Fuse box and breaker box-fuses keep blowing

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  #1  
Old 03-16-01, 12:58 PM
cblb525
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Hi! I am having a problem with fuses blowing in my house. The house was built in 1920, and still has the fuse box, but also has a breaker box in the basement. One day a fuse blew and there were a few lights out throughout the house. When we went to the fusebox to replace the fuse we noticed that it also blew one other fuse with it. We went through the house and checked every outlet/switch to make sure there were no problems with them. There was not that we could tell. We also took down every light fixture/ceiling fan to check that there was not a wire crossed there. Now, we are out of ideas. We are just using the 15 amp fuses nothing higher. Would we just be better off having the fuse box completley removed from the house, or do you think this is a fixable problem? We are just do it yourselfers, so any info you could give us would be greatly appreciated! THANKS
 
  #2  
Old 03-16-01, 02:13 PM
D
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I have 2 questions...

How does the fuse panel and the breaker panel relate to each other, The incoming power line from outside where does it go first - the fuse panel or the breaker panel, and does the other panel a sub-panel of the first ?

Each time the fuse blow you say that 2 fuses actually blow, how long is the fuse in there before blowing, or is it instant ? Is the fuse panel labelled in any way, and if so what label is on the 2 fuses that blow ?, and are both fuses that go 15 amp fuses. If only a few lights on that cicruit I wonder why a fuse would blow , and even worse 2 fuses. You are certain nothing else goes out except some lights , and you have checked both halfs (in case a split circuit) of each plug , and no fridge or other applicance / sump pump ...,etc is affected.

By asking questions we try and get a clearer picture of what is happening so bear with us and try to answer and repost, we will all try and find the cause of this.
 
  #3  
Old 03-16-01, 03:59 PM
Wgoodrich
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You really need to provide answers to dkerr's questions for us to be able to advise a repair.

However you asked a couple of other questions.

Just changing from a fuse panel to a breaker box even if you increase the load capablilities of that existing panel by installing a bigger amp panel will not solve your problem. Your problem is in your branch circuits not whether it is fuse or breakers. I suspect when you answer dkerr's questions we will probably discover that both fuses are protecting to different circuits but both of those circuits are loaded to their limits in amperage. Thus the second fuse already being hot and close to blowing gives out at the same time the first fues due to the heat convected from the fuse that blew with it.

I suspect we will end up advising you to split up those two branch circuits to solve the problem. However we can't say that for sure until you answer dkerr's questions providing the info we need to guide you.

Just upgrading a panel or changing from a fuse panel to a breaker panel is not a cure all. You would be surprised how often people upgrade their panels just to discover that they still have the original problem of blowing breakers instead of fuses.

Anything is reparable, just repair it in the manner most prudent for the situation.

Hope this helps

Wg
 
  #4  
Old 03-16-01, 05:50 PM
cblb525
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breaker box/fuse box

I have 2 questions...

How does the fuse panel and the breaker panel relate to each other, The incoming power line from outside where does it go first - the fuse panel or the breaker panel, and does the other panel a sub-panel of the first ?

- I am not sure how to tell. I believe that the power comes into the breaker box in the basement first. If you guys can tell me how to tell, I will reply with what I find.

Each time the fuse blow you say that 2 fuses actually blow, how long is the fuse in there before blowing, or is it instant ?

- It is instant.

Is the fuse panel labelled in any way, and if so what label is on the 2 fuses that blow ?

- It is labeled a little bit, but I have traced all of the items (I believe) that are on these two fuses.

, and are both fuses that go 15 amp fuses.

- All fuses (8 total) are 15 amp fuses.

If only a few lights on that cicruit I wonder why a fuse would blow , and even worse 2 fuses. You are certain nothing else goes out except some lights , and you have checked both halfs (in case a split circuit) of each plug , and no fridge or other applicance / sump pump ...,etc is affected.

- I should point out that I can have one or the other in place, but not both fuses at the same time. If I put a fuse in the upper position (A), I can still have power to the items on this circuit (lights in the kitchen and upstairs, etc), but if I take out fuse A and put a fuse in the lower position (B), it will not blow, but the lights do not work that are on that circuit. I have tried using a 100 watt bulb in place of one of the two fuses and it will burn bright, but not blow in both positions, but the bulb will burn in position A with or without a fuse in position B, where the bulb will only burn in position B if there is a fuse in position A. I know this is rather confusing to try and explain! I have gone through and disconnected all of the fixtures, outlets and light switches that run on these two circuits, one at a time to see when the bulb will go out, hopefully finding a crossed wire, but I have had no luck. Is there an easy way to test for this?

