Go Back  DoItYourself.com Community Forums > Electrical, AC & DC. Electronic Equipment and Computers > Electrical - AC & DC
Reload this Page >

Very Unusual Standard Outlet Situation - I Have Never Encountered This.

Very Unusual Standard Outlet Situation - I Have Never Encountered This.

Reply

  #1  
Old 06-30-11, 12:35 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Angry Very Unusual Standard Outlet Situation - I Have Never Encountered This.

Yesterday morning during a wash cycle my clothes washer quit. Just stopped running. I checked the circuit breaker and it had not tripped. Tried to turn the washer on and off and got nothing. There was a burning smell which seemed to be coming from the washer, and the air cleared of the smell when we turned off and unplugged the washer. Trying to use an electric pump to pump out the water in the washer, I discovered that the outlet the washer had been plugged into no longer worked at all. After emptying the water by hand and removing the washer from the utility room, I did some checks on the outlet (standard 110V three prong), my meter indicated that I was getting 122.4V at the outlet. The outlet responded appropriately to flipping the circuit breaker, i.e. when off I got a very low voltage reading and when on I would get the 122.4V reading. I have one of the circuit locator things that you plug to an outlet and then run a sensor over the panel to find the breaker. When plugged, the locator's light would work but there was not reaction at all at the panel. (The panel and the outlet are in the same utility room). So all the tests indicate that the outlet and circuit breaker are functioning normally (except for the fact that my circuit locator unit does not function when I have the locator plugged into the problem outlet.) Nothing works when I plug it into the outlet, yet if I plug the same device into any other outlet it works fine. Any suggestions what my next step it. I would suspect the circuit breaker, but I get the proper readings switching the breaker on and off.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 06-30-11, 12:43 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,001
Received 40 Votes on 35 Posts
Turn the power off and check the connections to the receptacle. I suspect a loose connection.

Measure your voltage between hot and neutral and also hot to ground. Is there a difference?
 
  #3  
Old 06-30-11, 12:50 PM
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,944
Received 42 Votes on 40 Posts
Originally Posted by jlscully View Post
After emptying the water by hand and removing the washer from the utility room,
Also a note to other readers as to why it's a good idea to put receptacles 48" above the floor in a utility room.
 
  #4  
Old 06-30-11, 01:21 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
If you are using a digital meter plug in a lamp to one of the plug-ins of the receptacle before taking a reading. 122v is high for phantom voltage but not impossible.
 
  #5  
Old 06-30-11, 07:00 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 10,301
Received 43 Votes on 35 Posts
I did some checks on the outlet (standard 110V three prong), my meter indicated that I was getting 122.4V at the outlet.
I suspect you were measuring hot wire (black) to ground and not hot wire to neutral wire (white). Follow the advice of pcboss and you'll probably find and fix your problem.
 
  #6  
Old 06-30-11, 07:41 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
This outlet worked normally until the clothes washer failure. I have pulled out the outlet and replaced it with a new outlet. Wiring is proper. Still can't run anything that I plug into the outlet. Very weird.
 
  #7  
Old 06-30-11, 07:44 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Using an IDEAL #61-501 outlet checker, I get a "Correct" wiring indication? This is really baffling me.
 
  #8  
Old 06-30-11, 07:52 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
OK, this is sort of interesting, when I put the IDEAL #61-501 into a known good outlet I get a "Correct" reading as I do in the problem outlet. There is a button on the top of the IDEAL #61-501 (and I'm not sure of it's purpose). In the good outlet, when I push the button nothing happens. There are 3 lights, 1 red and two orange. In the good outlet the red is off and the two orange are let (translation = correct), in the problem outlet the light pattern is the same when I plug the tester, however when I push the button in the good outlet, nothing happens or changes, in the bad outlet the two orange lights flicker than go out.
 
  #9  
Old 06-30-11, 08:10 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,001
Received 40 Votes on 35 Posts
Without looking at the Ideal website, I believe the button is to test a GFI.

I suspect you still have a loose connection. You may need to check the panel.
 
  #10  
Old 07-01-11, 04:45 AM
chandler's Avatar
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 39,967
Received 3 Votes on 3 Posts
The button on the unit is for testing GFCI receptacles, and will have no effect on regular circuits. Your remote locator won't work unless there is power supplied to the receptacle. Does the red light illuminate on the plug in part with power on? You have a loose connection, but with correct readings (two orange), and 122v, I couldn't say where it is. Is the receptacle to the washer dedicated or are there others in line? Check them, too.
 
