A bunch of circuits stopped working suddenly...

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  #1  
Old 01-22-16, 03:13 PM
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A bunch of circuits stopped working suddenly...

Was out of town for a week.

Came back and turned on the living room fan & light. Nothing.
Bathroom light or exhaust fan, nothing.
Kitchen lights, nothing.
Hallway light, nothing.
So I thought, OK, the power is out...but then my bedroom alarm clock (which I know the backup battery is gone) is on. Hmmm...went to the den, fan & light, working. Garage lights and door, working. Range, dryer have power, but the counter GFCI receptacles no power.

Took out a non-contact tester and tested around various receptacles, some work some don't.

This is my panel with the cover off.



I started to mark which circuit is out. There are about six circuits that were getting no power at the panel. So that has nothing to do with individual devices or fixtures.

I flipped the main breakers off and on. No difference.

I flipped ALL individual breakers off then on. No difference either.

I was standing in the hallway where the panel is, and the hallway light was off, so I had to use a flashlight. The hallway light and the adjacent bathroom is on circuit 2A, a 15A circuit. So the first thing I tried to do is to get that light working so I don't have to hold a flashlight in my mouth.

I loosened the screw on the breaker for circuit 2A. Pulled out the #12 conductor, then I removed the 15A breaker for circuit 11B, which is available and unused. I connect the conductor for 2A to the 11B breaker, then inserted that breaker into the slot for 2A. Turned the breaker on. Turned hallway light on...works. Turned bathroom light and fan on...works. OK so may be that breaker went bad?

Now, I went to check on the other circuits that were not working, mysteriously they all came back. I turned on all the fixtures connected to these circuits, and flipped the corresponding breakers on and off a few times, no issue.

So the problem was a bad breaker for circuit 2A causing all this?

I then decided to remove breaker 2A again (which used to be the spare breaker in 11B). I took the original 2A breaker, connected the conductor to it, then insert back to slot 2A. Put the spare 11B back to where it was. Now I have restored everything back to the way it was when I came home.

Everything is working now. Yet I have this iffy feeling.

What could cause this?

I asked my neighbors if they have any electrical outages while I was gone? No.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-22-16, 03:25 PM
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Took out a non-contact tester and tested around various receptacles, some work some don't.
Absolutely useless for testing. Just forget you ever used it.

Do you have a drop from a pole to your house? Have you had any high winds today? It sounds like a bad connection on the electric company side. Call the 24-7 emergency number (not customer service). Call now whatever the time of night. Tell them you think there is a bad connection on their side of the meter and ask them to come out to check it.

If it happens again turn off all 240 volt breakers till your service is checked. Leaving the 240 breakers on could cause damage to things on the 120 volt circuits because they might draw power through 240 volt equipment.
 
  #3  
Old 01-22-16, 03:42 PM
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Good advice and do not wait until tomorow to call them!!
 
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Old 01-22-16, 05:00 PM
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Every other row of breakers is the same..... so 1 and 2 are A, 3 and 4 are B, 5 and 6 are A, 7 and 8 are B, etc. You've lost the A leg of your service.

You also have an awful lot of bare copper exposed at the man breaker. Not easy to fix now as that wiring can only be killed by removing the meter or if you have an outside service disconnect.

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  #5  
Old 01-22-16, 07:19 PM
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Took out a non-contact tester
A cute toy, give it to your kid to play with or throw it away.

I agree with PJ, you lost a leg coming in. It could be at the service connection, at the transformer or in the meter socket. Only the utility company can check those things.
 
  #6  
Old 01-26-16, 08:18 AM
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PJmax, I did not lose one leg. Circuits 1B, 5A, 2A, 2B, 6A plus others were out. So some circuits but not all on both legs.

Ray2047, unfortunately my power company does not have emergency reporting anymore and everything goes through automated voice and web site submittals.

I called Florida Power and Light on Saturday. Only a general number which when I called the only thing in their list of options was a report power outage which I pressed. There was no real human but only automated press 1 for this 2 for that and they asked for address, location, etc...and that's it.

