Section of house lost power

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Old 02-05-11, 05:15 PM
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Section of house lost power

A few days ago a section of my house lost power. The section includes roughly 4 outlets, 8 switches (2 and 3 way), and 8 light fixtures (3 outside) spread across 3 floors (basement/main/2nd). I've been trying to troubleshoot this on my own all day without success. I really do not know how to properly troubleshoot this with minimal electrical experience.

I'm hoping that some folks here may be able to help! Thanks everyone!


Here is the information I've gathered so far:

Home built in 1984.
I do own a multimeter.
Each hot wire coming out of the main breaker box has 122-123V (none tripped).
I've removed everything from the affected wall outlets.
None of the affected outlets/switches are in a kitchen or bath.
I do not have any junction boxes unless one is hidden in a wall.
I've torn apart every affected outlet and switch and checked the voltage on the bare wires but both ground-hot and neutral-hot is 0 volts.
I have not seen any visible signs of damage in the outlets/switches(arcing).
I have continuity between ground and neutral in all spots that I've checked.
 
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Old 02-05-11, 06:08 PM
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You say you have no J-boxes, but you really have many. Each box where you have a device (switch or receptacle) is also a J-box. Besides checking for voltage on the device itself you may have to pull out the other wires and check them. Start at the closest box to the panel.
 
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Old 02-05-11, 07:01 PM
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i would check each breaker for power.as part of learning process,see if you have 240 accross main.you probably will but you need to check every thing.
 
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Old 02-06-11, 06:07 AM
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Tolyn Ironhand

You say you have no J-boxes, but you really have many. Each box where you have a device (switch or receptacle) is also a J-box. Besides checking for voltage on the device itself you may have to pull out the other wires and check them. Start at the closest box to the panel.
Let me clarify what i did with each switch/receptacle. I pulled it out of the wall and put my multimeter on the wire leading into the switch/receptacle. I simply didn't remove the wire from the receptacle when checking it.

I'm also not sure how I would figure out which one is closest to the breaker panel. I don't have a print that would tell me where they ran the wires first.
oleguy

i would check each breaker for power.as part of learning process,see if you have 240 accross main.you probably will but you need to check every thing.
Didn't I already do that. See my first post. If not could you tell me how to do it? Once again, I'm not an electrician so I really don't know.
 
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Old 02-06-11, 07:44 AM
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You may need to look at the last working device before where you lose the power for a bad connection. Turn the breaker off to the affected area and see what else goes off.

The device closest to the panel on that circuit can be where the power comes into that circuit. Whatever run is the shortest possible to minimize wire. Sometimes it is just hit or miss trying to find it.
 
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Old 02-06-11, 12:00 PM
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no you did not.what i am saying is to verify you have 240 volts on the load side of main.scinse you only have one ckt out,it is probly just an open in that ckt.but my point is you should check every thing.there are times one leg of the main is dead.if you have a 240 device on,you can still see 120 on both sides or all breakers.although it may not be the trbl,it pays to check it all.knowing how to test is 90% of trbl shooting.
 
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Old 02-06-11, 12:10 PM
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pcboss
You may need to look at the last working device before where you lose the power for a bad connection. Turn the breaker off to the affected area and see what else goes off.

The device closest to the panel on that circuit can be where the power comes into that circuit. Whatever run is the shortest possible to minimize wire. Sometimes it is just hit or miss trying to find it.
That was it. I stumbled across it, a bedroom switch on my 2nd floor. It had a loose connection behind it. I undid the connections and reconnected everything and then everything down the line now has power. So the electricians who wired the house, went basement -> main floor -> 2nd floor -> main floor -> outside (and finally) -> back to the basement. Definitely not what you would expect.

I'm happy as a kid in a candy shop having been able to fix this even after 10 hours of searching, but I feel I must have wasted a lot of time not knowing how to narrow down the problem more easily. There has got to be a better way to eliminate sections of the house to narrow down the problem source.
 
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Old 02-06-11, 08:39 PM
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Congrats on finding the problem!

With an issue like you had there really is no easy fix. Sounds like you did the best course of action. If it makes you feel any better you likely saved you at least $750 labor.
 
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Old 02-09-11, 10:19 PM
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"went basement -> main floor -> 2nd floor -> main floor -> outside (and finally) -> back to the basement. Definitely not what you would expect."

As a professional, this doesn't surprise me at all. The reason is that inside walls, going vertical is far easier than going horizontal. A lot less holes to drill. Basement ceilings and attics are the places to go horizontal. So starting in the basement, going up (with some side branches), then through the attic and back down in a different area, that's an easy way to pull wire. I'm actually more surprised that so much stuff is on a single circuit, that's bad design.
 
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