By asking questions we try and get a clearer picture of what is happening so bear with us and try to answer and repost, we will all try and find the cause of this.

Thanks for all of your patience - believe me I know how confusing this can get trying to type this thing out. I do have a digital camera if you need some pictures of anything.
Thanks again for the help!
Dave
CBLB525@peoplepc.com

 
  #5  
Old 03-16-01, 06:38 PM
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Re: breaker box/fuse box

If you look at the top or bottom of the fuse and breaker panel is there wires or a pipe running from it to the outside of the house, the one that seems to have a connection to the outside should be the one that power is going to first and that one connects to the subpanel.

A light bulb in place of a fuse can only light if there is something on that circuit that can provide an eventual path back to the panel, the light bulb becomes in series with the circuit.

You say when a fuse is in A it will power the lights in the kitchen and upstairs. What is not working when B fuse is missing ?

The other thing how did this problem orginally start ? I assume that at some point it worked ok.

How about kitchen plugs are they working ? If these are split plugs and are on fuse A & B, a failure here could short A & B together, and if A and B fuses was on 2 separate power phases it would create a dead 220 short and take out both fuses, when both fuses are in.
 
  #6  
Old 03-17-01, 03:21 PM
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One additonal question along the lines that I have already said.. Have you replaced or added a plug recently ?

If a split circuit plug was replaced without breaking off the brass color joining tab, and the split circuit was using the 2 fuses in question , and those fuses where on different power phases, it would without a question take out both fuses (if it didn't the house would be going up in flames)

Have you added an outlet plug lately ?
 
  #7  
Old 03-19-01, 09:44 PM
cblb525
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If you look at the top or bottom of the fuse and breaker panel is there wires or a pipe running from it to the outside of the house, the one that seems to have a connection to the outside should be the one that power is going to first and that one connects to the subpanel.

-- I can't be certain but there are 2 large wires going to the breaker box. There appears to be a conduit leading from the breaker box to the fuse box, but again I am not certain because I cannot see behind the fuse panel.

A light bulb in place of a fuse can only light if there is something on that circuit that can provide an eventual path back to the panel, the light bulb becomes in series with the circuit.

You say when a fuse is in A it will power the lights in the kitchen and upstairs. What is not working when B fuse is missing ?

-- 4 downstairs lights (dining room, entry way, sunroom, and exterior front door light).

The other thing how did this problem orginally start ? I assume that at some point it worked ok.

-- New Years Day we woke up to the problem. There had been nothing installed or worked on in over 6 months. Everything had worked fine for the past 2 years since we have owned the home.

How about kitchen plugs are they working ?
-- Yes, they are.

If these are split plugs and are on fuse A & B, a failure here could short A & B together, and if A and B fuses was on 2 separate power phases it would create a dead 220 short and take out both fuses, when both fuses are in.

-- As another note the fuses in the lower portion of the fuse panel are installed in "pods" of two. The adjoining fuse with "B" does not have any power running to it (according to my volt/ohm meter). We do not know for sure if it had power in the past. It was not one of the ones that blew, but it did have a fuse in it.

-- Another question Is that common for fuses to be interlinked to each other?
 
  #8  
Old 03-20-01, 07:25 AM
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Fuses or breakers are tied together in the case where it is feeding split circuit plugs, or is dealing with a 220v circuit.

Do you have a voltage tester , one that ha insulated probes that can touch 2 wires and check for voltage, one that can read in the 220v range, you don't need anything expensive.

You have already been inside the fuse panel, I assume you are aware of the dangers of touching the wrong thing inside there. I would like to know what we are dealing with here as far as power phases. On the 2 circuits that blow fuses, I would like you to temporary remove the black circuit wire from each of these fuses. Now put 2 good fuses in these spots, 1st without the circuit wires on them , the fuses should not blow, verify ? Now where the screw connections are on the fuses which is normally where the black circuit wire would connect to, check for the voltage between the connection on one fuse to any neutral or to ground, now check the screw connection on the other fuse to any neutral and to ground. Now as a final test check the voltage between the screw connection on one fuse to the screw connection on the other screw (no neutral), give me the results. You can then take out fuse B and reconnect the black circuit wires to the same fuses they were before.

This will tell me rather or not there is a problem at the fuse panel, and if we are dealing with 2 different phases of the incoming power line. Also tell is a red wire is attached to either of these fuses ? or only 1 black to each fuse.

Again I must remind you of the dangers of touching the wrong thing in the breaker or fuse panel. Survival and well being comes first, fixing it second.
 
