit.

Jim

 
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Old 04-15-10, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
Morimoto or Michiba-

When you do move the backstabs, you'll need to join the whites with a wirenut. Run a single pigtail to the receptacle. The neutral in a multiwire circuit cannot depend on the device for continuity.

You also might want to consider changing the two single pole breakers on this circuit to a single double-pole breaker. It is safer for a number of reasons and is required by recent code, although your installation would be grandfathered if left as-is.

(More of a Chen Kenichi fan myself)
Are these wires on separate breakers? Sometimes the red is just the switched version of the same black hot. In fact, that may be why the black no longer has power if you also rewired the switch. If wired incorrectly, the constant power could stop having constant power.

If not, you could technically leave the neutrals as is. It's a good idea to heed ipbrooks' suggestion because depending on the tab for your neutral conductivity isn't a great idea anyway, but it wouldn't technically be enforcable by code.
 
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Old 04-15-10, 02:09 PM
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so when I turned the circuit breakers back on
This part suggested a multiwire, but it's certainly worth tracking down if this is actually a multiwire or just a switched hot.
 
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Old 04-15-10, 03:52 PM
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Thanks to all for going through this with me!

Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Good job troubleshooting. I think you need to find the receptacle or switch upstream of the non-working receptacle. Look in the last working or first non-working receptacle for a loose connection. As you already know, move the wires to the screw terminals for a more reliable connection. Make a clockwise under and place the wire under the screw and tighten.
I've tested the first and last non-working receptacle but did not get any power coming in. I didn't think about checking the last working receptacle though. Is it a fair assumption that this last working receptacle would be the one next to non-working one?

When you do move the backstabs, you'll need to join the whites with a wirenut. Run a single pigtail to the receptacle. The neutral in a multiwire circuit cannot depend on the device for continuity.

You also might want to consider changing the two single pole breakers on this circuit to a single double-pole breaker. It is safer for a number of reasons and is required by recent code, although your installation would be grandfathered if left as-is.
I will make sure to pigtail the whites. Since I am joining 3 wires, I would need a red wire nut right?

I'm unfamiliar with pole breakers so I will need to do some research but appreciate the heads up.

By the way, that M is for Morimoto. Of course, this is from back in 1999, but I just remember him being the man.

Again, I agree with psboss. You can check the black wire to you ground wire and see if you have a 120 volts. If you do then you know that you should be looking for a loose or broken neutral wire in the circuit.
I've just been using a non-contact voltage tester, but in the split receptacle I posted a picture of, there was no power in the black wire.

Are these wires on separate breakers? Sometimes the red is just the switched version of the same black hot. In fact, that may be why the black no longer has power if you also rewired the switch. If wired incorrectly, the constant power could stop having constant power.

If not, you could technically leave the neutrals as is. It's a good idea to heed ipbrooks' suggestion because depending on the tab for your neutral conductivity isn't a great idea anyway, but it wouldn't technically be enforcable by code.
I didn't know that the red and black could be switched versions coming from the same breaker. How would this affect the troubleshooting process?

This part suggested a multiwire, but it's certainly worth tracking down if this is actually a multiwire or just a switched hot.
Actually, when I work on anything electrical in the house, I've been turning off all the breakers just to be on the (very) safe side. Had a bad experience when I first started to do electrical stuff on my own...

Could you give some more detail on determining whether its a multiwire/switched hot (and why it matters)?


Thanks again to everyone!
 
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