Sunday I got a call from them asking about the outage. I explained to them the mysteriously partial outage and mysterious restoration. The guy said the issue is on my end. They have what it is called a smart meter and they just checked it is delivering full power. He said if it is something loose in the overhead lines to the house it would flicker off a few seconds and come back, nothing I do on the inside like replacing a breaker would resolve, if it is a transformer or relay issue they would get reports from neighbors but nothing. Therefore the issue whatever it is is behind the meter and a home owner responsibility. He then cancelled my request and wished me a good day.

I could call an electrician to see but the issue has gone away now. So what would the electrician be diagnosing?
 
  #7  
Old 01-26-16, 09:21 AM
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PJmax, I did not lose one leg. Circuits 1B, 5A, 2A, 2B, 6A plus others were out. So some circuits but not all on both legs.
I didn't realize that panel was maxed out with thin breakers. That means my original labeling was incorrect. The top four breakers are on the A leg. The next four are on the B leg.
You call it 1B but it's still on the A leg. You call it 2B which is still on the A leg. 6A is on the A leg as well as 6B would be also.

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Last edited by PJmax; 01-26-16 at 09:42 AM.
  #8  
Old 01-26-16, 06:12 PM
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I did not lose one leg. Circuits 1B, 5A, 2A, 2B, 6A plus others were out
Positions 1, 2, 5 and 6 are all on the same leg. It still looks to me like you lost one leg.
 
  #9  
Old 01-27-16, 11:24 AM
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If I lost one leg...I wished I checked every circuit when it was out. But now everything is working...may be the act of removing and putting back one breaker caused something loose to make contact again?
 
  #10  
Old 01-27-16, 01:27 PM
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If the connection between the main breaker and bus bar is loose, any poking at it might temporarily fix the problem. It would probably be best to have the meter pulled (electrician may be able to do this in your area), pull out the main breaker and closely inspect the bus bars for damage. If there is a loose connection problem there you want to identify and fix it now before it starts melting things.
 
  #11  
Old 02-25-16, 04:12 PM
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OK the problem just returned. A bunch of circuits just went dead.

What is similar between last time it happened and this time? High wind. Today the wind was so strong it blew off about a dozen palm fronds scattered in my front yard. The wires come in from overhead power pole to the weatherhead on the roof.

A quick recap - last time it happened, many of you told me to call the poco. I did but they don't have any human on the phone now. Everything is automated and there is a service call request. I did that and the next day I got a call from a human. She said on her end she can see from the computer that they are delivering full power to my house, therefore there is no need for anyone to come out. Any problem I am experiencing has to be my problem...goodbye!

I have one of those "smart meters" and they can tell everything she said...

Since the problem is not there anymore, I decided to ignore it...until now.

This time, I didn't attempt to remove, replace or move any breakers, I don't want to somehow cause the problem to go away then I am back to square one.

Let me post a pic of my panel and the breakers - I labeled the breakers (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B...)



Here is a picture of a description of each breaker and the ones I put a red rectangle around are the ones that's out. So yes it does look like I lost a leg.



Could it be a coincidence that both times this happened we had bad weather and high wind? Or this is something on the poco's end but their smart meters are too smart to detect it?

One other thing that is REALLY STRANGE. One of the circuit that is out is circuit 2A. Another circuit that's out is circuit 5A. I had a work light plugged into a receptacle on 5A. I noticed that when I flipped the breaker for 2A to OFF, the light for 5A comes on! When I flipped the breaker for 2A to ON, the light for 5A goes off! How can these two breakers react this way?

Yes, I have all 220V circuits off now.

and I am getting an electrician to come take a look.
 
  #12  
Old 02-25-16, 05:39 PM
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The problem could be between the meter and your panel. The only way to know is to check the circled area for 240vac.

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  #13  
Old 02-25-16, 06:56 PM
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That wire looks like it is hanging out, perhaps making a poor connection.
 
  #14  
Old 02-26-16, 10:23 AM
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Could it be a coincidence that both times this happened we had bad weather and high wind?
Probably no coincidence at all. Wind is the biggest enemy the power company has. Most likely there is a poor connection between the transformer and your service connection that is affected by the wind causing your intermittent problem. I'd call the power company again and try to get emergency service.
 
