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Blowing fuses / Help needed with old Murray "Safety Switch" fuse box in house

Blowing fuses / Help needed with old Murray "Safety Switch" fuse box in house

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  #1  
Old 10-17-11, 06:42 PM
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Blowing fuses / Help needed with old Murray "Safety Switch" fuse box in house

Hi,
Half the power went out in our house today and I found a blown fuse in the fuse box, which has happened before. Our house has an old Murray Safety Switch fuse box in the basement for all the electrical outlets in the house and all the lights. There are two 30A Bus fuses in it and the one on the left is the one that blew out. I replaced it and turned the lever back on for power to both fuses and power that was out in the house came back on, BUT I immediately noticed a buzzing sound coming from the fuse box on the side the fuse that was replaced is on. It has never done this so I kept an eye on it and within 5 minutes the fuse got really hot and blew out. Tried another and same thing happened. Can anyone possibly give me advice going forward on this? I have a person I know who does electrical work but cannot look at it for a few days maybe, so looking for any advice in the meantime.
 
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Old 10-17-11, 08:59 PM
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If it is getting hot an blowing, then there too much current on that circuit. Turn off some things on that circuit and/or move them to another circuit to lighten the load.

The 30 amp fuse worries me! General purpose power and lighting circuits are normally 15 or 20 amp fuses. Are these cartage fuses or or screw in type?
 
  #3  
Old 10-17-11, 09:17 PM
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Thanks for the reply.

They are screw in type, glass window in circular center and a green cap around the top that says "BUSS , AMP 30, TYPE TL" on the top

Its an older house and the fuse box has two of these fuses in it and a lever type metal handle on the outside of the fuse box. You pull the handle down to cut power to it when replacing a fuse and then push the lever back up to reconnect once the fuses are installed. Its an old Murray fuse box, I don't know how old but assume very old.

Also, this is exactly what happens when I put a new fuse in the left side of the two in the fuse box. When the power is connected by pushing the lever back up on side of fuse box, it sparks slightly behind the new fuse and then makes a buzzing noise, within minutes the fuse gets hot and blows out. The houses 1st and 2nd floors outlets and main room lights are all on these two circuits / 2 fuses from this box. The downstairs power is all on a newer breaker type box and seperate circuit. On all the circuits (outlets, etc) that anything is plugged into on the fuse that keeps blowing, I went and unplugged / removed on both floors of the house and turned all light switches connected to that circuit off and it still buzzes like its going to blow the fuse when I tried it again with everything on that circuit off that I could unplug / switch off.

Any ideas? I have the person coming to look at it but it may be a day or two.

I can attach pictures if that would help although I am new to this forum and not exactly sure how to do that.
 
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Old 10-17-11, 09:51 PM
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Murray Fuse Box pictures by KeithLD50 - Photobucket

Here is the link to the image files of the fuse box and also the fuses.

Hope this helps.
 
  #5  
Old 10-17-11, 10:16 PM
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You have a fire waiting to happen. Those fuses should be no larger then 15 amps. I hope you are not trying to use electric space heaters on this panel. It's ok for a few lights but nothing else. Change those fuses to 15 amps tonight and disconnect all but a few lights or do not install any fuses at all.
 
  #6  
Old 10-17-11, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
You have a fire waiting to happen. Those fuses should be no larger then 15 amps. I hope you are not trying to use electric space heaters on this panel. It's ok for a few lights but nothing else. Change those fuses to 15 amps tonight and disconnect all but a few lights or do not install any fuses at all.
I am uploading another photo of the original panel / label on the outside front of the fuse box. It says on it that its 30 AMP (see new uploaded image on photobucket link), and for the 32 years its been in the family it has always used those 30A fuses with electricians in the past saying that is what it takes, I am not knowledgeable on that stuff so I only know what past people have used and said when looking at it years back. The house is probobly 70-75 years old, has been in my family since the late 70s and has always run the 1st and 2nd floors off this power supply. The downstairs / finished basement is run off a seperate breaker box. There has never been an issue with replacing fuses over the years, in the time I have been here a fuse might need to be replaced once every 3-5 years, it has not been often that they have blown out. Only since the power partially went out in on the circuit / fuse that blew last night was there a problem for the first time with replacing one and having it continue to blow out.
 
