Receptacle problem or am I hallucinating?

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  #1  
Old 11-23-13, 08:52 AM
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Receptacle problem or am I hallucinating?

An electrician completed wiring on house 8 years ago, house has been vacant since. I have checked all receptacles but 2 are not working. I opened up the one to find a receptacle with 4 bits of wire sticking out the back not even connected? There is only a black, white, ground in this box. Okay, replace the receptacle and insert wires into back, still not working. Bought a receptacle tester and volt senser. Receptacle tester doesn't respond ... it is one that tells you if you wired it correctly, three prong thingee.
Put the no contact volt sensor adjacent to receptacle and it alarms. So .. replace the receptacle with a new one and connect wires to the screws this time around. Power back on, volt testers alarms, plug in receptacle tester and hair dryer, no power? retest with volt sensor and now it does not alarm? wait a period of time and retest with volt sensor and it alarms. I plug something in and it doesn't work, test with volt sensor, no go ..... wait, retest ... sensor then alarms??? nothing works when I plug it in tho?

This plug in appears to be on the end of the circuit as there is just the 3 wires coming in .. there are 4 other plug ins in this room, all work. This one is on an outside wall.

The other plug in that is not working happens to be above this one on the second floor, same outside wall, end of run. I have replaced this receptacle and attached to screws as it was poked in back ... absolutely no response at all, rest of lights and receptacles work in room. According to panel these rooms are on their own circuits.

Black is attached to brass and white to silver, top screws .. tried top and bottom ... one top one bottom ... ??

If anyone can shed any light on this that would be greatly appreciated. Maybe that was why this receptacle was mounted but not connected, just 4 wires sticking out back ... even the electrician gave up???
 
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  #2  
Old 11-23-13, 09:23 AM
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Bought a receptacle tester and volt senser.
Neither a good choice for real testing so any results are questionable. You really needed a cheap analog multimeter.
replace the receptacle and insert wires into back
Backstabs can be unreliable, best to use the screws.
just 4 wires sticking out back
Color of the wires, please? Back of what?

One cause of failure to work is a bad connection at the last working receptacle probably the closest receptacle but you need to check them all and move any backstabs to the screws.
 
  #3  
Old 11-23-13, 02:22 PM
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Okay will get analog meter, then learn how to use it. The receptacle just had backstabs that were cut off and the receptacle was not even hooked up. Anyhow, I pulled receptacles both sides and put all the wires to the screws. The receptacle does not set off the sensor at all now. All other receptacles test okay to sensor and hook up? Did the ones either side of the bad receptacle upstairs and still nothing. So you recommend doing the whole room? If there was a problem with these receptacles wouldn't the plug in tester detect it? so far all receptacles other than the ones described seem to be working.
 
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Old 11-23-13, 04:19 PM
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All other receptacles test okay to sensor and hook up?
Which really proves nothing.
If there was a problem with these receptacles wouldn't the plug in tester detect it?
No. The only way to find a failed connection is open the box and look.
 
  #5  
Old 11-24-13, 09:25 AM
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Okay, so the receptacle works fine both sides of the faulty receptacle ... you say to look inside the box for a the faulty connection ... so what am I looking for, wires are good shape, connected properly, receptacle works so..... what is it you are suggesting I look for then? Don't say call an electrician ... an electrician did this!
 
  #6  
Old 11-24-13, 09:29 AM
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I guess what I am asking is ... you say a fully functioning receptacle can have a failed connection so ... what could this failed connection look like that does not affect the receptacle as it works but affects the one adjacent at end of run?
 
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Old 11-24-13, 09:37 AM
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you say a fully functioning receptacle can have a failed connection so ... what could this failed connection look like that does not affect the receptacle as it works but affects the one adjacent at end of run?
Yes. Unless pigtails were used that receptacle is acting as a bridge to the next receptacle. You might also want to read: http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...ther-info.html
 
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Old 11-24-13, 10:48 AM
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yes i did, thanks anyways
 
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Old 11-24-13, 11:09 AM
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A connection going out to other parts of the circuit could have failed. The receptacle will still work, it is just everything downstream will not.