  #9  
Old 03-20-01, 07:07 PM
Wgoodrich
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NOw I know that I am playing Shelock Holmes here but I want to ramble a bit.

dkerr is looking for a fault in the panel. Good idea.

cblb525 says nothing changed just woke up xmas day with the problem.

I have seen people that have installed tanning beds and the like that are 220 volt by tapping from the hot wires of two receptacles that were 120 volts originally thus getting 220 volts. Is this a possible activity that caused this?

This happening on xmas implies you had outside light on. Is it possible to have a receptacle that had 220 volts in a multi wire circuit split allowing two 120 volt plug on two circuits in that one duplex receptacle, outside that may have been damaged due to snow etc.?

Is it possible that the extra load caused by your xmas lights to have overloaded and overheated a hot wire that has melted to another circuit in a conduit or two romexes laying across each other thus welding two hot wires from two circuits together causing a 220 volt short between two circuits?

Is it possible to have the split receptacle discribed before replaced recently without removing the tab from the hot side of that receptacle?

The above thoughts were entered trying to maybe ring a bell on something that was done that you forgot was done or possible places the problem may be that may ring a bell during the time it was discovered.

Anything hit close that should be looked at?

One way to confirm we have a phase short is to move both circuit to the same fuse block that are both fed by the same phase. If the fuse quits blowing then we know we have a phase short beteen to circuits and not a problem in the panel.

Just trying

Wg
 
  #10  
Old 03-20-01, 07:52 PM
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Wgoodrich, I like your idea about temporaryly putting both circuit wires on the same fuse, that would help narrow down the problem, in additional to what I already said.
 
  #11  
Old 03-20-01, 08:28 PM
Wgoodrich
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dkerr, I was thinking more like two fuses on the same phase. I don't know that it would make a difference but we could possibly still find a short caused by the joining of power in different sections of the two circuits feeding that. It concerns me why on one fuse lights worked but on the other fuse the lights wouldn't work though it seems these two circuits are joined somewhere. Either by a miswire or by a heat melt situation.

What ya think ?

Wg
 
  #12  
Old 03-20-01, 09:43 PM
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I been trying to figure out where both ciruits would be present , I keep coming back to split plugs, and I beleive it was indicated before that the kitchen plugs were working, I assume what was meant by that is that both halfs of the plugs are working. Even if the circuit blacks were crossed at some point, if they are on the same phase , no short would occur, the same protection would not be there of course but no short. If 2 neutrals were crossed, no short. In order for the fuse to blow , the current must exceed the current rating of the fuse(s) or breaker, a fault exists crossing the black and white wires or black with ground (short) or a cross in the blacks of 2 different phases. Does this seem correct to you ??

One reason I asked about any red wire in the fuse panel on these fuses that it would give an indication of a possible 3 wire cable.

One possible idea is to unplug absolutely everything that is on circuit fuse A, and circuit fuse B, turn off all lights that are on either of these circuits, now try with good fuses, see what happens. It might help eliminate a wierd arrangement of things that are being used of the circuits that could cause a problem.

If the fuses don't blow with both circuit wires disconnected at the fuse. The voltage test at the panel , and your test of putting both wires temporaryly on one fuse, should prove to us if we are indeed dealing with 1 phase or 2.

I keep asking as I said before where except at a split plug location would both circuits be present.

the miswire is a possibility but the poster has given no indication of any work being done or attempted.
Unless there is something the poster is not telling us.

---------------
The person wrote:

"I should point out that I can have one or the other in place, but not both fuses at the same time. If I put a fuse in the upper position (A), I can still have power to the items on this circuit (lights in the kitchen and upstairs, etc), but if I take out fuse A and put a fuse in the lower position (B), it will not blow, but the lights do not work that are on that circuit."
-----------------------------

B fuse will not blow by itself, but the circuit doesn't work, why ? Almost like B fuse circuit is broken some where, why ?

And if that circuit is broken why would both fuses blow at the same time ? Is fuse B shorted with fuse A in the panel ?
And instead of fuse B being connected to circuit B , it is shorted with fuse A.

I would be very interested to know what the person finds out if they do they tests we asked.

It will quite interesting when we do finally discover the fault, I hope that one of us can track the cause.





 
  #13  
Old 03-21-01, 11:43 AM
Wgoodrich
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DKERR, the following that you repeated that he said is what frutrates my thinking. Somewhere there is a difference between these to circuit, yet the seem to be married in some manner as one circuit. How in the you know what can two fuses control the same circuit, react to each different fuse by blowing if both are energized, yet not energize the same lights on both circuits. That is why I suggested doing the same test on two different fused of the same phase. Somewhere there has to be a difference in these two circuits because one fuse by itself enegizes both circuits complete, the other fuse energizes the same circuits but limited to no lights. Go figure, blows my mind.