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Old 10-17-11, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
You have a fire waiting to happen. Those fuses should be no larger then 15 amps. I hope you are not trying to use electric space heaters on this panel. It's ok for a few lights but nothing else. Change those fuses to 15 amps tonight and disconnect all but a few lights or do not install any fuses at all.
I don't see how the fuse itself is the problem when for 32 years it has always used the same 30A fuses and has never had this issue and shows on the fuse box label that its a AMP 30 fuse box. Plus the working (right side) of the fuse box has the 30A fuse in (see pic) like it always has and is working fine. I can tell there is some new problem because it never sparked slightly when putting a new fuse in either side and the new fuse would never get hot and blow either like the left side is doing at this point. I can definitely understand the fuse box needing to fully be replaced at this point to a up to date model but the fuse type I do not think could be the issue right now.
 
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Old 10-17-11, 11:48 PM
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Thirty amp fuse box means two 15 amp fuses. A 30 amp fuse would require a #10 wire and I doubt the wires are more then #14.

I don't see how the fuse itself is the problem when for 32 years it has always used the same 30A fuses and has never had this issue
No but you could have been creating it by overheating the wires and causing the insulation to break down.

it has always used those 30A fuses with electricians in the past saying that is what it takes,
Then you need different electricians. Any competent electrician would know you have a dangerous violation.
 
  #9  
Old 10-17-11, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Thirty amp fuse box means two 15 amp fuses. A 30 amp fuse would require a #10 wire and I doubt the wires are more then #14.

No but you could have been creating it by overheating the wires and causing the insulation to break down.
Ok, that makes sense, so I should replace the 30s with a 15 A on each side correct? The left side that is having the issue now with slightly sparking and blowing the 30A fuses while the right side seems to be fine still, is that something that might be solved with the 15A fuses or is it some permanent damage most likely that was caused over time by to much current going through the box on each one and the left side is shot?

btw, do they have these at walmarts or just at places like lowes / home depot?
 
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Old 10-18-11, 05:56 AM
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If it is getting hot an blowing, then there too much current on that circuit. Turn off some things on that circuit and/or move them to another circuit to lighten the load.
Have you done this?

The fuse is not the cause of your problem, however it could be a hazard if the wire is not large enough to handle that amount of current. #10 copper wire is required for a 30 amp fuse. The fuses may be 20 amp IF the wire is #12. It is hard to say from the pictures what size wire you have but I would guess it is #12. Somebody on site should make this determination.

Walmart might carry the fuses depending on the location. The home stores and hardware stores will for sure.

Thirty amp fuse box means two 15 amp fuses.
30 amp fuse box means it is rated for a max of 30 fuses. Not 2 x 15 amp fuses. I think Ray needs some sleep. You can put any size fuse in the panel up to 30 amp. Which is why fuses can be a fire hazard as they can be overfused an/or bypassed. Bypassing will burn down your house for sure!!! Again, even though the panel is rated for 30 amps the fuse needs to be sized to the size of the wire. (15 amp for #14, 20 amp for #12, 30 amp for #10)
 
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Old 10-18-11, 07:02 AM
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Ok, I am getting 15 amp fuses just in case awhile, does anyone know what the issue with the left side that now it buzzes when a new fuse is put in and blows the fuse? Is the fuse box basically shot on that side at this point? I made sure all the light switches on that left circuit are in the off position around the house and anything that was plugged into the outlets running on that left side circuit have been unplugged as well, so there should be basically nothing running off that circuit at this point, but if I screw in the 30 amp fuse it slightly sparks when tightened and then the buzzing starts from that left side and the fuse starts getting hot so i unscrew it immediately to keep it from blowing again. So if putting a 15 amp fuse in both sides isnt going to solve the overall problem and it will just blow out the left side 15 amp fuse when its put in, then I still need to figure out the main problem for now, or just wait for the electrician (family friend) to be available in the next few days to come look at it.
 