Can you post a pic of the 4 wires that were not connected when you pulled the receptacle out?
 
  #10  
Old 11-24-13, 11:27 AM
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I decided to uncap the pigtails in the adjacent receptacle and the wires look tight and secure, there are 4 wires per cap. The electrician wrapped black tape around one of the ground wires from where it comes out of the sheath right to the pigtail ... why do you think he would do this?
 
  #11  
Old 11-24-13, 11:28 AM
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Maybe they were short a wire nut? Regardless, it is not correct and should have been a splice cap or a wire nut.
 
  #12  
Old 11-26-13, 08:06 AM
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Picture of Adjacent Receptacle

Name:  Adjacent Plug In.jpg
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Here is adjacent receptacle. One ground wire going into the pigtail on the left is wrapped in electrical tape?
 
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Old 11-26-13, 08:14 AM
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There should be no need for tape on the bare ground.
 
  #14  
Old 07-19-14, 04:49 PM
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I deserted this receptacle now I am back...

I have another electrical problem so am revisiting this initial problem. I guess I didn't post the picture you asked for .. the receptacle itself just had four pieces of cut off wire in where you back stab, coming into the box was just a black, white and ground... curled up and attached to nothing... I attached wires to new receptacle and zip. So, now that I have an analog meter ... what can I check? I hope some of you old posters come back ...
 
  #15  
Old 07-19-14, 05:09 PM
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Disconnect all wires. On cable A check the voltage between:
  • Black and White.
  • Black and ground.
  • White and ground.
Repeat for cable B. Post your results
 
  #16  
Old 07-20-14, 08:18 AM
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Okay, so you mention cable A and cable B, as there is only one cable going into the dead receptacle I am testing the two receptacles either side of the dead one then, that is what you mean? I have an analog meter but didn't say I knew how to use it .. when I figure out how to test for volts I will post back but can you confirm that you want me to check either side of dead receptacle.. thanks.
 
  #17  
Old 07-20-14, 08:38 AM
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Try the receptacle next to the one that is dead and look for open connections.
 
  #18  
Old 07-20-14, 08:54 AM
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In my opinion, the safest and best way to test this circuit and have it fixed in likely less than an hour is to contact a licensed electrician.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 10:51 AM
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as there is only one cable going into the dead receptacle I am testing the two receptacles either side of the dead one then, that is what you mean?
Yes. The receptacle has to get power from somewhere and it may be one of those. There is a test to determine if one of those cables is connected but it is a bit more complicated we need to do that first. With breaker off remove all the wires in each of the three boxes. With breaker on test which cables are hot. Turn the breaker off and cap the black and white of the hot cables with wire nuts. Leave the breaker off.

To test you will need a length of wire wrapped around one probe of your multimeter. Strip about an inch of insulation. Use tape or a wire nut to hold it in place. Set the multimeter to lowest ohm scale. Touch the other probe to the end of the wire. If all is good the needle should move to the end of the scale. If your meter has an audible continuity checker use that.

With the breaker off connect the probe extension wire to the black of one of the non hot cables in a double cable box. Check for continuity to non hot black in each of the other boxes. Repeat with white. Post your results. For Clarity refer to the double cable boxes as A and B and the single cable box as S.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-20-14 at 11:20 AM.
  #20  
Old 07-20-14, 03:14 PM
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You mention cap the black and white with wire nuts so I am assuming you mean a cap on the black and the cap on the white? This is what I have found so far ....

The dud receptacle is between the two functioning ones..

Recept A ... 2 cables ........ no voltage noted on either cable in any config ..

Recept B ... 3 cables ........ no voltage noted on two of these cables, third cable had 120V on the B&W, and the B&G ...

I will carry on when you confirm whether you wanted the B & W together or separate ... thanks
 
  #21  
Old 07-20-14, 03:21 PM
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Single receptacle I tested too, no voltage noted. The hot cable in the adjacent receptacle was the same one the electrician had wrapped black tape around...
 