  #15  
Old 02-26-16, 10:44 AM
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Cannot get power company on the phone. They no longer use human. All you have is press 1 for this press 2 for that. The only request you make is a service request and they won't come out unless the smart meter tells them they have a problem.

Electrician is coming this afternoon. I just got home and problem went away everything is normal. So what should the electrician trouble shoot for when he arrives?
 
  #16  
Old 02-26-16, 11:34 AM
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Explain what is happening and when it happens. May show him, her wire connection for a start, but problem could be someplace else.
 
  #17  
Old 02-27-16, 05:31 AM
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OK I think I have some answers.

The electrician came and looked at my service panel. He said everything seems OK except:

(1) There should be a ground conductor running from the meter into the house and a separated ground bar.
(2) The big conductor going into the main breaker they have cut off some strands to fit. He thinks I need a new set of main breaker for that conductor.

But none of these are causing the intermittent power issue I have been experiencing.

He went outside and pulled the meter can, then after a few minutes he said he found the issue.

The issue is the connection between the drop from Florida Power and Light and the conductors coming out of the weather head. He said for some reason, there are two connections made over the years. A "crimped connection" and a taped over split bolt connection. He is not sure why and who, but these connections are bad. Part of the metal is exposed, and the tape is falling apart. Furthermore he said my wiring from the connection to the meter is old cloth aluminum wires. From there into the house is new shiny copper, but from the meter through the weatherhead is old.

Here are a few pictures. I can't get a real close and sharp one as I don't want to get too close.











He said I need to replace the weatherhead, pull new wires from the meter and up, and remake the connections to the FPL lines, and pull a new ground conductor into the panel, add a ground bar, and redo the connection to the main breaker where the strands were cut to fit.

Does this sound reasonable?

Now I asked him if these connections were made by FPL shouldn't FPL redo these connections? These were this way when I bought the place. Isn't the poco responsible for everything up to the meter?

The electrician said no, actually the meter is the home owner's responsibility. So is the weatherhead. FPL is responsible for everything up to the actual connection itself. But since he is recommending replacing the weatherhead and old wires anyways, I should do everything then call FPL to make the new connections, they are not going to come out to "fix" the bad connections.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 06:16 AM
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(1) There should be a ground conductor running from the meter into the house and a separated ground bar.
If there is a disconnect on the outside of the house, or the panel you showed us is not the main panel, then yes there should be a ground bar and the neutrals and grounds should be separated. However, if this is the main panel and there is no overcurrent device before this panel, it is fine as is.

(2) The big conductor going into the main breaker they have cut off some strands to fit. He thinks I need a new set of main breaker for that conductor.
If this is true then the wire is likely oversize. The main breaker should be able to take wires up to about #1. There will be a wire size rating on the breaker.

Isn't the poco responsible for everything up to the meter?
IMO it appears the weather head is fine. I would agree that replacing the wires from the poco drop to the meter and remaking the connections is a good idea. Yes, these are your responsibility. In my area it is the power company that makes the connections to the drop. I suspect your panel may have been bootlegged in. In my area the PoCo will come out to fix a bad connections.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 08:42 AM
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Wish we had thought to ask you for pictures of the weather head. Had we seen them someone would have probably wrote bootleg. Look around at some of your neighbors connections and you will see what the poco connectors (AKA bugs) look like.

Example of poco connector:
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Old 02-27-16, 09:27 AM
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The biggest problem with your old wiring is that since it was so short.... the crimps/bugs are in the bottom of the drip loop and are always wet which is why it corroded at those connections.

The weatherhead looks good but if the screws are all rusted like they appear to be.... it may require a replacement.
 
  #21  
Old 02-27-16, 10:26 AM
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(1) There should be a ground conductor running from the meter into the house and a separated ground bar.
If there is a disconnect on the outside of the house, or the panel you showed us is not the main panel, then yes there should be a ground bar and the neutrals and grounds should be separated. However, if this is the main panel and there is no overcurrent device before this panel, it is fine as is.
The picture is the main panel, and there is no disconnect outside the house. However, the electrician said new code calls for a disconnect outside the house for the fire department, so for them to redo the weatherhead and new wiring, they will need to put in a disconnect outside, which makes the inside breakers redundant. He recommend doing away with the main breakers and put in a "panel adapter kit"

(2) The big conductor going into the main breaker they have cut off some strands to fit. He thinks I need a new set of main breaker for that conductor.
If this is true then the wire is likely oversize. The main breaker should be able to take wires up to about #1. There will be a wire size rating on the breaker.
I guess if they delete the main breakers, then I wouldn't need to worry about it?
 
