Wall Socket With Voltage AND No Voltage? HELP!

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  #1  
Old 12-21-10, 03:07 PM
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Wall Socket With Voltage AND No Voltage? HELP!

I have a situation where a number of wall sockets have gone dead and one of them is indicating voltage on a Non-Contact Voltage Tester but when I plug in my 3-Wire Circuit Analyzer Voltage Tester nothing lights up which should indicate that there is an open hot. The rest of the sockets give no indication on either meter.

To give some background, I've been helping a friend who had had some electrical work done when they had a ceiling put in in a room in their basement. The electrics in the house are 40-50 years old, reliant on a fuse box, and have been DIY modified by the previous owner.

The person who did the most recent work didn't really finish the job and made several mistakes after which he put up a drywall ceiling, closing off most access to the wiring. The end result of his work was that a wall socket in the basement was not working and the ceiling light at the far end of the basement was permanently on while the light closest to the stairs was controlled by a switch at the top of the stairs.

I pulled the fuse and took the switched light off the ceiling and found that there was a 2 hot 1 neutral wire carrying current into the box. The red wire was attached to the switch and the black was uninterrupted current. The hot leading to the broken wall socket was attacked to the black... and so was the neutral leading to the wall socket so that wasn't hard to fix. The wire leading to the other light was also attached to the uninterrupted current and I moved that over to the red (switched). The remaining wire in the box was a mystery so I wire nutted it off for the time being and left it.

Once I was done I put the fuse back and the basement was now wired to my friends liking, but we found that there was now a dead socket in the living room above. I realized that was the mystery wire so I went back down and attached that to the uninterrupted circuit, went back up and found it was working. However, at the same time, a number of sockets in the kitchen and dining room went out.

They are on the same fuse, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why they aren't working because there are no more loose wires. They WERE working when the one in the living room was out and the only change I made was to attach that to the one loose wire that feeds the living room socket. The other strange change is the one socket in the kitchen which is having the problems I described above.

If anyone has any idea what could be causing this please clue me in.
 
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Old 12-21-10, 04:08 PM
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I don't usually suggest it but this may be a case where you need a electrician to sort things out.

If you want to continue this you need to at least get a test light or even better an analog multimeter. Neither of the two testers you have are really very useful for this kind of troubleshooting.

While the kitchen circuits are grand fathered and do not by code need to be rewired given the possible time involved to figure out this mess I would probably consider just running new circuits and bringing the kitchen up to code. The fly in that ointment would be the fuse box. Is it a 60 amp or a 100 amp fuse box? Are there any open spaces?
 
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Old 12-21-10, 08:47 PM
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I mentioned this to my friend. She and her husband suspected they would have to call an electrician at some point. I just wish I could figure out what I could have done to cause this one section of sockets to go dead and fix it.

If by "test light" you mean a pen shaped tester that lights up and/or beeps when held near voltage then that is what I mean by Non-Contact Tester.

If the amperage is the sum total of the fuses, then it would be 140. There are four 15 amp fuses (the fuse supplying the circuit in question is one of them) and four 20 amp fuses.
 
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Old 12-21-10, 09:23 PM
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If by "test light" you mean a pen shaped tester that lights up and/or beeps when held near voltage then that is what I mean by Non-Contact Tester.
No the NC testers can easily give a false positive as you have already discovered. A test light in the most basic form has two test leads and a neon light that glows half bright on 120v and full bright on 240v. Newer one may have multiple lights to indicate voltages.

If the amperage is the sum total of the fuses, then it would be 140. There are four 15 amp fuses (the fuse supplying the circuit in question is one of them) and four 20 amp fuses.
It isn't. It is the size of the main fuses if the box has main fuses otherwise you may have to look for a label. However it sounds like a 100 amp fuse box from your description. For now forget I asked.

Maybe one of the pros can come along and advise you better then I can. I'd start with opening the kitchen receptacles and checking the connections. If any are back stabbed move to the screws. In old wiring the receptacles are often fed from the overhead light so check the ceiling boxes of all lights on the same fuse. Replace any wire nuts with new ones. Look in switch boxes also.

You could just check the wire nuts but you might miss something so I recommend replace.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-21-10 at 09:54 PM.
  #5  
Old 12-21-10, 10:40 PM
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What room this been involded in if this is in the kitchen area that is one of very strict on the codewise they will requried minuim of 2 circuits { 20 amps @120 volts }

Second thing what room were someone put up a drywall up and did that drywall is complety painted or not if not then it will be a good time to pop the drywall screw out and remove that sheetrock carefull if done it right you may able reuse it again.

Now for the circuits some room may have switched receptale on some room which it will tell ya by extra conductor in there.

Let start with basic what room this is involded ?

Any active going on at any switch box which it affected which you will have to find the line and load supply.

Majorty of older home the incomming power source will useally found at the ceiling luminaire in most of the rooms so you will need more than just a basic tool to find the curpit and sort out the runs.

