exterior outlet problem

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  #1  
Old 11-24-10, 05:17 PM
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exterior outlet problem

I have an outside outlet, appears to be properly installed although older, which has a 220 receptacle and two 110's, plus it is hard wired to an exterior florescent security light. No GFCI seen on box or receptacle. Accidentally overloaded it today and of course the power went out. Unplugged all of the possible offenders and went to reset the breaker. NO breaker has tripped, no other power in house is out. Checked outlet box and there is no power on either 110 line and one of them only goes to the 220 receptacle, which has never been used by me. Checked against both ground and neutral wires and there is nothing. House is 1957, and there are no GFCI's. Checked for another circuit box in the attic, which is where the wiring appears to be. No box, and no visible wires where the outlet exits the house in the attic, although they may be buried under insulation. What could the problem be, and how do I fix it?
 
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  #2  
Old 11-24-10, 06:40 PM
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A 120 and 240 should be two separate circuits. A bit confused why you are mentioning the 240v circuit. Is this a subpanel?

GFCIs can be anywhere even in a second floor bathroom on the opposite side of the house or a kitchen or a crawl space or hidden behind something. Did you turn the breaker all the way off then on? Did you try every breaker?

Tech note: Nominal residential single phase voltages are 120 volts and 240 volts.
 
  #3  
Old 11-25-10, 08:11 PM
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You are correct, four wires total, two 110 wires, one black, one red, one white neutral, and one green ground. The red goes to the 110 outlet and then the 220 outlet, the black goes only to the 220 outlet. Both are dead. I checked for current in the wire against both the ground and the neutral. There is no GFI anywhere in the house that I can find. Although, I must confess that I did not dig through about 12 inches of insulation to find the wires in the attic where they come through the wall. I will do that when the temp goes above freezing in the attic (It's well insulated!). I'll need to move a lot of insulation. Checked the crawl space first, since there used to be a furnace down there. Those wires are capped. No GFI. In fact, it would make no sense to have the GFI down there when the wires come out of the attic. I'm beginning to suspect that whoever put this in used a 110 line from one circuit and a second one from another circuit. Problem is, NONE of the breakers appear to be tripped, and I turned off all of them and then on. I even checked every outlet in the house, they all have power. Last time I checked this outlet, last summer, the only breaker that turned it off was the house sub-main. No other part of the house is lacking current. By the way, the wires at the outlet are about 8 or 10 gauge, not 12 to 14 like normal house wiring. Then again, the 220 was apparently designed for a welder or compressor, given it's location, and the fact that it was added on well after the house was built, as was a lot of the wiring to the security lights. I originally thought it was wired to the same circuit as the furnace, heat pump, water heater or range, all 220, but they are all working, and all have their own breaker. I can't figure how they got power to this in the first place, without using a breaker.
 

Last edited by fmfmedic; 11-25-10 at 08:35 PM.
  #4  
Old 11-25-10, 08:40 PM
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You are correct, four wires total, two 110 wires, one black, one red, one white neutral, and one green ground. The red goes to the 110 outlet and then the 220 outlet, the black goes only to the 220 outlet. Both are dead. I checked for current in the wire against both the ground and the neutral.
The wiring is wrong. Some one ran a 120v circuit off a 120v/240v circuit. This is not usually allowed. While it is not the cause it is something that needs to be cleaned up while you are fixing this.
By the way, the wires at the outlet are about 8 or 10 gauge
More proof this was never intended as a 120v circuit. You are probably looking for a 30 amp or 40 amp 2 pole 240volt breaker. Maybe originally used for an electric stove or water heater.
 
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Old 11-25-10, 09:48 PM
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Upon reading your reply, I immediately checked the outlet above where the old water heater sat in what used to be the garage, about 2 feet from the main panel. No joy. I found that when I had to replace part of the floor last summer. The kitchen had been completely remodeled before we moved in and I have no idea where the range used to be, although I know where it wasn't because we put new counter tops in and exposed a great deal of it. The only box I could find but not identify apparently goes to the drier on the other side of the wall. No GFI there. They may have used the old furnace breaker, but that also turns off our present furnace which is working. Besides, that wiring goes through the crawl space, just like most all the other wiring in the house.There may be a panel in the attic somewhere. I'll check tomorrow. I do know that there are several wires, some are large ones, going from the main panel up toward the attic. I'll check those out tomorrow also, when I'm in the attic. I do HATE working in fiberglass insulation!

I agree with you about the 110 off a 220. I'll fix that ASAP! It works, and I've seen it done before. Didn't know it wasn't allowed though. I've come to the conclusion that I need to replace the entire circuit to that outside outlet come warm weather. Probably put another panel box in the shop next to it and run from there. For now, I NEED that outlet working, and besides, I'm worried about a wire having blown in the attic or somewhere else. If whoever wired it in, wired it directly to the panel without a breaker, I may be looking at a house fire. It's a remote possibility though. The original owner, who did the wiring, was a professional electrician, I'm told. Having seen some of the wiring he did, I wouldn't have hired him though.
 
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Old 11-25-10, 10:25 PM
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The main problem with the 120v receptacle is it will be on too large a breaker. A general service 120v branch circuit can not be on a breaker larger then 20 amp. The circuit does not need to be replaced. It just needs the red or black disconnected on both ends and the remaining hot connected to a single pole 20 amp breaker. The 240v receptacle needs to be removed. The 120v receptacle needs to be replaced with a GFCI receptacle.