  #22  
Old 02-27-16, 10:47 AM
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when you guys said "boot leg" you mean someone previously did sloppy DIY work? or someone actually tried to tap into the poco line to steal power by passing the meter?
 
  #23  
Old 02-27-16, 11:28 AM
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Bootleg is a wiring job done without permit. It's just like bootleg booze. It's made without government consent and can be several hundred dollars cheaper.

If you call the Poco here and you get a lineman who had a fight with his wife before work he will follow the rules to the letter which means cutting the feed at the pole and telling you it will be reconnected when a permit has been pulled and approved by the city. Only a master electrician can pull that permit.

Of course the irony is the licensed electricians doing a permitted repair or old work jobs also do temporary connections. It can takes weeks for the inspector and after the inspector even longer for the Poco to make the permanent connections. However the licensed electricians do seem to usually make better connections than the bootleggers.

There is a possibility a permit was pulled and there just wasn't a follow through. I know a lady that had to make repeated calls to the Poco after the the permit approval before they finally came out and made the permanent connection. (Took a couple of weeks first to even get the inspector out.)
 
  #24  
Old 02-27-16, 12:13 PM
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However, the electrician said new code calls for a disconnect outside the house for the fire department, so for them to redo the weatherhead and new wiring, they will need to put in a disconnect outside,
That may be a local thing. The NEC only requires a disconnect on the outside of the house if the panel is not as close as possible to the meter to limit the length of unfused conductors in the house. Basically if your panel is not on the outside wall of your house you would need a disconnect.

I would not bother removing the main breaker even if you have a disconnect installed outside. Mains are handy when working at the panel.

The fire department should be able to kill power to the house by just removing the meter. Again, might be a local thing. You may want to get a 2nd opinion.
 
  #25  
Old 02-27-16, 05:01 PM
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The only request you make is a service request and they won't come out unless the smart meter tells them they have a problem.
So when you are having the problem, the smart meter isn't telling the power company? Or...could it be no one is looking when the smart meter is reporting a problem? Something isn't right here, smart meter reports are usually recorded for a period of time so the power company personnel can look back and see what is happening at the customer's end.
 
  #26  
Old 02-28-16, 06:28 AM
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So when you are having the problem, the smart meter isn't telling the power company? Or...could it be no one is looking when the smart meter is reporting a problem? Something isn't right here, smart meter reports are usually recorded for a period of time so the power company personnel can look back and see what is happening at the customer's end.
I am not sure I can provide any information to explain this.

Basically you are no longer able to talk to a human being when you request a service from the poco via a web site or via a phone call. There is no distinction between "my electric bill doesn't look right" and "my power line has been blow off by the hurricane and is now sitting in a puddle of water and kids are playing nearby". You have to put in your address, a meter number, the nature of the problem and submit it. On the phone it is a series of press 1 press 2, with automated robot recording.

Now a day later, the poco called with a robot recording, and say "this is FPL, you have a service visit scheduled for [TODAY] between 1PM and 6PM. Press 1 to accept, press 2 to reschedule and press 3 to cancel..." so I pressed 1 to accept.

Two hours later, a human called me, and she is a dispatch coordinator or something. She said "I see that you are on the schedule for a service request, in reviewing your request we saw that our smart meter is telling us we are delivering full power to your property and whatever problem you have on your end is your responsibility." I tried to explain the problem, and that it seems to happen during high wind, etc etc etc...she said "their end checked out fine by the smart meter" and I can call an electrician to trouble shoot my end, and "thank you for using FPL, good bye!"
 
  #27  
Old 02-28-16, 08:29 AM
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That is great customer service. :thumbdown:

Perhaps you can do what the electrician mentioned and do the work and then get them out to crimp the conductors.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 03:51 PM
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You have to put in your address, a meter number, the nature of the problem and submit it.
Have you tried submitting the form by saying you have an intermittent outage problem?