And there is a instering part with the walls once you open the wall or ceiling the grandfather clause do go out of the window really quick so if that the case then you have to bring the wiring up to modern code there is no extempts on that once you rip the wall open.

I think it will be wise to call in Electrician to come in and assist you on this matter due they may have more tools to troubleshoot it and sort the mess out.

Merci.
Marc
 
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Old 12-21-10, 11:16 PM
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The end result of his work was that a wall socket in the basement was not working and the ceiling light at the far end of the basement was permanently on while the light closest to the stairs was controlled by a switch at the top of the stairs.

I pulled the fuse and took the switched light off the ceiling and found that there was a 2 hot 1 neutral wire carrying current into the box. The red wire was attached to the switch and the black was uninterrupted current. The hot leading to the broken wall socket was attacked to the black... and so was the neutral leading to the wall socket so that wasn't hard to fix. The wire leading to the other light was also attached to the uninterrupted current and I moved that over to the red (switched). The remaining wire in the box was a mystery so I wire nutted it off for the time being and left it.
Several points in the above.

1st). You say that "The hot leading to the broken wall socket was attacked to the black... and so was the neutral leading to the wall socket so that wasn't hard to fix." What was the "fix" here?

2nd). You say that "The wire leading to the other light was also attached to the uninterrupted current and I moved that over to the red (switched)." How and why did you do this?

I would suggest that you put everything back together as it was, and then start over with what you're attempting to fix (sounds like problems w/ basement circuits). After everything is back together like it was before you started, we can go from there.

If you can take some pics (after restoring everything as was) of the wiring, that is worth a lot.
 
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Old 12-21-10, 11:16 PM
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I've been helping a friend who had had some electrical work done when they had a ceiling put in in a room in their basement.
I wonder if there were any Jboxes that got covered up by the new Sheetrock?
 
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Old 12-22-10, 05:13 AM
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Originally Posted by tacticaltal View Post
1st). You say that "The hot leading to the broken wall socket was attacked to the black... and so was the neutral leading to the wall socket so that wasn't hard to fix." What was the "fix" here?
The socket's hot AND neutral were both attached to the hot in this junction box above the overhead light. They were in the same wire-nut. I took the neutral out and merged it with the group of neutrals in the box and the socket is now functioning correctly.

Originally Posted by tacticaltal View Post
2nd). You say that "The wire leading to the other light was also attached to the uninterrupted current and I moved that over to the red (switched)." How and why did you do this?
To clarify. Someone had previously pulled a three wire cable (a black, a white, and a red wire) into this box above the ceiling light. I determined that the red wire was attached to the switch at the top of the stairs. One of the wires leading OUT of the box went to the light at the other end of the room. When I opened the box I found that this second light was attached to the black wire which was not on a switch, so the light was just permanently on. I swapped it over to the red and now both lights are controlled by the switch rather than one light on the switch and one light on permanently.

Originally Posted by tacticaltal View Post
I would suggest that you put everything back together as it was, and then start over with what you're attempting to fix (sounds like problems w/ basement circuits). After everything is back together like it was before you started, we can go from there.

If you can take some pics (after restoring everything as was) of the wiring, that is worth a lot.
I'd rather not put things back as they were, with a hot and neutral connected to each other. As for a picture, I'm not at the home right now, but I can give you a basic diagram of the wiring before and after.


In the words of Doctor Emmett Brown, "Please excuse the crudity of this model, I didn't have time to build it to scale or to paint it. "


Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
I wonder if there were any Jboxes that got covered up by the new Sheetrock?
I posted this question on several forums and someone suggested that. I'll ask my friend if she or her husband remember there being a box in the ceiling before or placed during the ceiling work. If so, I'll try finding it and creating an access panel in the ceiling to get at it.
 
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Old 12-22-10, 08:12 AM
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I'd rather not put things back as they were, with a hot and neutral connected to each other.
Will have to go through and reread when I have time but just because a wire is white does not mean it is a neutral. While modern code says the white should be recolored in a switch loop often it isn't.
 
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Old 12-22-10, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Will have to go through and reread when I have time but just because a wire is white does not mean it is a neutral. While modern code says the white should be recolored in a switch loop often it isn't.
I know for fact that it is a neutral wire. The only thing that changes when those wires are disconnected is the wall socket. As for the other problem we were able to find the general location of the problem and it was not directly related to anything that I did. The electrical wiring seems to be showing its age. A different branch on the same fuse went bad. This portion of the circuit goes up through the unfinished ceiling in the other side of the basement and into the kitchen. They took my recommendation of hiring a professional to finish this part since it will probably require new wire to be pulled.
 
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Old 12-22-10, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Will have to go through and reread when I have time but just because a wire is white does not mean it is a neutral. While modern code says the white should be recolored in a switch loop often it isn't.
I know that Firsthand, but, how hard is it to slide a piece of heatshrink over a wire?
 
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Old 12-22-10, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Justin Smith View Post
I know that Firsthand, but, how hard is it to slide a piece of heatshrink over a wire?
But usually it is done with colored tape or occasionally marker pen. Older books suggest paint.
 
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