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Old 07-20-14, 04:47 PM
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Yes separate. Just safety and a way to mark them so you won't use them for the continuity check. We need the continuity check so we know which cable goes where.
 
  #23  
Old 07-20-14, 05:46 PM
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Okay results if I did it right ...

From A box .. tested both blacks and whites with black and white in dud box S , no continuity

From A box .. tested both blacks with 2 non hot in Box B , no continuity

tested one white to other whites no continuity
tested other white and continuity to one white in Box B

No continuity between Box B and S with either black or whites..
 
  #24  
Old 07-20-14, 06:55 PM
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Well I'm not seeing a solution. Maybe someone else will.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 07:06 PM
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I was just sitting thinking, why didn't my blacks test positive in the cables the whites tested positive? I redid it and the blacks are showing continuity in the same cables the whites are. These two receptacles are 12 feet apart so maybe my contact wasn't good first time around. Does this shed any light?
 
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Old 07-20-14, 07:13 PM
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The hot cable in the adjacent receptacle was the same one the electrician had wrapped black tape around...
I don't know what the above quote means. However, take your no contact tester and place it against the wire wrapped in tape and connected to the ground screw as shown in post #12.

You asked why this ground wire would be taped.

I may be way off, but if this taped wire has voltage, call an electrician.
This is probably an easy fix.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 07:32 PM
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There was black tape wrapped around a ground wire is what it meant and this ground wire was in the same cable as the hot black and white. All wires are separated right now ... once I have them all back together I can check.

This room also has 8 pot lights above ... if the dud receptacle showed no continuity between either receptacle then would that mean .... the cable between either of these receptacles was damaged to the point to where there is no longer continuity?? or the source of power is from one of the overhead lights??

My husband said that when he put light bulbs in pot lights for the first time, some of them blew and he had mentioned it to the electrician who was working on the house at the time. We put some in and one of them last a couple days, the rest were okay ... could they be related??
 
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Old 07-20-14, 07:46 PM
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Bigboypete wrote:
In my opinion, the safest and best way to test this circuit and have it fixed in likely less than an hour is to contact a licensed electrician.
I have to agree with Pete. You need an electrician. Sometime a problem is just to complicated/confusing to be solved by "remote control".
 
  #29  
Old 07-20-14, 07:48 PM
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I agree with Pete and Ray. Good luck.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 08:02 PM
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That was what I was doing, contacting an electrician? Closest guy is over an hour away so I thought I would try this route first. I will probably never use the receptacle anyways but .. wasn't sure about the safety if there was damage in the walls? from nail or something.. thanks anyways
 
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Old 07-20-14, 09:09 PM
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If you can tell us what the electrician finds.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 09:23 PM
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Handyone, I put everything together and tried the non contact tester. No volts noted when I touched the ground wires, although the one that was wrapped is still fully wrapped .... no volts noted on neutral side ... just on black side. I noticed that the ground hole on the receptacle was responding to voltage though, tested some others in the house and they didn't respond so... retested the ground wires again thinking that something has to be energizing the ground hole on top of receptacle ... these two screws are the only ones used on this receptacle. Anyhow, I noticed that the tester responded when I touched the drywall above the box... and it continued to respond right up to the ceiling. It was like I was using a stud finder ... is this normal finding when you are following a wire in the wall? also noticed when I touched the trim on the recessed lights it senses volts so not sure if this is normal either. I kind of doubt it because if it was that sensitive why wouldn't it respond when I poke the end in the neutral side of the socket. Anyhow, thought I would let you know the results... I am going downstairs now to shut the power off to that room
 
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Old 07-21-14, 08:02 AM
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is this normal finding when you are following a wire in the wall?
All the things you mention are pretty normal for a non-contact proximity tester. Now you know why they cannot be used reliably for troubleshooting and doing diagnostics and are only good to tell you there may be voltage somewhere in a particular area. Many good electricians will work their entire careers and never need or want one of these testers.
 
