2 of 3 electrical outlets on circuit died

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  #1  
Old 01-16-11, 05:00 PM
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2 of 3 electrical outlets on circuit died

I'm trying to diagnose a problem with 2 electrical outlets and one switched light in a crawl space are no longer working. The other outlet and ceiling lights that are on the same circuit are all fine. Just a little backstory. The outlet (and beyond) were working fine until I plugged a ceramic heater into it. The heater ran fine for several hours one day, the next day the outlets were dead.

I started with the first outlet in the chain that is dead. When I use my multimeter to test voltage in between the black and white wires, I get nothing, but when I test between the black wire and the metal box, I get about 116V reading.

It appears as though the problem lies in the neutral wire between this outlet and whatever precedes it in the circuit (loose wire nut perhaps)? Since this room is finished, I'm not sure how the wires are run and I'd hate to start breaking into the walls to find it.

Any suggestions to help me move forward are appreciated.

Thanks,
Brian
 
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Old 01-16-11, 05:05 PM
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Sounds like the neutral connection has failed. The most likely spots to look are in the last working or first non-working receptacle or device.
 
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Old 01-16-11, 05:17 PM
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That is what I was afraid of. The connections at the first non-working receptacle are fine. I suspect that this wire is run to a can light in the ceiling which means that I'll be breaking into drywall in order to find check it out. There are 4 can lights in this room hopefully it is the one that is closest to the first dead receptacle.
 
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Old 01-16-11, 06:25 PM
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which means that I'll be breaking into drywall in order to find check it out
Before shock and awe lets try gentle. Pull each can light and check all wire nut connections. I'd replace all wire nuts not just check to be sure I didn't miss anything. Why are you sure this is from a can light.
 
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Old 01-16-11, 06:26 PM
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Most times you can remove 3 screws to drop the light housing to access the junction box on the recessed. I would check the first non-working receptacle before checking the light splices.
 
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Old 01-16-11, 07:26 PM
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Why are you sure this is from a can light.
I'm not certain.

Here is why I suspect the can light:

The one working outlet is furthest from the electrical panel and only has one cable entering the box. The only other box in the room is the light switch and it only has one cable entering the box. The two dead outlets each have two cables entering the box. I've isolated the power coming into the box on the east side of the door. I suspect the other cable is running to the other non-working outlet box on the west side of the door. Then the second cable running from the box on the west side of the door is headed into the crawlspace where the light isn't working.

That said, the reason why I said I would need to break into drywall (believe me, I want to avoid this at all costs) is because the can lights appear to be these:
Halo 4 in. 50-Watt New Construction Recessed Housings - H99T. The junction box doesn't appear to be accessible by any other means.
 
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Old 01-16-11, 08:04 PM
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From your site I have pulled a picture. I added instructions in the red circles that may work to access the Jbox. You will probably need a stubby screwdriver. Remove bulb and trim first.

 
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Old 01-17-11, 05:05 PM
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Excellent. Thanks for the image. I don't have much time to dig back into this before the weekend, but I have something to look forward to trying now.
 
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Old 01-18-11, 05:12 AM
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Thanks for the pic Ray. That is what I was trying to describe. The pic makes it so much easier to understand.
 
  #10  
Old 01-23-11, 07:17 PM
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Well, I finally had an opportunity to dig into this a little more and the can lights I have definitely don't have the screws, so I went to Home Depot to look at them and it looks like only the larger diameter lights have the screws. The 4" ones that I have look like are just held in by 3 metal friction tabs. I'm not sure how easy it would be to dislodge the can from the frame or if it is even possible without damaging it. I'm going to mess around with it a bit more to see what I can accomplish.

If I can't get access through the can opening, is there a way to try and trace the wires so I can make sure I'm working in the right location?
 
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Old 01-24-11, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by xbpr View Post
The 4" ones that I have look like are just held in by 3 metal friction tabs. I'm not sure how easy it would be to dislodge the can from the frame or if it is even possible without damaging it.
It should definitely be removable. Sometimes it's just held in with metal spring clips that swivel down and put pressure against the drywall ceiling.

Also nice diagram Ray. The only thing it doesn't depict correctly is the mouthful of cellulose insulation waiting for you as soon as you pop the can up.

If I can't get access through the can opening, is there a way to try and trace the wires so I can make sure I'm working in the right location?
Nothing that's very reliable.
 
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