I think a high possibility that a switch or two had changed positions between the two single fuse tests. I also am starting to suspect a miswire in one of the junction boxes or switches to be the problem. Just a guess though at this time.

He said;

"I should point out that I can have one or the other in place, but not both fuses at the same time. If I put a fuse in the upper position (A), I can still have power to the items on this circuit (lights in the kitchen and upstairs, etc), but if I take out fuse A and put a fuse in the lower position (B), it will not blow, but the lights do not work that are on that circuit."


Wg
 
  #14  
Old 03-21-01, 05:33 PM
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Wgoodrich I think we both have been a bit frustrated trying to fugure this one out, I think until the poster comes back with new findings and info, we can't do any more until then. This one is a challenge.
 
  #15  
Old 03-22-01, 06:53 PM
cblb525
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- - Guys, I just wanted to start out by saying "thank you" for all of your hard work and time you have put into this problem. I really appreciate all if the time and effort you have all put into this. I hope that I can get you the info you need to get this thing fixed, but if I have to call in a pro, I have still learned a lot about what to do and not to do from reading the posts. Thanks again and let's see if we can get this thing figured out.....



You have already been inside the fuse panel, I assume you are aware of the dangers of touching the wrong thing inside there. I would like to know what we are dealing with here as far as power phases. On the 2 circuits that blow fuses, I would like you to temporary remove the black circuit wire from each of these fuses. Now put 2 good fuses in these spots, 1st without the circuit wires on them , the fuses should not blow, verify ?

- - Correct, they did not blow.

Now where the screw connections are on the fuses which is normally where the black circuit wire would connect to, check for the voltage between the connection on one fuse to any neutral or to ground, now check the screw connection on the other fuse to any neutral and to ground. Now as a final test check the voltage between the screw connection on one fuse to the screw connection on the other screw (no neutral), give me the results.

- - I no voltage on any of these screw connections, both when using a ground for individual checks and also when checking between these two fuses. I checked on all of the other screw connections - the ones with wires still connected, and they also had no voltage reading.

You can then take out fuse B and reconnect the black circuit wires to the same fuses they were before.

This will tell me rather or not there is a problem at the fuse panel, and if we are dealing with 2 different phases of the incoming power line. Also tell is a red wire is attached to either of these fuses ? or only 1 black to each fuse.

- - There is no red wire and all of the wires that are connected to the fuse box are the old style of wire that has the rubberized cloth insulation. I know that this wire has been known to cause problems when it cracks, but the wires in the actual fuse box area appear to be in good shape. These fuses all have only one wire connected to them.

- - Thanks again for all of your hard work and consideration. Keep up the good work!
 
  #16  
Old 03-22-01, 07:34 PM
Wgoodrich
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You said;

- - I no voltage on any of these screw connections, both when using a ground for individual checks and also when checking between these two fuses. I checked on all of the other screw connections - the ones with wires still connected, and they also had no voltage reading.

Now we have a problem we may be able to focus on,look at the fuses you have installed and tell me the color of the threads of those fuses. Also take out the fuses and look to see if their is a colored paper inside the fuse holder. Also look to see what color the threads of the fuse holder is.

We may be hitting an easy answer here.

Get that info back for us if you can

Wg

 
  #17  
Old 03-22-01, 09:59 PM
cblb525
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Now we have a problem we may be able to focus on,look at the fuses you have installed and tell me the color of the threads of those fuses.
-- The threads appear to be brass. (They are all Eagle Electronic 15 amp.)

Also take out the fuses and look to see if their is a colored paper inside the fuse holder.

-- I did not see any colored paper.

Also look to see what color the threads of the fuse holder is.

-- Fuse holders appear to be copper.

Hope this helps!!!!!!!!!!1



 
  #18  
Old 03-23-01, 11:05 AM
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Wgoodrich , just a thought, I would assume that even in to the older homes the electrical panel would have to grounded, correct ? , and is the neutral bar and grounding bar are conductively conencted in this fuse panel, and if a sub panel are grounded to the main ?

2 good fuses , no circuit wires on the outputs of fuses, no voltage between output of either fuse to ground or to each other. Before we had 1 circuit operating from A fuse when B fuse was not present, yet now in the test no voltage from output A to ground ??? Is there a ground ? What if check to neutral ? Or was it tested to what appeared to be a ground but wasn't.