Intermittent connection problems on the utility side are a fact of life, surely there must be a way to get them to respond.
 
  #29  
Old 02-28-16, 04:51 PM
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Why didn't you tell the poco rep you had an electrician check the problem and determined it was the service drop connection and demand someone to come out. This just seems ridiculous.
 
  #30  
Old 03-04-16, 10:42 PM
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Finally had the electrician here today.

Replaced the weatherhead, ran new lines from the poco drop connection to the meter, put in a disconnect on the outside, added a ground wire from the meter to the panel on the inside, added a ground bar, and a few other minor things.

I got the afternoon window, so by the time he was done at around 6pm, its too late to call in an inspection, I would have to call them Monday. In the mean time the electrician reconnected to the poco drop, and told me to call for the inspection Monday, then FPL to come redo the connections. These are the new temp connections.





The electrician told me he personally preferred the temp connectors more so then the crimped style connections the poco uses.

We ran into a glitch along the way. As he fed a new ground conductor from the meter box to the panel on the inside, he was having trouble getting a fish tape through. So he pulled out a bit of the existing conductors. Then he showed me that one of the three big connectors has exposed copper. He said the damage cannot be repaired.



The conductors are size AWG 1/0. The electrician said I don't need wires this big for 125A so he would just replace all three conductors, and at 50' each the additional parts and labor would be $500. He said the other choice is to put in a junction box in the attic and that would be at least $500 in labor and I still have to buy shorter conductors. So I authorized the work. So there is no way to repair the damaged insulation? There isn't some commercial grade heat shrink tubing that could be used?

So now I have three 50' coils of AWG 1/0 conductors. Will it buy me a few beers if I sell the copper?
 
  #31  
Old 03-05-16, 05:13 AM
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$500 for 150' of #2 copper and labor to install sounds a but steep to me, but labor rates vary. I would have taped up the nick with some quality tape and called it good.
 
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Old 03-05-16, 06:43 AM
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Tolyn, I didn't have a lot of choices it was in the middle of the job and he said it can't continue or even re-energize anything unless that was done.

I asked him if taping it up and putting something like marine grade heat shrink tubing around that nick would be OK, he said no way not for conductors this size.

Next I asked him what if we use the conduit body to do a splice? The wires are a straight shot through the attic, then into the conduit body, and down. From the conduit body to the meter is about 4', and that nick is less than 4' in. If he does one splice inside the conduit body with a split bolt or the temp connector he used to connect to the drop, that may work. He said that conduit body (or even a larger one won't accommodate a splice).

I then asked him why I had to replace all three. Why not just replace 50' of the bad conductors. He said because my conductors are oversized. If I replace one, he would have to get 1/0, and that's not necessary. To get the correct size it would be a mix and match and that's not good.

Oh well so now I have three giant coils of copper.
 
  #33  
Old 03-05-16, 11:50 AM
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I have installed such a system in my house.

The outside disconnect is not a breaker. It is just a disconnect switch handle that can be pulled quickly in an emergency.

The inside breaker is still necessary to protect the wiring in the drop and the meter. It sets the current limit for all of those wires.

In my area, the drop belongs to the power company. The weatherhead wiring and everything after (except the meter itself) belongs to me. The power company makes the connection between the drop and the weatherhead.
 
  #34  
Old 03-05-16, 04:25 PM
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Oh well so now I have three giant coils of copper.
You can recover some of the money if you take it to a scrap yard. If you strip it you will get a better price. Another option is to see how much it is per foot at the store and try to sell it for a bit less on craigslist.
 
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Old 03-05-16, 05:27 PM
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@midi magic
The outside disconnect is not a breaker. It is just a disconnect switch handle that can be pulled quickly in an emergency.
If the inside main panel is more than usually six feet from the meter..... then the there needs to be a fused disconnect at the meter. There is a limit to the length of unfused wiring inside a premise.
 
  #36  
Old 03-06-16, 05:56 AM
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Why did they put electrical tape around the splice connectors?
 
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