The house that defies the laws of electricity...

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Old 05-27-14, 02:58 AM
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The house that defies the laws of electricity...

OK.. that may be a stretch.. but it's sure got me stumped.

Short version. 1985 1700sqf. house. Was stripped of wire while vacant. We're rewiring, connecting to what wire is still there in working condition otherwise running all new. House is wired Black=hot, White=return/neutral, bare=ground. Most of the house is wiring up as expected... BUT

The kitchen has me stumped. Kitchen is on newly run wire from the breaker, it then makes a "T" one side going to the left and the other to the right. Left side works fine, but the right shows open neutral and won't deliver adequate power.

My first thought was the wire going to the right must have a break or short... so I replaced that segment AND checked for continuity before installing to make sure it wasn't shorting somewhere inside. After replacing the line.. I checked again and somehow it showed contact between all three wires! So I'm thinking how in the world? It's only a 6 foot length of wire going basically in a straight line, how is one side of the "T" working fine but this side is no good? This goes against my understanding of basic electrical theory, if it's really shorted that bad how would the other side work? So I'm hoping someone can tell me what is happening. At current I have the left side hooked up and the other capped off in the attic... and I just don't understand why power won't make it to the other side of the "T". Thanks

http://i58.tiny pic. com/ipo1w2.jpg -open and remove spaces to see diagram of wiring.

(PS: if tiny pic is blocked what a good one to post pictures to?)
 
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Old 05-27-14, 03:40 AM
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Post your pictures to Photobucket. Tinypic won't work here. Are the walls still open to where you can see all the wiring?
 
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Old 05-27-14, 03:56 AM
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The walls were never opened... the wire was cut and taken from in the attic, so where possible I'm trying to avoid destroying walls. One of my first thoughts for why I was getting "open neutral" was that one of the wall plugs on that side was miswired/bad, but even when I take those completely out of the loop I still don't get proper voltage on the wires. (and the wire going down to the receptacles has been replaced too... as that was the second thought.. if not the plug, the old wire. So now it has new wire on the problem side both down the wall and joining to the "T" that goes to the breaker. It's an uninterrupted path: breaker - split to "T" - line to wall - line down wall. All new wire, replaced everything after the "T" once already, yet the same issue. I don't get how the power can flow one way off the "T" no problem and not the other way equally. If something on the "good" side were improperly wired why would all the plugs and lights work?

 
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Old 05-27-14, 04:09 AM
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Have you tested right side hot to ground? What reading do you get? I know it is redundant, but check the connections in the junction box where you spider out to each side, especially the neutral connection. If any of your receptacles utilize the stab back feature, remove the wires to under the screw heads.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 05:32 AM
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Turn off the power. Unplug everything and switch off all ceiling and built in lights.

Using a multimeter in the ohms or resistance or continuity setting (and a long wire extension for one of the meter probes), do a recheck, measuring between the black tee and the wall plug (receptacle) prong slots. Repeat for the white tee and the prong slots. Ignore the third (round) prong hole for now.

You should get continuity between the black tee and one prong slot, and get continuity between the white tee and the other prong slot. No continuity for the other combinations.

Correctly (after you get it working first) the shorter prong slot is for the hot side. Looking at a three hole 120 volt wall plug, the sequence is (clockwise) earth, neutral, hot.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 05:54 AM
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Thanks for your replies AllanJ and chandler.

Hot to ground gives me 138 (a little high due to cheap meter) on both sides of the kitchen, but hot to neutral on the bad side only reads 90 and wont even power a LED nightlight. Good side reads 138 and works to power anything.

I've completely rewired the junction 3 times now, with no change.

The only thought I have is that somehow the switches are grounding out, but why would that only affect one side? That's the thing that really bewilders me. I can't conceive there being any hidden wire that somehow connects the lights to the other side of the kitchen, and even if there was... since it's all the same circuit why not mess the whole thing up?

