Do I need new service?


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Old 01-25-14, 11:32 AM
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Do I need new service?

Hi, this is my first post, and I would like some advice. A couple weeks ago I started having intermittent power outages on only one circuit. At first it was a couple times a day for only a minute or less. It would go off then right back on. Called the electric co because at first I didn't realize it was only one circuit and we had a bad storm and it kept doing it every hour or so. They came and fixed their end. The problem continued but only once or twice a day. Only one circuit and the breaker did not trip. I changed out the electrical outlets ( they were all back stabbed) and checked the two switches that were also on the circuit. I was going to change the breaker, but my husband wanted an electrician to check everything out. He came and changed the breaker, but now he is telling me that I need new service and a new meter box ( never checked it) as he sees corrosion in the box. What he showed me was, rust on the bottom of two of the silver fasteners that hold the breaker together,( this one he replaced), two small dried rust water drops in the bottom of the breaker box, and rust on the fasteners of another breaker that he did not change. No rust on anything else on the box. He told me that water must be coming in from outside and the aluminum wire that is coming into the house needs to be changed to copper to the tune of $700 or so. I don't have any other problems with the electrical and haven't had until this incident. I will get it done if need be, but if I don't really have to I obviously would rather not. Should i just change the circuit breaker with the rust on the fastners? Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to give context.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 11:47 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

If everything is back to normal I would leave it for now. In warmer weather you can check to see where water might be able to get into your meter base and seal that.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 11:47 AM
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Welcome, typically steel is only used for the enclosure of the panel. Steel is not as conductive as aluminum or cooper which is more commonly used for the parts that carry the electric. Given the partial examination I would question the need to change out your service. Can you post pics of the areas of concern?
 
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Old 01-25-14, 11:56 AM
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Thanks for the reply, I will take the front panel off, and take pictures and try to post, never done it, but I'll try. As I said the inside looks almost new, House was built in 1983 and I have been in it ever since. The copper wires inside are nice and bright not a speck of anything on them. The what I presume to be the neutral bar with all the white ground wires is silver with nothing on it. All the screws at the end of the circuit breakers are rust free. Just the little fasteners that hold the circuit breaker together have some rust. The one he took out has it on two on the bottom but the top is silver. He wants to replace my outside aluminum wire with copper wire and a new meter box which he never looked inside so he doesn't even know if there is rust or not, he just assumes. My meter was changed 5-6 years ago with a digital meter . So should I change the breaker with the rust on the fasteners?
 
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Old 01-25-14, 12:00 PM
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Not even really sure water is getting in. Wouldn't natural condensation cause the fasteners to rust? It is a basement and it is a little humid down there in the summer. I do have a dehumidifier, but it is kinda small so it does it's best. We did have a problem with a down spout that caused some water on the basement so maybe that did it. The house is 30 years old. Thanks for the welcome and the opinion and the help. Yes everything works just fine now.
 

Last edited by BarbaraW; 01-25-14 at 12:01 PM. Reason: too many smileys
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Old 01-25-14, 12:15 PM
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Unfortunately you cannot tell by looking at the breakers if you have a problem. Usually what happens is that water leaks in at the top of the meter pan. Then the water follows the service cable where it enters the electric panel. The water travels down the wire and runs behind the breakers to the bottom of the panel.

The areas that the pics would be beneficial are one pic of the bottom of the inside of the panel like in the picture below. The white arrow shows excessive rust from leaking water.
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If you look at the picture you can see where the breakers snap on. That is the area where the water causes the damage. You can't see those connections without pulling the circuit breakers out.

A picture of the meter pan outside..... showing where the cable enters would be helpful too.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 12:52 PM
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Is that FPE a breaker panel?
 
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Old 01-25-14, 01:47 PM
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The breaker panel is a Square D.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 02:03 PM
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Pictures

Tried to take as many angles as possible. Also had one breaker taken out so I took a picture. The stuff inside is not rust but the gel that gets put on. The service must come in from the back of the meter box as the wires go in but don't come out.Name:  003.jpg
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Old 01-25-14, 04:33 PM
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The duct seal above the meter socket needs to be replaced.

The breakers could easily be replaced.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 04:50 PM
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What is the duct seal above the meter socket> Is that the second picture? How would I replace that.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 05:04 PM
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The pic shows what needs to be replaced. It will pretty much crumble off. Places like depot and electrical supply house carry it.... duct seal. The duct seal comes in a package like a brick. It's basically a weatherproof putty. You break a piece off... work it in your hands and then form it in a cone shape similar to what is already there.

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I see a lot of signs of rust and water. In particular is the following picture. That shows rust/corrosion where the breaker connects to the live bus. That is no good. If more are like that you may need to contemplate a panel replacement.

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Old 01-25-14, 05:38 PM
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I know it looks like rust but it's not really. The gold-ish stuff is on the top and bottom and are the exact same length and has a gloss to it. I found the same stuff on the attach points for the breaker, it is kinda sticky, i read that they put stuff to help with conductivity? I went and looked again and the middle part is silver. No rust,must be some sort of reflection from how I took the picture, reflection of the light behind me or something, it was getting dark. Thank you for the help and concern though.
 
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Old 01-25-14, 07:49 PM
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Since it seems to be established that I do have water coming in which I will seal up with duct seal, should I be worried about the meter box?
 
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Old 01-26-14, 12:21 AM
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I would not worry about the brownish substance on the breaker tabs. It is there from the factory.
 
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Old 01-26-14, 05:38 AM
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But what about the meter box?
 