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Old 07-21-14, 09:36 AM
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Mizzfixit2,

I can't help you fix this. But I can give you some advice.

It sounds like you think the original electrician made a mistake in wiring.
The only way for you to fix this (in my opinion), Is to completely disassemble all wiring on this circuit, find your "source power" (the only box that has a hot wire coming from breaker), and then reassemble starting with that first source outlet.
As you reassemble, test each box to see if the hot and neutral wires are continuing downstream as expected. In other words, fix your source box to where it works, find the box that this source box is feeding, this will be your new source and just continue down the line.

No offense, but it is much more likely that upon reassembly, a mistake will be made. You should have a good knowledge of wiring to completely rewire an entire circuit.

An electrician will find the problem rather quickly I would guess.
 
  #35  
Old 07-21-14, 07:42 PM
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The person that abandoned the dud receptacle and left it with 4 bits of back stabbed wires and a loose cable in the box was the electrician ... obviously he couldn't figure it out is my guess so he made it look complete by putting on the face plate ... I haven't even started on the one upstairs yet.

If the receptacles adjacent don't feed it .. could one of the pot lights have power coming from them? This outlet is on an outside wall under 3 windows, the room is shaped like a bay window in the area of the receptacle so there is no other room for the power to come from ... I can see below this receptacle in the basement and there are no wires going through the floor to that area so it tells me the source is coming from above floor.
 
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Old 07-21-14, 08:44 PM
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Yours is a situation I honestly wouldn't try to figure out if I couldn't figure it out in a reasonable amount of time and effort. I'd just run new cable from a known good source and cap off and leave the old cables if both ends couldn't be identified.
 
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Old 07-21-14, 09:11 PM
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This outlet is on an outside wall under 3 windows, the room is shaped like a bay window in the area of the receptacle so there is no other room for the power to come from ... I can see below this receptacle in the basement and there are no wires going through the floor to that area so it tells me the source is coming from above floor.
I'm going to bow out of this one. It's too complicated. I like puzzles though and hopefully you will post back once this is fixed.

Here's my best guess, and an electrician can correct me if I'm way off.

IF the wires at the abandoned outlet were cut off, and not capped off, basically just curled up and left in there like you stated, this is a signal to anyone coming in later that this outlet (wires) were abandoned for good reason.

It may be difficult for you to determine what this reason was.
 
  #38  
Old 07-22-14, 06:40 AM
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Looks like the second wire in box A goes outside to a GFCI and ends there, so the source box is box B ... which goes to the 8 potlights too ... I guess I could seperate one cable ... power up and see what it affects, next cable , etc?

Personally I couldn't care less about the receptacle working, but if you abandon it are you not potentially leaving a hot wire in your wall somewhere? how safe is that? I don't know myself.. maybe it is a non issue?
 

Last edited by Mizzfixit2; 07-22-14 at 07:44 AM.
  #39  
Old 07-22-14, 09:22 AM
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At the outlet where the wires are curled up and "abandoned"....

Take your meter and check for voltage between hot to neutral and hot to ground.

If there is no voltage, cap off wires and just leave it alone.
 
  #40  
Old 07-22-14, 10:17 AM
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but if you abandon it are you not potentially leaving a hot wire in your wall somewhere? how safe is that?
Your walls are full of hot wires, some under load, so that wouldn't be a unique or unsafe situation. If you mean a cut hot wire with insulation removed in a wall, unless it touches ground no danger.

If the wall is no insulated you could use a camera probe in the wall to try to trace it. Run the camera probe into the wall from the basement so you don't have to disturb the sheet rock.

Just an example. Had a customer that the contractor bailed on before finishing the remodel. The contractor had installed several boxes for phone . The boxes were there with two pair cable in them but no jacks. There was two pair cumming down at the NID. Installed the jacks and connected to the NID. Tested at the jacks. All dead. Tested at the NID had dial tone. When I crawled up in the attic I found at each jack only a couple of feet of cable from the jack connected to nothing. Same at the NID. IMHO basically a fake out by the contractor.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 07-22-14 at 10:37 AM.
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