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Old 10-18-11, 08:27 AM
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You may have a short on that side. First unplug everything and see if the fuse still blows. If so you need to check all the receptacle and light junction boxes for signs of a short..
 
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Old 10-18-11, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
You may have a short on that side. First unplug everything and see if the fuse still blows. If so you need to check all the receptacle and light junction boxes for signs of a short..
I replaced the fuses and its still sparking and getting hot on that left side, could it be just a problem with the fuse box or elsewhere like you mentioned that I check the wall outlets and lights? How would I tell if there is a short (wires touching, etc)? Or does an electrician need to come test something with a meter to tell?
 
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Old 10-18-11, 07:19 PM
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I replaced the fuses and its still sparking and getting hot on that left side
This is a sign of an overload or short. The fuse will blow. This is supposed to happen and the fuse is doing it job.

Like I posted, your problem is likely not the fuse or the fuse box. It is likely the circuit. To test this, disconnect the wire that is the branch circuit. (It appears that it is the top black wire. This should be confirmed with a meter as it will be dead with the fuse out.) Install a new fuse and turn it on. If no sparks, heat, or blowing, the problem is in the branch circuit.

If this is the case, think about anything you have done lately that may be causing the overload. Did you change any switches or receptacles? Did you put any nails or screws in the walls? Have you added any appliances such as a space heater or big TV?

You can check for a short using a meter set to ohms by reading between the black wire and white wires of the branch circuit. If you get a very low reading, close to zero, then you have a short.
 
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Old 10-18-11, 07:32 PM
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Ok, I will see what I can do to have those checked. In the meantime, I can definitely say that nothing was changed or added in the house recently, only what has always been used (standard size tvs, small fish tank with filter, some table top lights) Thats all thats basically plugged into the half that is currently out. Even the refrigerator and larger HDTV that are used are still on the working half of the circuit in the fuse box, so on the side that is having an issue, there is really nothing large that was running off that half. There are no large items such as air conditioners, space heaters, or anything like that running or that had been running recently either anywhere in the house. The house has a furnace with radiators so it doesnt use any electrical space heaters or anything like that on those circuits.
 
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Old 10-18-11, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
If this is the case, think about anything you have done lately that may be causing the overload. Did you change any switches or receptacles? Did you put any nails or screws in the walls? Have you added any appliances such as a space heater or big TV?
The odd part is, I was awake the other night when this happened, the fuse blew the first time at around 3am and at the time, there was literally only one outlet in use with a tv on, nothing else in the whole house was turned on via a wall switch or that was plugged in and turned on except the tv. So at the moment it happened, nothing was being used except for the tv. Not sure if that helps at all with figuring this out, but whatever went wrong happened at that exact time with only 1 thing in the house running on that side of the circuit / fuse box.
 
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Old 10-18-11, 08:23 PM
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3am? Do you have any critters in the house? :shock: Either that or something finally gave way.
 
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Old 10-18-11, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
3am? Do you have any critters in the house? :shock: Either that or something finally gave way.
There have been tiny house mice that have been caught time to time in traps that are set in the basement area. No idea if they are in the rest of the house, but I guess its a possibility. If something like that caused a problem, how would that ever be figured out and narrowed down to being the cause of the problem and fixed?
 
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Old 10-18-11, 09:14 PM
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If its a short and the cause is one of the outlets in the house, to determine at what point on the circuit the short is on, someone told me I can start by taking the outlet cover off one of the ones on the bad circuit thats out right now and has no fuse in and to unscrew and take off the black wire from the outlet and then try the fuse again to see if it blows and do this one outlet at a time. Is this a realistic way to begin troubleshooting the issue until the guy I know comes later this week to look at everything? If it is, any saftey advice for doing this would be appreciated as well or if its simply unscrewing the black wire after removing the outlet covers.

*edit* I guess what I am asking about above with checking the outlets / wall switches is, that even if everything is unplugged from the affected wall outlets and every light switch on the affected circuit is turned off, is it possible that one of the wall outlets / receptacles or a wall light switch went bad and is causing the problem?
 