Don't worry about a GFCI. If this is on a 240v breaker I doubt there is GFCI protection and if there is it will be the breaker not a receptacle somewhere.
 
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Old 11-25-10, 11:09 PM
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Red face

Thanks to you, I found it! It had tripped, it just hadn't moved! I got to thinking about what you said, and tried turning off every single one of the 220 breakers. I found that every single one of them was mislabeled, except the range, and one of them doesn't do anything I can detect. I then remembered what I said that the outlet turned off with the lower bus breaker, which meant it had to be on one of the breakers below that. So I started turning those off. Every one of them is a 20 amp breaker, and two of them are linked together with a pin. Mislabeled, of course, and it was the one! I'll get rid of the 220 receptacle and put another 110 in there on a separate circuit, and get rid of the pin on the two breakers. That will give me two separate 110's on different dedicated breakers. Both GFCI. Nice!

I told you I wouldn't have hired that guy, Now I KNOW I wouldn't have hired him. Imagine putting a 220 receptacle on two 20 amp breakers! I was looking for at least a 30 amp! Or, maybe I can use the 50 amp breaker that doesn't do anything and put a separate panel in the shop. I'll have to check on that with the codes and make SURE it isn't being used. Why didn't he do that in the first place? Also, there's room in the box to put another 50 or 60 amp 220 breaker and use this wire to run to the shop. It's plenty big enough for what I want. Again, I'll have to check. One of my son's friends is an electrician, so I'll ask her.

Hurrah, Hurrah, I won't have go into the fiberglass after all! Thank you so very much!
 
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Old 11-25-10, 11:48 PM
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and get rid of the pin on the two breakers. That will give me two separate 110's on different dedicated breakers.
Actually they may still be linked internally. Since it is 20a you can either convert to a 120v 20a multiwire circuit or just disconnect the red on both ends and use the black and white for a 120v branch circuit. No harm using a 2 pole 20a circuit breaker.

P.S. It is not 110 and 220 it is 120 and 240.
 
  #9  
Old 11-28-10, 10:55 AM
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Red face

Thanks for the correction. I never though of it. Nearly every circuit I've tested ran 110 to 112 volts per line. Sometimes as high as 120.

It would be easier to simply replace the 240 outlet with a 120 outlet and get rid of the wire connecting the two outlets than to pull and separate breakers. I've bought a new all weather, in use, cover for that outside box and a receptacle. I can do that today. Thank You!

I need to examine the panel closely. I'm not a all pleased to find outlets and lights from two and even three rooms on the same breaker. Most places in the house that would be OK, according to the codes, but the kitchen outlets are also wired to the living room, and the bathroom shares the circuit with both bedrooms. That's according to the labels. Especially bothersome when I can't find that many junction boxes. They may be buried under the insulation in the attic or crawl space, but they may all be wired separately to the breakers. There's certainly enough wires in there!

Again, thank you for your advice, and for being here for me to talk to. Both allowed me to solve the problem, and I REALLY appreciate it.
 
  #10  
Old 11-28-10, 11:12 AM
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It would be easier to simply replace the 240 outlet with a 120 outlet and get rid of the wire connecting the two outlets than to pull and separate breakers. I've bought a new all weather, in use, cover for that outside box and a receptacle. I can do that today. Thank You!
Simplest way to do this is to abandon the red, install a GFCI receptacle, and feed the second, a regular receptacle, from the load side of the GFCI. If you use both the red and black you will need two GFCI receptacles.
 
  #11  
Old 01-04-11, 09:51 PM
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Red face

Sorry I didn't get back with my solution. I found that the circuit breakers were connected by a simple nail through the switch. Removed the nail and installed two receptacles. One fed by the red wire and one by the black. The grounds and neutrals are connected together, but this shouldn't cause a problem. Come spring, I will run a separate line from the main box to the shop on a 50 amp breaker, or possible with no breaker in the house, depends on what the electrician says. I have a 240 amp box in the shop already, which is not hooked up. I had planned to run a separate line from the pole to the shop, but permits and price prohibited that.
 

Last edited by fmfmedic; 01-04-11 at 09:53 PM. Reason: incorrect wording
  #12  
Old 01-05-11, 05:03 AM
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When you run the new feeder to the shed the any old wiring already run out there will need to be removed.
 
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Old 01-05-11, 08:21 AM
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Most recently you wrote:
Removed the nail and installed two receptacles. One fed by the red wire and one by the black.
earlier you wrote:
You are correct, four wires total, two 110 wires, one black, one red, one white neutral, and one green ground.
Safest practice is to leave the nail in. Note the red and black are 240 relitive to each other not 110[sic]. You have in effect constructed a multi-wire circuit. It is safest to run from a 240 breaker. This probably isn't a 2 pole breaker, just two 120s but the nail will at least make it likely they are both turned off when any work is done though a short may not trip both.
 
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Old 01-05-11, 10:19 AM
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The current NEC now requires both legs of a MWBC to be turned off at the same time. Older editions only required this if the MWBC landed on the same yoke. While the nail will work, it is not an approved method. Replace the nail with an approved handle tie.
 
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