  #11  
Old 07-01-11, 06:07 AM
Member
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Near Buffalo, NY
Posts: 4,239
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
If there is a GFCI upstream from the washer receptacle it could be tripped.
 
  #12  
Old 07-01-11, 02:18 PM
chandler's Avatar
Banned. Rule And/Or Policy Violation
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 39,967
Received 3 Votes on 3 Posts
I don't know, Rick. Why would he be getting the voltage and both orange lights if the GFCI was tripped?
 
  #13  
Old 07-01-11, 02:57 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
This morning, I pulled the panel cover and checked the wires of the problem circuit and found nothing loose, although I did tighten all wires just to be sure. I cannot locate any GFI on this circuit (I accounted for all GFIs in house). I reset the Circuit Breaker and checked the outlet again. Meter shows 122.4V, Outlet checker shows "Correct" (2 orange, no red). I get nothing when I plug any appliance/device into the outlet. Again, just to recap: My wife started a load of wash. Machine filled, when the agitation started, the washer stopped momentarily, then restarted but slow and struggling, then stopped. We both smelled something burning (which I believe was the washing machine, when we turned it off and unplugged it, the burning smell sub-ceded). No evidence of burning at the outlet or the panel. The next time I plugged something into the outlet the washing machine was plugged into, it did not work and has not since. When the washing machine was struggling and when we smell the burning, the circuit breaker never popped. Cannot figure out what would make what seemed to be a perfectly normal outlet stop working in the manner I have described. I really appreciate everyone's response and I am trying to follow each lead. Thank you all greatly.
 
  #14  
Old 07-01-11, 03:05 PM
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,944
Received 42 Votes on 40 Posts
There's got to be a failed splice somewhere in this circuit. Maybe at another receptacle, light, light switch or blank junction box. Hopefully not a hidden one.

Start by flipping the breaker for this circuit off and identifying everything that goes dead. Check all of the wires in those boxes for loose, broken or burned connections. Bad connections may not be visibly obvious until you take them apart to remake them such as backstabs, wirenuts or crimps.
 
  #15  
Old 07-01-11, 07:11 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 10,301
Received 43 Votes on 35 Posts
Meter shows 122.4V,
Measured where and how, hot to neutral or hot to ground? You obviously have a bad connection somewhere and I suspect it to be the neutral, but you haven't yet told us where you are getting the 122.4 volt reading. I also suspect your washer didn't fail, but a wiring connection failed and may possibly have damaged the washer.
 
  #16  
Old 07-04-11, 01:30 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I'm sorry for letting this hang for awhile. From everything I can tell this circuit is isolated. I cannot find another outlet or device that is affected by this circuit breaker. Is it possible that the circuit breaker is the culprit?
 
  #17  
Old 07-04-11, 01:44 PM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,493
Received 33 Votes on 25 Posts
Please answer Joe's question, how did you measure the voltages? You need to measure from the "hot" wire to the neutral wire. If you measure from hot to neutral and get no voltage but measuring from hot to equipment ground does give a voltage then the neutral wire is broken somewhere.
 
  #18  
Old 07-04-11, 01:58 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Furd, I think she is using one of those plug in testers. Jlscully, you need to use either a multimeter or test light for proper testing. Cheap analog multimeters are better then cheap digitals because of ghosting. You need to open the receptacles and test at the wires.

If this is not a GFCI move any backstabbed wires to the screws. If it is GFCI and back wired that is ok. Don't move the wires.
 
  #19  
Old 07-04-11, 03:40 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 10,301
Received 43 Votes on 35 Posts
ray, I am not a fan of those plug-in testers, but in the first post it was stated that there is a meter being used to test voltages. The readings indicate it was some kind of digital meter.

my meter indicated that I was getting 122.4V at the outlet. The outlet responded appropriately to flipping the circuit breaker, i.e. when off I got a very low voltage reading and when on I would get the 122.4V reading.
I suspect the OP knows the basics of using and reading a meter, but knows nothing about troubleshooting or the difference between the neutral and ground conductors. It sounds like a fairly simple problem.