Wgoodrich we may at times have different ways of approaching this and we are both trying to read logic in this, so please be free be differ with me if it means finding the poblem and solution to this, I like a challenge and this is certainly that for sure.


 
  #19  
Old 03-23-01, 12:20 PM
Wgoodrich
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WELL I got some more places to look !

Look and see if you have two fuse blocks, one saying main and one saying range. If you see them pull out both fuse blocks [should have handles to pull them out] Look to see if both fuse blocks have the same size fuses in them, hopefully all are 60 amp rated fuse cartridges. If all fuse cartrdges are the same amp rating then take the ones out of the range fuse block and put them in the main fuse block. Then put the fuses that were in the main fuse block and put them in the fuse block that says range. Plug both fuse blocks back in where the were originally.

Now test the screws of the two fuses that are blowing and see if you have power from those empty fuse screws to the neutral bar.

Do you have power now on those two fuse's screws with your fuses screwed in but the circuit wires removed ?

Wg
 
  #20  
Old 03-23-01, 03:06 PM
cblb525
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Well, I am now confused.

WG- what you are asking about the fuse blocks doesn't sound like the fuse box we have at all. If there is any way to post a picture or e-mail a picture that would probably help a ton! I can try to describe the fuse panel more in detail, let me know if that will help. But, there are 2 what seem to be seperate panels, but there are no handles to remove them. Also neither panel has a name like range or main. There is one(the panel on top) that has the main shut off handle. I also noticed that you mentioned checking the fuse cartridges, we do not have the cartridge type of fuses they are all the round ones. I'm sorry to be so stupid to this stuff. I know it is hard not being able to see everything. We really appreciate all of your and dkerr's help with this. Please let me know if I can send you a picture, or if I have just confused totally.

Thanks again!!!
 
  #21  
Old 03-23-01, 03:33 PM
Wgoodrich
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You are required a method to shut off that hole panel. It has to be a main breaker, disconnect, or main fuse block.

One exception to this is if this panel is a sub panel of a main panel.

Tell me where you go to shut off the power to this whole panel.

Then we can get down to business, I think.

What I am suspecting is that you have lost one leg of a two leg panel and are experiencing what would be called a feed back causing the wierd things you have told us that shouldn't be happening.

If all else fails then unscrew all fuses from this panel and test between line 1 and line 2 of this panel where the panel is fed by the main feeders serving this panel. Do you have 240 volts or 0 volts?

I will be on here off and on for an hour or so.

Wg
 
  #22  
Old 03-25-01, 10:05 PM
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cblb525 I know exactly what Wgoodrich is looking for , so if you want us to find the solution we need you to follow Wgoodrich direction. In the event that you have discovered the problem, let us know also.
 
  #23  
Old 03-29-01, 08:17 PM
cblb525
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Guys - I finally got it working! Since this circuit is knob and tube wiring, I simply reversed the polarity and now the short, wherever it is, is now on the neutral side. I already had all of the outlets and fixtures removed, so today I reversed the polarity on all of my fixtures and I am back in a lighted house. Thanks for all of your help!
 
  #24  
Old 03-31-01, 07:40 AM
Wgoodrich
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What you just did was energize every piece of metal in your house waiting to shock someone. Reversing polarity thus making the white wire hot makes the silver screw of a light fixture hot and therefore making the metal in contact with that silver screw hot.

YOU HAVE A MAJOR LIFE SAFETY ISSUE CREATED IN YOUR HOME. CALL AN ELECTRICIAN IMMEDIATELY. YOU AND YOUR FAMILY'S LIFE DEPENDS ON THIS ELECTRICIAN AT THIS TIME !

SERIOUSLY CONCERNED

Wg
 
  #25  
Old 03-31-01, 07:49 AM
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I share Wgoodrich's concern, this crossed my mind when I first read this yesterday, I would have rather found out the exact cause here not an unsafe workaround. I know that you likely feel you have solved the issue, and why should you spend money on a electrician when technically you made it work, but electricity is a wonderful resource but also one not to mess with in the wrong way. The orginal symtoms were strange in nature, and we try at DIY to provide enough help so that expense can be avoided but there is times an electrician that can actually be there is the best option. Better to be safe.

[Edited by dkerr on 03-31-01 at 09:55]
 
  #26  
Old 03-31-01, 10:21 AM
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I might have missed it but is it poss. that the neutral is also fused and that you have a short in that neutral elseware. This would allow for the light to be on with one fuse and when the neutral is fused you have both fuses go at once. What I am guessing at is some where you have more than one ckt. shorted.
I would not suggest a repair as I still do not know what is going on.
 
 

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