All of the old plugs use stab-backs, I'll go ahead and move to those screws just because when I get the chance. It's too hot in the day to work up there in the attic, so I'll look into any further testing tonight, but please keep the thoughts coming. I nothing else, I'm leaning towards running a dedicated hot for that other side of the kitchen, but I'd be a little nervous with the house wiring not figuring this out. A total gutting of the walls is a lot of work and money but if it comes to it that may be what has to happen, but lets hope we can figure this out. Thanks
 
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Old 05-27-14, 06:35 AM
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Two things, the receptacle circuit should not also power the lights. Also what are the connections at the switch box?
 
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Old 05-27-14, 06:45 AM
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Come to think of it, a bad connection in a stab back is a likely cause of the problem you describe.

The following test is intended only for someone with experience working with live electrical or electronic circuits. The purpose is to evaluate circuit components under load.

Materials needed: A table lamp fixture or portable lamp fixture for 100 watt incandescent lamp with a cord ending in two alligator clips instead of a cord cap. A fifty foot length of single conductor wire with alligator clips on its ends. A multimeter. A piece of metal that will fit in a prong hole of a wall plug and stick out a little.

Create a circuit from the junction box (where the tee connections were made) to a problem wall plug using just the hot wire in the wall, the lamp fixture, and the 50' length of wire. Does the (100 watt) light go on? Do you get about 120 volts across the lamp fixture hot and neutral?

Create a circuit from the junction box to a problem wall plug using just the 50' length of wire, the lamp fixture, and the neutral wire in the wall. Does the light go on?

The above circuits will have exposed live contacts (such as the alligator clips). I might note that, a half century ago and more, electrical engineering students worked with equipment with lots of exposed live wires. Some kits in common use back then were trademarked "Lab Volt" and "Erectronic".
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 05-27-14 at 07:10 AM.
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Old 05-27-14, 08:49 AM
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Hot to ground gives me 138 (a little high due to cheap meter) on both sides of the kitchen, but hot to neutral on the bad side only reads 90 and wont even power a LED nightlight. Good side reads 138 and works to power anything.
A little high? That's extremely high.

Your meter is not fibbing regardless of how cheap it is....
 
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Old 05-27-14, 09:11 AM
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Voltage readings like that point to neutral issues.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 09:53 AM
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Wire is a single conductor. Two or more conductors in a metallic or non metallic sheath are a cable. Sounds like you have cable not wires. By code a kitchen should have two 20 amp receptacle circuits. There can be no lighting on those two circuits. Since your wiring does not meet code you may need to start from scratch. It may be a lot quicker and then trying to find a problem on wiring that won't pass code anyway.

Note for testing a cheap ($8-$15) analog multimeter is better than even a medium priced digital multimeter because digitals without special circuits are influenced by induced voltage. Though in the case of the 138 volts that does indicate a problem regardless of the type of meter.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 05-27-14 at 11:34 AM. Reason: added cable
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Old 05-27-14, 10:04 AM
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Note for testing a cheap ($8-$15) analog multimeter is better than even a medium priced digital multimeter because digitals without special circuits are influenced by induced voltage.
138VAC is not induced voltage. High impendence or not, this guy has a serious issue that doesn't fall into the tolerances of phantom voltage. Using a "cheap analog multimeter" will not change this for the OP.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 10:45 AM
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Thanks for all of your replies.

Yes I know it's not exactly code for lights to be on the same breaker, but I liked the idea of one trip on the GFI stopping everything should a fault occur at any place in the kitchen... I do need to go ahead and just separate those thou...


Materials needed: A table lamp fixture or portable lamp fixture for 100 watt incandescent lamp with a cord ending in two alligator clips instead of a cord cap. A fifty foot length of single conductor wire with alligator clips on its ends. A multimeter. A piece of metal that will fit in a prong hole of a wall plug and stick out a little.
LOL... I think I'll just use my double ended extension cord.. but I get the idea... we did that on another circuit to find out which receptacles were in the loop.

138VAC is not induced voltage. High impendence or not, this guy has a serious issue that doesn't fall into the tolerances of phantom voltage. Using a "cheap analog multimeter" will not change this for the OP.
We had a second digital multimeter when we started (bad 220 breaker blew it) and it gave a reading in the 127 range... but if there is a neutral problem in the wiring of the house that could certainly be causing issue. (could you refer me to some relevant threads on the issue?)

