Strange acting electrical service at outbuildings

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Old 04-17-16, 08:47 AM
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Strange acting electrical service at outbuildings

Hello, My name is Hank. New to the forums. I have two outbuildings with electrical service that is acting very strange. It started in one building and has now moved into the other building as well. I have both 110 and 220 in both buildings. The 220 circuits work all the time. The 110 circuits work one time and then may not work the next time. Then they may work the third time. (different days) Today they don't work in either building, but the 220 circuits do work in both buildings. Both buildings have sub panels installed and each sub panel in on separate 100 amp breakers from the main panel in the house. I have checked all wiring and can't figure out what is going on. It's driving me crazy! Oh yes, both buildings worked fine for several months before this all started. No tripped breakers. No smoking wires. I'm lost, can you help me? Thanks.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 08:58 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

Just FYI.... the electric service has been 120/240v for a long time now. 110/220 went out with the horse and buggy.

Do you have a voltmeter ?
You're going to need to check the two legs of power to neutral. It sounds like you are losing the neutral.

Do you have 120v lights on those circuits that get brighter and dimmer ?

both buildings worked fine for several months before this all started
So this is all new work ?
 
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Old 04-17-16, 09:14 AM
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Assuming it is a loss of neutral, what would cause that and how would it be corrected? Yes I still speak Olde English as I am almost 64 now (hehe) No the lights are out too. Relatively new work. Maybe one year.

Thanks for all your help.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 09:31 AM
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Approach it logically.

You have a main panel in the house that feeds the two remote panels. Are there any problems in the house ?

This is really a perplexing issue since it's affecting two completely different sub panels fed by two different breakers.

I would start by removing the main panel cover and carefully inspecting the wiring. Look for where the white wires connect to the bus bars.

How are these remote sub panels wired.... underground.... aerial drops ?
 
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Old 04-17-16, 09:32 AM
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Is your out buildings fed off the main panel to the house, or are they feed of a central panel mounted on a pole?

Are the buildings fed with a single two pole breaker or does each have its own two pole breaker?
 
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Old 04-17-16, 09:54 AM
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There are no problems inside the house. Both buildings are fed underground. One is fed through a plastic conduit. The other is fed by direct burial cable. Each building is on it's own 100 amp breaker at the main panel inside the house. The fact that they both worked several months without problems tells me they are connected correctly. Then only one began acting up. The second one just started acting up this week. I tell you, it is a real head scratcher. You're probably right. I am losing nuetral somewhere, I just don't know where.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 10:10 AM
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First place I would start is in the main panel then. Make sure the screws on the neutral wires of the out buildings are correctly made, and are good and tight.

By "correctly made" I mean each wire should be under it's own screw, and own lug, wires should not be doubled up. If aluminum there should be anti-oxidation paste on the wires.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 10:36 AM
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Thanks for the help guys. I appreciate it. Now to track down the problem or call an electrician.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 12:34 PM
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Well, I just went out to the buildings and they are working again! Intermitent problem. I don't know how to explain it. I wonder if moisture could be the problem in the underground runs? Cool and damp in the morning and hot and dry in the afternoon? That's the only thing I can think of. Your thoughts?
 
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Old 04-17-16, 12:39 PM
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No.... it would not be an underground problem unless you had buried splices.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 01:37 PM
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It is a classic case of a loose connection. You need to check your neutral connections where the feeders originate, and at the sub panels.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 03:16 PM
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It is a classic case of a loose connection. You need to check your neutral connections where the feeders originate, and at the sub panels.
That was my thought also from the beginning of this thread.

it would not be an underground problem unless you had buried splices.
I would agree, but recently I have heard of people installing aluminum SER cable underground, both in conduit and direct buried. In time this could be an underground problem.
 
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Old 04-17-16, 05:24 PM
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If the insulation of buried cables should become damaged, e.g. by biodegrading or by animals, and then the conductors should get wet, then the conductors will corrode and for aluminum this is not all that slowly.

How did the circuits act up? Completely dead? Lights dimmer than they should be? Lights flickering like a candle? All in unison or just some?
 
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