Dead Circuit, Breaker Is Good

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Old 12-25-15, 12:34 PM
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Dead Circuit, Breaker Is Good

I'm looking for some advice, I have a dead circuit but the breaker is good. (There are two 15a breakers beside each other and I swapped connections from one to the other and the working circuit worked on both breakers)

They are both basement breakers, one controls the bathroom, half of the downstairs living room and the utility room. That one works. The other which doesn't work controlled the other half of the downstairs living room, the downstairs bedroom and one short (15') wall upstairs between the kitchen and dining room with 3 outlets.

The things that were powered on that circuit are two terrariums (150w) and the microwave (used earlier that day with no problem, but the circuit went when used it last night.) Nothing downstairs was in use when the circuit died.

I'm trying to narrow it down to what needs to be replaced.

Nothing new has been hung up on that wall or downstairs in at least the last year. So I'm not worried about that. The house was built in the 50's, so I thought microwave uses lots of energy maybe had a bad backstabbing connection on that outlet so pulled the outlet and switched to the side mount with no change.

What is my best method of progression? I'm thinking that with the age of the house it's all in (may have terms backwards) series and one dead spot is killing the circuit. Is it possible for an outlet to literally just die with no visible signs of failure? Should I be shopping for modern outlets tomorrow to start updating the old ones on that circuit? Could the fact that I've updated all the lights to low energy play a part in it?
 
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Old 12-25-15, 12:55 PM
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The problem is between the last working device and the first non-working device. Since you know everything on the circuit it shouldn't be too many things to check. If all the devices on the circuit are dead.... start by checking for power at the device closest to the panel.

You need to use a meter to check for power from the black to the white and the black to ground to see if you lost hot or neutral.

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Last edited by PJmax; 12-25-15 at 02:33 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-25-15, 02:28 PM
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The problem is between the last working device and the first working device
I think you meant to say: "The problem is between the last working device and the first non-working device".
 
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Old 12-25-15, 02:34 PM
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Yup.... thanks for the heads up.
 
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Old 12-25-15, 03:51 PM
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Circuit

Check for tripped GFCI receptacle.
 
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Old 12-25-15, 04:11 PM
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Move any back stabbed wires (except GFCI receptacles) to the screws.
 
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Old 12-25-15, 05:13 PM
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Could the fact that I've updated all the lights to low energy play a part in it?
No, unless you changed the actual fixtures, such as installing and wiring new LED can lights. One bad connection can spoil everything downstream.

Same basic technique in troubleshooting whether you swapped fixtures or not, look for that bad connection.

If you update to "modern receptacles", remember if you had 2 prong receptacles before, they must be replaced with 2 prong receptacles or GFI receptacles. The house being from the 50's, you might have a ground, but unlikely.
 
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Old 12-27-15, 01:30 PM
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There is only one GFIC outlet in the house and that is in the upstairs bathroom. None on this circuit are GFIC.

So I have gone through everything on the circuit and there is only one thing that works, which is the closest to the breaker panel (literally only maybe 10 feet of wire, which is the outlet that powers the washing machine).

In total there are 3 light switches, and seven outlets on this circuit and only one working. I've replaced 5 of the six dead outlets with brand new ones (some were old as hell and want all outlets and switches white in the house so tackled that project now) and all 3 light switches have been replaced. I have one of those circuit testes that you plug into an outlet to tell you if it is wired correct, if you have open hot, neutral, or ground, or if your hot or neutral has been switched. The good outlet reads all good, the rest show nothing.

I pulled the breakers out for the basement (two black lines run for the basement) and with a cheap ($7 voltage tester) checked for power running from the line to the bar in the breaker box. The good side shows 120V and the side with no power to the basement didn't light up at all (yet there is still power to ONE outlet).

What should be my next step?

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I've run out of things I can think of to check on my own and I REALLY REALLY don't want to call in an electrician to come redo a bunch of wiring........

Thank you all for your help so far.
 

