Bad circuit breaker or wiring problem ?

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  #1  
Old 06-30-15, 03:40 PM
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Bad circuit breaker or wiring problem ?

While extending a 15a circuit to include a new receptacle, a wire nut came off, created a short and tripped the breaker. When I reset the breaker lights on the circuit began to flicker occasionally and then go off. When I checked on the breaker again it was not tripped but I flipped it off and back on anyway. Now that circuit will stay live for a while then go out then go live again but the breaker does not trip. What's going on? Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 06-30-15, 04:03 PM
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You have a loose connection someplace on that circuit. You will need an electrical meter (analog preferably) to track it down, but if your lucky, you might be able to just see it. You will have to start removing devices (switches, lights, receptacles) on that circuit and inspecting the connections. If you have any back stabbed devices I recommend moving the wires to the side screw terminals.
 
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Old 06-30-15, 10:29 PM
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I did find a loose connection, but after I fixed it, the lights and receptacles on the circuit still do not work. Can it be the breaker?
 
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Old 07-01-15, 03:47 AM
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With power removed from the circuit, remove all receptacles and light switches on that circuit and take the stab back connections and replace them under the corresponding screw heads. This is the most frequent cause of flickering lights that I have found.
 
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Old 07-01-15, 05:19 AM
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Can it be the breaker?
It could be the breaker. You can normally wiggle them around a bit and see if the lights flicker. What brand of breaker/panel is yours?
 
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Old 07-01-15, 07:44 AM
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What brand of breaker/panel is yours?
The symptoms sound a lot like what happens eventually with all Zinsco breakers or Zinsco style Sylvania breakers.
 
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Old 07-01-15, 08:45 AM
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Or FPE.
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  #8  
Old 07-01-15, 12:07 PM
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The symptoms sound a lot like what happens eventually with all Zinsco breakers or Zinsco style Sylvania breakers.

Bingo. It's an old Zinsco. Do I need a new panel? And I forgot to add this important bit of info: my funky old house has Romex, sheathed cable and K & T. I have been replacing the K & T little by little.

How much is a new 200a panel with 14 circuits gonna cost me? MANY thanks.
 
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Old 07-01-15, 12:13 PM
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PS...

Bingo. It's an old Zinsco. Do I need a new panel?
Does Zinsco panel need a particular style breaker? At least some of the ones in place are Westinghouse. I will install a new circuit breaker until I can get an electrician to come out to talk about a panel upgrade (which could be weeks in my town).
 
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Old 07-01-15, 12:27 PM
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You don't necessarily need a 200A panel (150A and 100A are common), but a new panel is a good idea. The size is established with a "demand load calculation". Zinsco panels are known to have a much higher failure rate than other panels of similar age.

It's very hard to give estimates over the Internet due to significant variation in labor price and permit fees. Something on the order of $1,500 to $2,500 is reasonable for an uncomplicated service replacement, which includes a new main panel, new grounding system, new conduits and service entrance wires, possibly a new meter base and mast for an overhead service. That generally does not include any structural changes or speciality equipment that might need to occur if your situation is not a straightforward replacement of old equipment. Get a few estimates from reputable contractors and proceed from there.
 
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Old 07-01-15, 03:49 PM
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The zinsco uses a unique mounting style. Other breakers do not fit the panel.
 
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Old 07-01-15, 04:47 PM
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Do I need a new panel?
YES!! Zinsco panels are known fire hazards. The breakers typically start burning up from the back side near where the breakers clip on the aluminum bus bars. It isn't noticeable from the front of the panel when this first starts happening. The typical symptom is a blinking of lights or a light that may work for a while and then go off for a while mysteriously. The last time I saw this symptom was with a lamp plugged into a duplex recetacle that would mysteriously lose power. If you listen very carefully, sometimes you can hear a sizzling sound if you wiggle the breakers. The sizzling is actually arcing between the bus bar and the breaker.

I will install a new circuit breaker until I can get an electrician to come out to talk about a panel upgrade
Hopefully you have another space available for this new replacement breaker. If the bus is already burnt from the first breaker, you don't want to install a replacement breaker in that same space. You might be able to find a replacement breaker at Home Depot or Lowes. Menards has them on their website.
 
  #13  
Old 07-02-15, 04:43 PM
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I found an old timer (licensed) who says he can install new copper bus bars leaving the old box in place and I'll be good as new. Sound right to ya'll?
 
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Old 07-03-15, 09:52 AM
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follow up

Veteran electrician (71!) says cost of replacing Zinsco aluminum buss bars with copper and installing three new breakers will be $1100. Seems high since it ought to be a two hour job. Or am I wrong?