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Old 01-26-14, 07:25 AM
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But what about the meter box?
The inside of the meter socket should be inspected for rust and corrosion, I'd also tighten all connections while it is open. A homeowner cannot do this, it should have been done by the electrician. As far as replacing the aluminum service entrance wiring with copper. I also prefer copper, but aluminum service entrance wiring is almost considered a standard in residential services. I'd just reseal the weatherproof connector and leave the rest alone except for an inspection of the socket interior. The inspection may or may not indicate replacement is necessary.
 
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Old 01-26-14, 09:27 AM
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The neutrals in the bar need to be one per hole, not shared as a few are.
 
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Old 01-26-14, 10:24 AM
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Thanks everyone for the help, I will address those areas of concern and try to quit worrying.
 
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Old 03-05-14, 10:33 AM
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Update

So it has been six weeks or so since I started this thread and up until yesterday everything has been fine. Then last night the power went out for two or three seconds and came right back on. What could this be now? I sealed outside, and rechecked the breaker box. Most of what looked like rust was just dirty and wiped right off. I replaced the other circuit breakers that did have some rust. When I did this I noticed that the circuit breaker that the electrician did was really dusty and dirty.(don't know why I didn't notice before). Is it possible that the breaker is not new and is starting to fail? I'm getting a headache just trying to figure out what is going on. HELP!!!!

So now it going off every few hours for a minute or two. What could this be?
 

Last edited by BarbaraW; 03-05-14 at 01:07 PM. Reason: update
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Old 03-05-14, 03:52 PM
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Is is still just the one circuit that you are having trouble with?
 
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Old 03-05-14, 04:03 PM
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yes, same one. In the living room, three outlets, two light switches that control one half hot outlet and the outside front light. I have changed the circuit breaker with a new one that i bought this afternoon.When I took out the one the electrician put in I noticed it did not look new, it was all scuffed up. The one that he took out that I still had and is 30 years old was in better shape. I am really stumped, and am hoping that the new breaker will do the trick since the old one he put in lasted 6 weeks.
 
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Old 03-06-14, 05:02 AM
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Solved I think!

So yesterday around 5pm I put in a brand new circuit breaker and as of this morning everything is still working great. I think this was the actual problem as when the electrician changed the breaker, if it wasn't that, I would have had more or continued problems with the power going off on that circuit. I believe that the electrician put in an old breaker due to the dust, dirt, and wear on the case of the breaker. He really wanted to up sell me on changing the service to the house with copper wire. Of course if the wiring was causing a problem and I really did have a leak, why did he not offer to seal the leak right away with the putty.(I asked him if we could do that and he told me it would only last a couple years, so changing the service would be better.) It took me all of 15 min after I bought it to do that. Also I would think that I would have more problems than just the one circuit. Just saying.
 
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Old 03-06-14, 08:47 AM
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Egg on my face

Well I thought I had solved this problem, but NOOOOOO. About 11:30 this morning the power went off on this circuit and two minutes later came back on, then two minutes later did it again. I'm stumped and may have to call another electrician to help, since I really don't trust the first one. (too hard sell on the wiring service) Any suggestions would be appreciated. 18.5 hours without an outage of course 11-5 was not watching tv. Circuit not overloaded. One outlet has a laptop. one outlet a tv and Roku streaming player, and one outlet has a phone, modem, router and magic jack. What do I do?
 
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Old 03-06-14, 09:47 AM
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Who else is in the house when this happens? Likely a physical problem. If no one has access to the panel then verify that these receptacles don't go through a wall switch. Otherwise might be loose wires. Check how wires feed from breaker all the way to first outlet.
 
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Old 03-06-14, 02:31 PM
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No one else is near the breaker box, it usually happens between 6 and11 pm when my husband and I are watching tv/surfing the internet. Except yesterday and today when it went off around 11 am twice or three times in a row I was the only one home listening to music on the tv and surfing the net. Just don't know what else to do.
 
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Old 03-08-14, 06:03 AM
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Hired a new electrician

So he came in and checked all the things on this circuit and followed the wires ect and thought he found the problem. 4 hours later, had to call him because the intermittent power thing happened again. He came back and we realized there was one more outlet we forgot. He fixed that and we thought the problem done again. Last night it happened again and I called. This time he asked me to switch the circuit breaker with the one above or below it. I did and now the intermittent outage is on the other circuit(bedroom) woke up the middle of the night and the power went out and two minutes later it was back. What is happening? Why did he have me switch the breaker? I don't understand why it is just this one spot in the panel. Could someone explain this to me?
 
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Old 03-08-14, 08:52 AM
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I don't understand why it is just this one spot in the panel.
Since you have no other problems in the house, the problem stays with this one position in the panel and the circuit breaker is new, I believe the problem has been narrowed down to the attachment to the bus in the panel.
 
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Old 03-08-14, 08:58 AM
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Thanks for the explanation. Does that mean that we just have to move the circuit breaker to a new position in the box?
 
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Old 03-08-14, 09:09 AM
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Thanks for the explanation. Does that mean that we just have to move the circuit breaker to a new position in the box?
Assuming you have additional open spaces in the panel, that's what I would do. You'll have to either install a panel blank to fill the opening in the cover where the faulty position is or you could just reinstall one of the old breakers to fill the space, but just don't use it.
 
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Old 03-08-14, 09:31 AM
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Thank you, eased my mind. Electrician is coming back Mon. AM. Hope we get it fixed this time
 
 

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