Also what are the connections at the switch box?
The light switch box? One live going in, one switch to a over sink florescent, the other to a small fan, standard single pole switch wiring.

I do appreciate all of your suggestion guys... I'm by no means a professional electrician so I'm sure there is plenty I don't know.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 11:10 AM
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Yes I know it's not exactly code for lights to be on the same breaker, but I liked the idea of one trip on the GFI stopping everything should a fault occur at any place in the kitchen... I do need to go ahead and just separate those thou...
Best practice even if code allowed is to not put the lights on a GFCI. That way if a GFCI trips you aren't left in the dark.
LOL... I think I'll just use my double ended extension cord..
So you not only ignore code but use a suicide cord. Not getting a good feeling about your ability to do electrical.
I'm sure there is plenty I don't know
And that is the scarey part. You need to buy a book such as Wiring Simplified and read it cover to cover before going any further.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 11:14 AM
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BigBoy wrote:
138VAC is not induced voltage. High impendence or not
I should have included that in my post. Thank you for pointing that. out.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 11:58 AM
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ray2047
So you not only ignore code but use a suicide cord. Not getting a good feeling about your ability to do electrical.

I'm sure there is plenty I don't know

And that is the scarey part. You need to buy a book such as Wiring Simplified and read it cover to cover before going any further.
Wow.. welcome to the forum... eh?

Not that I don't completely agree with you. Code is there for a reason (although it's mostly to prevent lawsuits these day vs. common sense), one should be extremely careful around live wires (duh), and we can all always learn more....(at least I can) true, true, and true.... but to be fair to myself... this isn't the first place we've wired up and we do have some basic electrical training under our belts.... I'm just not used to dealing with a house that is as over wired as this one is... by the looks of the excess wiring in the attic (or rather cut off ends everywhere) the whole place was redone at least once.. so we're having to figure out which wires are actually going to something vs. left there last time the place was wired... thus the "suicide cord". The idea was to not have to rewire the whole place again, but it's looking like I'll need to start cutting walls unless these gremlins can be tracked down. But thanks for your suggestions.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 12:22 PM
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Code is there for a reason (although it's mostly to prevent lawsuits these day
No. It is there for life safety and structure safety. This forum's policy is to not support actions and advice that are not code compliant.

Since you know it is not up to code then bringing it up to code should be your first priority. Just putting a band aid on a non code compliant situation won't do that. If you wish to wire your kitchen according to code we will be glad to help but future posts from any members that do not deal with fixing the problem in a code compliant way will be removed or edited.

We will be happy to help you run one 15a (or 20a) wiring circuit and two 20 amp SABCs to your kitchen. That will probably fix your problem and bring you up to code. What you have written indicates this is a major renovation. If the house is in good condition and it is not a major renovation your wiring may be grandfathered. In that case we will be glad to help you with minor problems with existing wiring or if the AHJ has ruled you do not need to bring it up to code.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-27-14 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 05-27-14, 02:01 PM
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run one 15a (or 20a) wiring circuit and two 20 amp SABCs to your kitchen
So your recommendation is three dedicated lines... one for each side of the kitchen, 3 receptacles each... then a separate dedicated line for the light and fan... so three breakers and three lines just for the kitchen area. (not counting the stove)

Seems overkill to my non-professional thinking, but that may be what I end up doing if both sides won't play nice together. I just went around putting a circuit tester in every other plug in the house and they all show correct, I also checked the service entrance ground and neutral, so the issue looks to be confined to the kitchen.

The house is in great shape... but whoever cut all the wiring left a real mess/puzzle behind and I simply don't have the funds to pay out the repairs right now which is the whole reason I'm trying to handle this.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 02:07 PM
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You could quite possibly add the lighting to an existing lighting circuit.

The gas stove can be fed from one of the 20 amp receptacle circuits.
 
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Old 05-27-14, 05:22 PM
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The kitchen is required to have a minimum of two 20 amp circuits that serve the counter top area. These circuits are referred to as the "small appliance" circuits in the code. They are for high wattage small appliances such as toasters, coffee makers, and counter microwaves. These circuits are not to serve other rooms of the home other the kitchen, dining room, etc.
 
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