He also tells me that the cost of putting in a whole-house surge protector would be $550.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 10:34 AM
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says cost of replacing Zinsco aluminum buss bars with copper and installing three new breakers will be $1100.
Why spend 1100 on a panel they haven't manufactured breakers for in +30 years expect for very expensive possibly untested or approved after market breakers* when you can get a whole new panel and service for just a little more.

*The other source of breakers is used ones and the original problem was the breakers not the bus bars.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 11:15 AM
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Veteran electrician (71!) says cost of replacing Zinsco aluminum buss bars with copper and installing three new breakers will be $1100.
And the three new circuit breakers will not be U.L. Listed. Assuming you have a 100 amp service, that is more than enough to just change out the panel and probably very cose to enough to change out a 200 amp panel. If your service entrance wiring and meter socket are old enough that they also need to be replaced, trying to fix the old Zinsco panel won't address those issues.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 01:57 PM
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Everything you guys say makes very good sense to me, but electrician said new panel would be $3600 and I'd be without power for two or three days. Talking to another guy this afternoon.

In my southern CA town it is very hard to hire a tradesman because there are many rich people and the tradesmen are used to making top dollar so middle class folks get overcharged. Or if you make a deal and set a date, the tradesman is likely to call that morning and say he needs to postpone (because he got a job working for the 'carriage trade' and wants to put your little project on hold. Never mind that you took a day off work to wait for him at the house.) This has happened to me three or four times.

Again, I'm grateful to you all.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 02:41 PM
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I'd be without power for two or three days.
It shouldn't take more then a day to do a simple panel swap and in areas I am familiar with the electrician will make a temporary connection then the Poco will come later to make the permanent connection. Or at least that is the way it is in my city and we have very strict rules.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 02:54 PM
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In my location we do everything, cut the power, pull the meter, do the swap, and reconnect with some temporary splices and reinstall the meter. Power company doesn't show up to finish splice and put their seal on until after the inspector signs off on it, which can be days later.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 03:01 PM
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Power company doesn't show up to finish splice and put their seal on until after the inspector signs off on it, which can be days later
Yes, just what I was writing about. Same here but I've seen it take two months or more. A couple of weeks to get the inspector out, then a month or more for the Poco.
 
  #21  
Old 07-03-15, 06:52 PM
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A simple panel change requires no temporary connections. Pull the meter, change the panel and reinstall the meter. Presto....done.....1/2 day at most. This does however require a permit and there will need to be an inspection at some point, but that can be scheduled with the AHJ. Then the POCO will come rerseal the meter once they receive the wiring approval from the AHJ.

electrician said new panel would be $3600 and I'd be without power for two or three days.
You are definitely talking to the wrong guy.
 
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Old 07-03-15, 06:58 PM
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Typically when we changing the panel, we are also required to change the meter to one that has a bypass handle. Otherwise the power company will not reconnect it. Also many cases the mast needs to be replaced.
 
  #23  
Old 07-03-15, 07:17 PM
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The requirement for a lever bypass meter socket seems to be moving across the country, they are required in my area now for a new service or for a complete service replacement. Just a panel change though doesn't require a new meter socket here. A lever bypass meter socket typically costs about $100 more than the older traditional sockets. An estimate of $3600 to just change a panel is still way out of line.
 
  #24  
Old 07-04-15, 09:06 AM
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Because I know ya'll are losing sleep over my situation, I thought I'd better report.

Second (young) electrician came out and gave me an estimate of $2000 for putting in a new panel (inc. permit). He said he thought the mast would not have to be moved, but if it did, there would be no extra charge. I have a two-year-old digital meter, so I won't need a new one. Don't know about the handle requirement around here, but of course I'm going with the new panel per this forum's good advice.

BTW, I found the first guy - the vet - via word of mouth. The young guy I found on Yelp. He had many glowing reviews.

Again, thanks to all.
 
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Old 07-04-15, 11:14 AM
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$2000 sounds like a good price. Just curious did he say how long you would be without power?
 
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Old 07-04-15, 09:32 PM
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He said I'd be without power for 'a couple of hours.' Can't get to the job for three weeks though. He asked me what I do for a living and I told him I am a school teacher. He said 'you seem to know a bit about wiring.' No, but thanks to ya'll I can ask intelligent questions (mostly). Don't forget to ask your satisfied customers to review you on Yelp.
 
  #27  
Old 07-07-15, 07:48 AM
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$2000 sounds like a good price.
Final estimate came in at $1370 for new surface-mount panel. $265 for whole-house surge protector. Yes, guy is licensed and bonded.
 
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Old 07-07-15, 10:11 AM
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Very fair price. I suspect the first guy didn't want the job so gave a high bid.
 
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Old 07-08-15, 07:11 AM
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That price sounds much better and the electrician is still making a fair profit.
 
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