Low voltage

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  #1  
Old 12-29-12, 08:25 PM
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Low voltage

Hey all I am at a loss and looking for help. About a week ago my wife and I started to get a faint hot smell from our living room. I have tried tracking it down and thought I had it located at a 3 way light switch. I had planned to change it this weekend, but tonight I lost power to most of my room, not including the lights. The lights are on a completely different circuit. I pulled out my voltage tester and started checking outlets. I wired this house about 8 years ago myself and passed all inspections, so I am going off memory to best of my ability. I have also searched a bit and am looking for a loose neutral wire, but it is the smell that worries me.

The first outlet in the line works, 120 volts. All others are showing 70 or less volts. Any other thoughts?
 
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Old 12-29-12, 08:45 PM
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Hopefully.....since you did the wiring then you'll remember what path you took.
Although that's not terribly important.
You need to determine what outlets are on the circuit. Then determine which ones have the low voltage.
You need to check voltage at the low receptacles.
Check from hot to neutral.....I beleive you saw +/- 70 volts.
How about from hot (small blade) to ground ?

It's going to come down to a connection at one of the outlets.
 
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Old 12-29-12, 09:32 PM
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You didn't use the back stabs on the receptacles did you? If so you need to move them to the screws.

Are you using a digital meter to check voltage?
 
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Old 12-29-12, 09:48 PM
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I did not back stab the outlets, they are all pig tailed per code. It is a digital multimeter I am using as well.

The one outlet that works is behind a fish tank and will be a pain to get to. No it has not gotten wet either before that is jumped to.

Thanks for the replies.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 06:04 AM
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If a digital meter you may not even have 70 volts. While not important to your main problem just letting you know. your problem could be at the last good receptacle so if you remember the wiring order start there.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 06:20 AM
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I just rechecked the outlets with the meter and checked the ground plug as well. From hot to neutral I get 48.6 but from hot to ground I get 119.8. On this circuit there are five outlets and one light/switch. Only one outlet is currently working correctly, I believe this is the first outlet in the run as well.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 06:54 AM
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I just rechecked the outlets with the meter and checked the ground plug as well. From hot to neutral I get 48.6 but from hot to ground I get 119.8.
That's definitely a bad neutral connection, but on the bright side, you only have a few receptacles to check and at one of them will be the problem.

I did not back stab the outlets, they are all pig tailed per code.
Pigtailing is not a code requirement and is rarely done in residential work, but it is a good practice.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 07:00 AM
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Sweet, thanks again all.

Pig tails were the only way the city would pass me. May not be national code, but it is city code here at least.

One last question though. What about the smell?
 
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Old 12-30-12, 07:33 AM
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Electricity will try to flow even across a loose connection. At this point it is looking like a spark plug. The heat will build up and you may hear an arcing sound. If the current is too high and continues you could have a fire.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 08:55 AM
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Going through the outlets I am finding nothing wrong. I have even removed the outlets and just wired the wires together like a junction box. 119 coming in from source, but now only 14 at the second outlet. Further down the run there is 0 voltage as well
 
  #11  
Old 12-30-12, 09:30 AM
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Just did a temporary idea. I rewired from the working outlet to the first non working outlet. Just did this outside of the boxes laying wire exposed. There is now power to all outlets again. Wonder, is there a bad wire somehow in the wall and that is the smell I was getting? I can't leave it like this, but oh the fix it would take to replace the wire as it is around a corner and over a door frame, not like I can just pull it through.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 09:46 AM
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119 coming in from source, but now only 14 at the second outlet. Further down the run there is 0 voltage as well
14 volts at one outlet and 0 at the next doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That would suggest you have multiple bad neutrals which isn't really likely.

You could plug a lamp or some other low current device into one of the non working outlets. That would remove any stray voltage readings.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 02:16 PM
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Just did a temporary idea. I rewired from the working outlet to the first non working outlet. Just did this outside of the boxes laying wire exposed. There is now power to all outlets again. Wonder, is there a bad wire somehow in the wall and that is the smell I was getting?
It's not likely the wiring inside the wall is faulty, but it isn't out of the realm of being possible either. I have seen visible faults in the middle of a roll of NM-B cable, but it is very rare. I think you know what needs to be done though. The wiring evidently needs to be replaced between those two outlets.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 03:12 PM
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Might be a good use for a fox and hound toner to try and folow the cable in the walls and see if there is a break.
 
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Old 12-31-12, 06:57 AM
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What is this toner? If I could find out if there is a break or not before hand that would be cool. Either way though the wire doesn't work and needs replaced.
 
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Old 12-31-12, 09:28 PM
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I can't leave it like this, but oh the fix it would take to replace the wire as it is around a corner and over a door frame, not like I can just pull it through.
Can you go up through an attic or down through a basement or crawl space?
 
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Old 12-31-12, 09:33 PM
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I wish. When I added on the second floor we did 10' ceilings in the living room. There is just the floor joists above and I am on a slab. No idea how many times I have wished I had that ability.
 
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Old 12-31-12, 09:54 PM
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Oh, well. Did you reattach the original wire to see if the problem was still there?
 
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Old 01-01-13, 04:43 AM
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I have tried that just to see if I had a bad connection or cap or something weird. It was the same. I don't understand how a wire or connection just goes bad like this though. The big thing I notice now is the lack of smell that I had. I wonder if a mouse didn't get in and chew the wire up or something. Won't know till I tear the wall out.
 
  #20  
Old 01-01-13, 06:36 AM
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You do have an option of last resort, Wiremold tucked close to the casing and over the door.
 
  #21  
Old 01-01-13, 06:49 AM
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Before I opened a wall I would check each conductor for continuity between the two boxes to narrow down the problem.

Cables can be run between the baseboard and the drywall. Remove trim, drill studs or cut out drywall, install cable, re-install trim.
 
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Old 01-01-13, 06:53 AM
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That was my temporary solution! I just didn't figure it could be long term.

Remove trim, trim drywall, push wire in, reinstall trim.
 
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Old 01-01-13, 09:55 AM
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Using a right angle electric drill or a right angle attachment for you drill you should be able to drill almost all the studs behind the base board. Corners a bit trickier but doable with patience.

Plan "B" using a regular drill at a sharp angle I'd drill each hole and notch and plate at the corners.
 
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