Last edited by PJmax; 12-27-15 at 03:43 PM. Reason: removed duplicate picture
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Old 12-27-15, 01:32 PM
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So I have gone through everything on the circuit and there is only one thing that works, which is the closest to the breaker panel (literally only maybe 10 feet of wire, which is the outlet that powers the washing machine).
Do you have two cables there..... a total of two white and two black wires ?
That would appear to be the problem area.
 
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Old 12-27-15, 02:55 PM
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with a cheap ($7 voltage tester) checked for power running from the line to the bar in the breaker box.
If you mean a non contact tester it can not be used to check for voltage. To check for voltage you need a multimeter, preferably analog (or a neon test light or a solenoid tester).

Double check the working receptacle with a lamp. If it works and there are two cables at the working receptacle disconnect the receptacle and wire nut black to black and white to white. Check all the receptacles with a lamp. If you find another working receptacle and it has two cables repeat the process of removing the receptacle and wire nutting the cables. Then again check every receptacle with a lamp. When checking with a lamp check both plug-in of the receptacle.
 
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Old 12-27-15, 03:49 PM
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I removed the duplicate picture and added numbers to the devices.

Is #1 a receptacle in the basement by the panel ?
Are #2-10 on the second floor except for #4 which looks like a three way switch ?
 
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Old 12-27-15, 07:08 PM
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1 outlet about 6 feet away from breaker panel (washing machine)
2,3 outlets upstairs, one on each side of a separating wall
4 light switch at top of stairs
5 main basement livingroom light switch
6 basement bedroom light switch
7,8 basement bedroom outlets
9,10 basement livingroom outlets

Sorry about the really crappy diagram, just did quick mock up in paint
 
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Old 12-27-15, 07:39 PM
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The working outlet and the voltage tester used

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Old 12-27-15, 08:55 PM
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Interesting, I have never seen a receptacle like that and in the U.S. at least you probably wouldn't be allowed to run NM cable exposed like that. However the wires are not connected correctly to that receptacle as far as I can see. They should be wrapped around the screws. Only one cable in that receptacle though so your problem with the others lies elsewhere. Are all your receptacles like that, surface mounted? Are there others with only one cable that don't work?

You have a test light so you are good to go on testing.
 
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Old 12-27-15, 09:35 PM
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That and the 240v for the dryer are the only two exposed like that, the rest are standard.
I'm assuming that one is a remnant from when the house was built before the rest of the basement was finished.
That one tested good, hot to neutral 120v, hot to ground 120v, neutral to ground nothing.
I will double check the rest of the outlets and post that up in the am but I'm pretty sure there is nothing going to them.
 

Last edited by bahamit; 12-27-15 at 11:30 PM. Reason: Add more info
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Old 12-28-15, 08:50 AM
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Interesting, I have never seen a receptacle like that and in the U.S. at least you probably wouldn't be allowed to run NM cable exposed like that.
They were a pretty common hardware store item in the '50s. I cannot remember the last time I saw one.
 
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Old 12-28-15, 09:24 AM
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They were a pretty common hardware store item in the '50s.
I remember the ungrounded dime store ones wired with lamp cord but nothing quite like that. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I thought maybe it was a Canadian thing.
 
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Old 12-29-15, 10:19 PM
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Yes it's old but that doesn't help me... Each of the outlets etc have 3 wires entering, hot, neutral, ground. I don't understand how that could be in series but yet if it's not, why is everything after the first outlet dead..,
 
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Old 12-29-15, 10:42 PM
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Each of the outlets etc have 3 wires entering, hot, neutral, ground. I don't understand how that could be in series but yet if it's not, why is everything after the first outlet dead
I do. Each is fed by a junction box (or hidden splice in the wall) and the junction boxes (or splices) are daisy chained.

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Another reason could be that this was wired in the old way with the receptacles spidering out from a light fixture. The house may not be that old but maybe the electrician was.

At this point I might consider an unorthodox test. Make up a cord with a plug on one end and bare wires on the other. Remove a dead receptacle, connect the cord to the wires, plug it in and test the other receptacles for voltage. I'd repeat for every dead receptacle. The idea is to determine if any of the receptacles are connected to other receptacles. You might end up with a map that shows the problem is between two receptacles.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-29-15 at 11:07 PM.
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