Last edited by KeithLD50; 10-18-11 at 09:39 PM.
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Old 10-18-11, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
Like I posted, your problem is likely not the fuse or the fuse box. It is likely the circuit. To test this, disconnect the wire that is the branch circuit. (It appears that it is the top black wire. This should be confirmed with a meter as it will be dead with the fuse out.) Install a new fuse and turn it on. If no sparks, heat, or blowing, the problem is in the branch circuit.
Disconnected the black wire above the fuse and tried the fuse and it does not make a buzz sound or get hot and blow out, so problem looks like its definitely in the line somewhere. Besides a visual inspection of the receptacles with the covers removed and light switches with the covers removed, can I test each one by disconnecting the black wire on each, and trying the fuse with each one disconnected one by one?
 
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Old 10-19-11, 07:50 AM
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Yes, disconnect the fixtures starting at one end. Where they end or begin is a best guess. I'd start at fixture furtherest from fuse box. You didn't mention checking inside the light junction boxes. They need to be checked.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 10-19-11 at 08:11 AM.
  #22  
Old 10-19-11, 06:53 PM
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It appears to me that the safety switch is bottom fed, did anyone else notice this? I have seen a lot of old switches, but even the old ones I remember were always intended to be top fed. In addition, what appears to be the feed wires loop around the bottom terminals and then go into a conduit into a box of some type below the safety switch while the neutral conductor terminates on the neutral terminal in the safety switch. It also appears to me that the safety switch is feeding three circuits from the top terminals. In my opinion, a GOOD electrician needs to look at this and correct some obvious deficiencies. I am afraid the overfusing has caused permanent damage somewhere in the circuit.
 
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Old 10-19-11, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
It appears to me that the safety switch is bottom fed, did anyone else notice this?
I also noticed that as well, but was more interested it helping OP from burning his house down. The OP also mentioned he knows somebody that does electrical work so I was hoping they could take a better look look I can.
 
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Old 10-19-11, 07:52 PM
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The screw on the left side that the base of the fuse touches apears to be loose. Look at the blackening around the fuse base. The buzzing also sounds like an arc.

DO NOT attempt to tighten this screw. It is ALWAYS LIVE.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 03:49 PM
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The wires that go out the bottom of the box just go to the seperate fuse box for the water heater which has its own box. Also there may be extra wires because there is also a third fuse box that is directly to the left of this with the fuses for the stove / oven in the main house. This fuse box is just for the receptacales and lights. Not sure if that helps clear anything up.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Justin Smith View Post
The screw on the left side that the base of the fuse touches apears to be loose. Look at the blackening around the fuse base. The buzzing also sounds like an arc.

DO NOT attempt to tighten this screw. It is ALWAYS LIVE.
What would they do to fix that, have to have the electric company turn off power at the meter?
 
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Old 10-20-11, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
It appears to me that the safety switch is bottom fed, did anyone else notice this?
The bottom wires go to the seperate fuse box for the water heater, and some of the top / side wires go to a seperate fuse box on the left for the houses stove / oven. I'm pretty sure the main power comes in from the top.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Yes, disconnect the fixtures starting at one end. Where they end or begin is a best guess. I'd start at fixture furtherest from fuse box. You didn't mention checking inside the light junction boxes. They need to be checked.
I was about to start the receptacales check by disconnecting them furthest from the fuse box and checking one by one, when I was told by a relative who was here the other day that they had picked up part of an extension cord to move it and dropped it immediately because it was very hot to the touch and they thought they were going to get electrocuted. The outlet that this extension cord was plugged into when the power blew at 3am also had a fish tank filter running on it, so when I said in the previous post that nothing up there was running at that late of an hour at 3am when the fuse originally blew, I did not think at the time about the fish tank filter, so there was something running at the time the fuse originally blew out. The outlet also just taking a quick glance at it has a little bit of blackened area around where the prong holes go into the wall, so maybe this one is the problem. Why someone wouldnt think to mention at the time that an extension cord was so hot they had to drop it and didnt say anything to anyone is beyond me, but hopefully this turns out to be the culprit. I will check it out tonight when I get a chance and post the results.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 04:24 PM
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Sounds like you could be on the right track. You may need to figure out which receptacle feeds the suspect receptacle and disconnect it there. Normally we advise the problem will most likely be in a box not a wall but given your fuse size the wire in the wall could be bad.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 07:05 PM
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In my opinion, a GOOD electrician needs to look at this and correct some obvious deficiencies.
I stand by my earlier opinion.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
I stand by my earlier opinion.
I have one coming to look at it, just trying to check some things beforehand, whats the point paying someone to start a process of troubleshooting if I can do some of that minor stff awhile myself with help from people on here. I am not attempting to do anything major until someone certified comes to look at it. I am just trying to inspect areas awhile to find the possible problem.
 
