Circuit not working, breaker not tripped

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Old 12-16-10, 08:34 PM
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Unhappy Circuit not working, breaker not tripped

I have several apartments in an old farmhouse. A tenant just called to say the electricity in half his apartment (it's just a one room studio) is out. He looked in the breaker box, nothing seemed tripped. He reset them all anyway and even reset the main breaker, but the problem remains. The apartment is on the second floor and the panel is in the basement. Where should I look for the problem? I have had rodent issues in the building, could this be another one? Help!
 
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Old 12-16-10, 10:57 PM
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Call the power company 24 hour emergency number now and tell them you may have a dead leg and need them to check. If the tenants have any 240v appliances tell them not to use them shut the breakers of to any electric water heaters.

The problem may not be on the power company's side of the meter but it may be and getting them to check is free. Sometimes they will even be able to tell you what it is on your side if it isn't on their side.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 07:31 AM
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Thanks. I did that and they said since it's only part of one apartment most likely it's an inside problem, but the crew is coming to check it out.
Any other ideas?
 
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Old 12-17-10, 08:05 AM
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It could just be an open connection on one of the circuits, which is essentially a wire that has come loose or burned off at one of the receptacles, switches or light fixtures. The fix is tedious, but you basically need to open up all the devices and look for bad connections usually found at a backstab.

If you've had rodent problems before, that certainly could be the case again. They love to chew up wires if they get access to them.

Also, depending on your state law you may need a licensed electrician to do this work. Most places only allow landlord to do electrical work if the building is owner-occupied and no bigger than duplex or triplex.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 04:00 PM
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THANK YOU! The very first outlet cover I took off was obviously the problem. One of the wires was burned right where it attached to the outlet. I replaced the outlet and everything is fine.
Only I'm wondering what would make it go bad that way to begin with. Is this something that just happens in older buildings?
Diane
 
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Old 12-17-10, 04:31 PM
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Connection could have loosened over the years. May never have been at tight as it should have been. I have also seen it happen when a tenant used an electric space.

The wires were on the screws not inserted into the back weren't they? This is copper wire isn't it?
 
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Old 12-17-10, 04:58 PM
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I'm glad you asked that question. On each side, 1 wire was inserted in back and 1 on the screw. The outlet I replaced it with didn't have a place to stick the wire in the back, so I doubled up on the screw. Is that ok? Yes, copper wir.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by dianebc View Post
I'm glad you asked that question. On each side, 1 wire was inserted in back and 1 on the screw. The outlet I replaced it with didn't have a place to stick the wire in the back, so I doubled up on the screw. Is that ok? Yes, copper wir.
No, you shouldn't double up wires under one screw. If you meant you used both screws for two wires, you are fine.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:03 PM
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Two wires under one screw head? That is not acceptable. Most receptacles (outlets) have two screws per side and one wire under each screw is proper. These require that the wire be bent into a hook shape that is applied so that tightening the screw tends to close the open part of the hook.

Higher quality receptacles (specification grade) will have a "pressure plate) under the screw and they use a straight wire inserted in a hole in the back of the receptacle that directs the wire under the pressure plate and then tightening the pressure plate traps the wire. On these receptacles you can insert two wires (one per hole) so that they are under the pressure plate on either side of the screw and then tighten the screw. These receptacles can therefore take up to four individual wires on each side.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:04 PM
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oops, no I doubled them. To be clear, each side has two screws and 3 wires. Why is that bad? I could buy a new outlet with the place in the back to put the extra wire.
Diane
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by dianebc View Post
oops, no I doubled them. To be clear, each side has two screws and 3 wires. Why is that bad? I could buy a new outlet with the place in the back to put the extra wire.
Diane
I would take the three black wires and pigtail them with a wire nut to a single wire that would go under one screw. Then, do the same with the white wires.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:12 PM
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The rule is one conductor under one screw head. You do not want a repeat of the loose screw issue.

With three conductors you would twist all 3 together along with a short pigtail of the proper gauge and color and then terminate the other end of the pigtail under the screw head.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:12 PM
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I love learning stuff from you guys. I especially love not burning down the house. I'll get the proper equipment tomorrow.
Diane
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:17 PM
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Similar to this.

 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:18 PM
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The way i usually do it is put them under a wirenut with a piece of wire and a fork terminal pre-attached. I use specification grade 20 amp receptacles.
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:23 PM
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Got it. but it's also ok, if I have 2 wires on the upper screw, to put one on the screw and one in the back hole by that screw, right?
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by dianebc View Post
Got it. but it's also ok, if I have 2 wires on the upper screw, to put one on the screw and one in the back hole by that screw, right?
It is not a code violation but the "back stabs" are more likely to fail then the screws. You have already had one wire burn best to use only the screws. The backstab only has a small strip of spring metal to make contact.

Did you ask the tenant if he has an electric space heater plugged into that receptacle?
 
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Old 12-17-10, 06:52 PM
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no space heater plugged into recepticle, but the refrigerator was. Also, on the same circuit, not plugged into the receptacle, is a small hot water heater.
 
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Old 12-19-10, 01:31 PM
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The backstab holes can only be used with #14 gauge wire.
 
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Old 12-19-10, 01:39 PM
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I've bought a GFCI receptacle, so I'm going to replace it with that and do it right. Not sure if it's #14 wire. Will it say on it?
 
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