Is it possible that the circuit breaker is the culprit?
I seriously doubt the circuit breaker is the problem, but probably a bad neutral conductor connection.
 
  #20  
Old 07-04-11, 04:32 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Louisville KY
Posts: 578
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
I seriously doubt the circuit breaker is the problem, but probably a bad neutral conductor connection.
While the plug-in testers are not the best it does show that the circuit has power and the connections are correct. Thus we can probably rule out a hidden GFCI for a breaker problem!
 
  #21  
Old 07-04-11, 04:45 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
ray, I am not a fan of those plug-in testers, but in the first post it was stated that there is a meter being used to test voltages. The readings indicate it was some kind of digital meter.
My bad I had forgotten that. Was only remembering where she wrote:
Using an IDEAL #61-501 outlet checker, I get a "Correct"
 
  #22  
Old 07-04-11, 08:39 PM
Justin Smith's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Cressona, Pa, USA
Posts: 2,546
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I think there's an open neutral, probably at the panel buss. A bad breaker may be the culprit, but that is less likely.
 
  #23  
Old 07-04-11, 09:03 PM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 3,774
Received 42 Votes on 40 Posts
You want to measure the voltage between the two prong slots (hot and neutral) of the other receptacle in the duplex receptacle unit, while the washing machine is on (or plug in a hair dryer if the washing machine is now dead).

If the voltage varies widely you have a circuit problem. If the voltage stayed quite steady then the problem was probably in the washing machine itself.

A loose ground (measuring at the ground pin hole and getting odd voltages) will not affect the operation of the washing machine.
 
  #24  
Old 07-06-11, 01:28 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
This is an isolated circuit. I have checked the neutral wire at both the outlet and the panel, both seem very secure. As a crow flies the outlet is about 3 feet from the panel, as the wire runs, it is more like 12 feet - 4 feet to the attic, 3 feet across and 4 feet down and a foot of extra. I really don't see another junction box existing for this circuit, although that is probably worth a check as the rout of this wire is pretty accessible (at least for viewing). Relative to the plugging one thing in (i.e. hair dryer, etc), I cannot get anything to run in the outlet, although I can check (am not positive that I have) the voltage to each plug in the outlet. I also agree that it doesn't seem like it should be the circuit breaker, but I am running out of parts to check. The circuit breaker seems to be working correctly, I mean when it is on, I get 122.4V at the outlet (at least in one plug - I'll check the other) and when the breaker is off, I get nothing. I will head into the attic to see if I can find anything else out about this circuit. Again, thank you all for your help and concern.
 
  #25  
Old 07-06-11, 02:01 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,597
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Way back I ask if you get the 122v with a lamp plugged in and turned on when you measure the voltage. Have you tried that?

To check the breaker you can temporarily swap the wire to another breaker in the panel of the same amp rating.
 
  #26  
Old 07-06-11, 03:49 PM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,493
Received 33 Votes on 25 Posts
I'm still waiting for the answer to the question of WHERE are you measuring this voltage? Are you measuring from "hot" to neutral or hot to equipment ground?
 
  #27  
Old 07-06-11, 07:55 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 10,301
Received 43 Votes on 35 Posts
but I am running out of parts to check.
It sounds like a pretty simple problem to me. What do you think, Furd?
 
  #28  
Old 07-06-11, 08:43 PM
Justin Smith's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Cressona, Pa, USA
Posts: 2,546
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
It sounds like a pretty simple problem to me. What do you think, Furd?
Sorry that I'm butting in, but I'm with you, Joe.
 
  #29  
Old 07-06-11, 09:44 PM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,493
Received 33 Votes on 25 Posts
I think it is a simple request but then I'm not at the place of the problem.
 
  #30  
Old 07-11-11, 11:08 AM
Member
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: MI
Posts: 2,615
Received 1 Vote on 1 Post
The OP sounds pretty competent in checking the wiring inside the panel and out. If you know how to proceed safely I would suggest you swap the wires to this and the adjacent breaker and see if the problem moves to the other circuit. This has the symptoms of a high-impedance connection and could definitely be a burnt, corroded, or mechanically weak breaker. Digital meters don't put enough load on a circuit to properly test for a solid connection. I like to keep my dads old solenoid tester ("buzzer") handy for these occasions.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: