No power, breaker not tripped,


Old 04-20-16, 07:10 AM
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No power, breaker not tripped,

House was built in the 40s. We've been living here for about 6 months. I think the electric was redone at some point, but no idea when.

Our TV, etc. is connected to a UPS, and that was clicking on and off for about a 1/2 hour or so before it took over completely and started beeping. Other devices on the same circuit went off. I checked the breakers and none were tripped. I know that it can seem like they haven't tripped when they actually have, but I'm positive none were. I searched around for GFCI outlets and all the ones I know of (two in kitchen, one in bathroom) were fine. I found the right breaker for the circuit through a process of elimination and turned it off and then back on. Still no power. I've unplugged everything I know to be on the circuit and tried flipping the breaker on again then testing with a single lamp (that I first checked in a working circuit.) No power.

I've turned the breaker off and left it like that for now.

I have some background in electronics and am comfortable working with mains powered circuitry but I don't know much about house wiring. I'm going to pop over to the hardware store and grab a circuit tester. Not sure if it'll be much help, but I might as well have one. (Any excuse to buy a tool is a good one.)

My questions:

1) Is there an immediate hazard?
2) What's the likely problem?
3) What else can I do to trouble shoot?
4) When is it time to call an electrician?

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Old 04-20-16, 07:48 AM
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It's probably not an immediate hazard

The most likely cause is a loose connection that finally opened up or burned through. Backstabbed/quickwire wires in receptacles are a very likely culprit -- the little spring piece wears out over time. Other possibilities are a wirenut or crimp that has come loose. To fix this, go through each device (receptacle, switch, light) on the circuit and inspect for loose connections or broken wires. Remake any connections that appear loose or burned, you may need to remove tape if you have the original 1940s connections. Move any backstabbed connections to adjacent screw terminals or just replace the devices as you go. If only part of the circuit is dead, the problem is almost always at the first dead device or last working device.

Another possibility is that the breaker has gone bad or the connection between the breaker and the main bus bar. You can test this by moving the hot wire from the breaker on this circuit to a known-good breaker on another circuit. If the breaker panel smells hot or has any pop & crackle noises or flickers when you wiggle the breakers that implies a breaker panel problem. If just the branch circuit breaker is bad, you can get a replacement for common brands at any hardware store.

If you do suspect the panel itself, that is the time to call an electrician.

As far as the tools, you really don't need anything more sophisticated than a neon bulb or solenoid style tester. In fact a full featured multimeter can give confusing readings when there is a broken wire in the circuit.
Old 04-20-16, 04:30 PM
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I've turned the breaker off and left it like that for now.
You said the power had been redone. Does that mean the service was updated? About when was that done? What brand breaker panel do you have?
Old 04-20-16, 04:32 PM
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Thank you.

I have enough multimeters. I just got one of those 3-light circuit checkers that will let you know if you have an open-hot, open-neutral, etc. Everything was open-hot. I took your advice and tried the hot wire on a known good breaker, and it worked. So, I replaced the breaker and all is well now.

Thanks again for the help. Much appreciated!


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