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Old 10-20-11, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Sounds like you could be on the right track. You may need to figure out which receptacle feeds the suspect receptacle and disconnect it there. Normally we advise the problem will most likely be in a box not a wall but given your fuse size the wire in the wall could be bad.
I disconnected the two outlets in question, but did not put a fuse back in that side of the fuse box yet to test it. All the fuses are now 15A, so if I plug a new one in to test, is it safe to wait to see if the new one blows out again, and when a fuse is replaced on a circuit that was without power for awhile, should it spark at first when its completely screwed in or should it make a slight buzzing or humming sound at all like it was doing before?
 
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Old 10-21-11, 07:29 AM
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When reinstalling a fuse, it will arc if there is a load on it.

Buzzing and humming? Hard to say. I wont say it is normal, but I have heard breakers that buzz or hum that are working normally.

When your electrician comes out make sure he puts a clamp in meter and measures the current on that circuit. It sounds like that fish tank is a fairly large load.
__________________________________________
 
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Old 10-21-11, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand View Post
When reinstalling a fuse, it will arc if there is a load on it.

Buzzing and humming? Hard to say. I wont say it is normal, but I have heard breakers that buzz or hum that are working normally.

When your electrician comes out make sure he puts a clamp in meter and measures the current on that circuit. It sounds like that fish tank is a fairly large load.
__________________________________________
I doubt the fish tank would be the issue though, its like a 5 gallon extremely small one and the only thing running on it is a very small hang on back filter, they dont use much electric especially the small filters. There is nothing else on it, no light or heater at this time.
 
  #35  
Old 10-21-11, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Sounds like you could be on the right track. You may need to figure out which receptacle feeds the suspect receptacle and disconnect it there. Normally we advise the problem will most likely be in a box not a wall but given your fuse size the wire in the wall could be bad.
may have made some progress towards a solution on this finally. I disconnected all the first floor receptacles and light switches one by one while testing the fuse and as soon as I would screw it in I would still get the sparking and buzzing from the fuse box and I kept immediately removing the fuse again (1st floor overhead light fixtures are all on the circuit that is still working so did not need to check any ceiling fixtures on 1st floor). Moved onto the second floor of the house and disconnected the ceiling fixtures (these were all on the bad circuit) and wall switches so far but not any of the wall receptacles. Just went back down and tried the fuse again and for the first time since the problem began a few days ago there is now no sparking or buzzing when the fuse is screwed into the fuse box on the problem side. It now is the same as the still working side where it makes no spark or buzzing noise when screwed the whole way in. Does this definitely mean one of the overhead fixtures or one of the wall switches on the second floor are bad then? Should I reconnect them one by one and in between each one test the fuse to possibly narrow this down to one exact fixture / switch? Just want to double check everything as I go step by step since you guys have been giving such great advice and know what your talking about.
 
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Old 10-21-11, 09:31 AM
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Does this definitely mean one of the overhead fixtures or one of the wall switches on the second floor are bad then?
Most likely but there is an outside chance it is the cable between them.

Should I reconnect them one by one and in between each one test the fuse to possibly narrow this down to one exact fixture / switch?
Yes. That's the procedure. Ones we have narrowed it down we will go from there.
 
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Old 10-21-11, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Justin Smith View Post
The screw on the left side that the base of the fuse touches apears to be loose. Look at the blackening around the fuse base. The buzzing also sounds like an arc.

DO NOT attempt to tighten this screw. It is ALWAYS LIVE.
It's not always hot if the switch is bottom fed, it's the shell that would be hot.
 
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