GFI circuit goes dead then comes back to life

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Old 02-17-14, 04:38 AM
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GFI circuit goes dead then comes back to life

My daughter just purchased a house that was built in 1972 and the GFI outlets in the bathrooms will just go dead while no breaker will be tripped. Then about 12 hours later they will work as intended. When they didn't work I removed the receptacle and tested the line, no juice at all.

The breaker panel does not have a main switch at the top, but half way down the left side it has a double breaker set labeled "hot line" .

Questions:

1. What would make the line just go dead without tripping the breaker?

2. Is the double breaker set labeled "hot line" the same as a main switch?

I am taking it that my first action is to find the breaker for the line going dead and replace it, even though it is not tripping, correct?

Thanks in advance.

Joel
 
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Old 02-17-14, 06:03 AM
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Probably a loose connection. This is probably in another outlet box daisy chained along the circuit path up from the panel.

Receptacles and switched wired by poking the wires in the back and they supposedly stay in place are more likely to develop loose connections than attaching the wires to the screws on the side. While you are at it peeking inside other outlet boxes it is a good idea to convertany such backstab connections to screwed on connections.

Note that it is possible for a wire to be broken inside the white or black insulation and be an intermittently loose connection there. This is rare and difficult to find so try other fixes first.

Your panel appears to be what is known in the trade as a split bus panel. The top six "double sized" breakers control individual 240 volt or 120/240 volt circuits directly. One was manually labeled "hot line" and is a submaster for the smaller (mostly 120 volt perhaps a few 240 or 120/240 volt) breakers down below. To turn off power for the whole house you flip off the top six breakers.

Also worth doing is tightening up all the screws and set screws in the panel. For each breaker starting at the bottom, flip it off, then unsnap it from the panel and snap it back in twice. Typically it tilts out, rocking on a pivot behind its screw terminal(s). Tighten the screw terminals then flip it back on. Also tighten the set screws in the terminal strip(s) (bus bars) where the white neutrals and bare/green ground wires are attached. Don't use tremendous force. It is advisable to save the big set screws or lugs that hold the fat wires on top for an experienced person to tighten up because if your hand or screwdriver should slip, you could bridge together live metal parts that cause a huge spark to occur and you to be frightened to fall back or jerk and injure yourself.

A breaker that is not touched is probably not the cause of a circuit that intermittently goes dead and comes alive all by itself.

If, when unsnapping a breaker, you see that the fin behind it is discolored or deformed or burned, there is a loose connection there and you should not re-insert the breaker there. You will need to find another slot for that breaker or unhook the wire(s) to share with another breaker.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 02-17-14 at 06:35 AM.
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Old 02-17-14, 08:07 AM
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Are you dealing with aluminum wiring by any chance?
 
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Old 02-17-14, 09:38 AM
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First thing everyone should do when buying an older home: New 200A service.
 
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Old 02-17-14, 09:49 AM
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First thing everyone should do when buying an older home: New 200A service.
I don't agree with that blanket statement. There are a lot of older 1000 square foot homes in this country with natural gas heat and natural gas water heater that simply do not need 200 amps. 200 amp services are many times installed as a standard and not because of load.
 
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Old 02-17-14, 10:11 AM
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Agreed, the service size may be just fine on an older home, especially with gas appliances. Breaker space may be an issue but that is easily addressed.
 
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Old 02-17-14, 11:46 AM
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I will fully agree with you guys that it is overkill in a lot of situations, but a new panel will likely solve some problems, and a larger panel will not hurt.
 
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Old 02-17-14, 12:38 PM
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The house is all electric. She called me today, the outlets were dead this morning. the house is 1100 sqft.

I pulled out both outlets and disconnected them and then reconnected them. Still nothing.

When I get a chance I will start pulling breakers.

Thanks.
 
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Old 02-17-14, 01:39 PM
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A long way from pulling breakers. You should check them with a multimeter when the problem occurs. If they show ~120v you know the problem is down stream of the breaker.
I pulled out both outlets and disconnected them and then reconnected them
The problem can be at the last working receptacle. All working working need to be checked also. Have you read http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...ther-info.html?
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-17-14 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 02-17-14, 06:11 PM
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The problem can be at the last working breaker. All working breakers need to be checked also.
Unless I miss my guess, I am thinking Ray meant to say ".....last working receptacle. All working receptacles......"
 
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Old 02-17-14, 07:24 PM
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Unless I miss my guess, I am thinking Ray meant to say ".....last working receptacle. All working receptacles......"
Geeze and I was going for four hours without a mistake. Darn! Post edited. Thanks for catching that.
 
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