Circuit Low Voltage

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Old 10-03-16, 08:32 PM
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Circuit Low Voltage

We are just moving back in the house after a remodel. I'll try to cover everything I can think of that may be relevant.
The remodel started back in April. One of the 1st things we had done after demo, was have an electrician come in & install 2 GFCI in the kitchen. One on each of the two circuits & the 1st outlet on the circuit.
Let me say that this is a very large electrical contractor that does multi-million dollar projects. Hospitals, schools etc. So, they are not fly-by-night contractors. I know the owner, FWIW.
This job has been completed since April & all has worked fine until yesterday. My wife comes in & notices the (gas) stove clock is off. She checked the fridge & its off. Checked the vent hood & its off. (I was gone out of state). I had her check to see if a breaker was tripped. It was not but I had her to turn the breaker off, then back on. Still no power.
The circuit is in line like this:
GFCI outlet
Vent hood or stove
Stove or vent hood
Refrigerator

My wife's brother (my B-I-L) is our plumber & he came by today to finish the plumbing. He does some "handy man" electrical work as well. I had him to check it out while he was here. He said low voltage & thought maybe the GFCI was bad. It would not reset. Since I changed every outlet in the house myself otherwise (except one behind the fridge I forgot about), I had a couple of extra matching outlets in my shop so I told him I'd change out the GFCI when I got back in town with a standard outlet.

So, I am back in town, changed the outlet & still no power. I checked the voltage in the outlet & directly to the line by using a meter on the neutral & hot. The needle barely moved. Maybe 5 volts. (loose neutral?)

There are two white, two black & one ground.
Both whites on silver side
Both blacks on gold side &
One bare copper ground to green screw.
All wires connected to screws, not in holes on back of outlet.

My 1st guess was a bad breaker. My B-I-L says he doesn't think so.

So, out of the blue, working fine since April by certified electrician. Then I changed the outlet behind the stove about 3 or 4 weeks ago, brand new stove stove has been working fine. All has been good. Now, out of the blue, low voltage & its the entire circuit, so I assume the problem is before the 1st outlet. There are no light switches on this circuit other than the one built into the vent hood. Only 3 outlets & the vent hood which was not replaced or changed in any way during the remodel.

If its a neutral that is loose somewhere, its got to be in the 2nd outlet... the one behind the stove that I replaced. But, if its the 2nd outlet, how come the 1st one don't work? To me, the 1st outlet shouldn't be affected.

Now, after all that, let me say this, I am more than ignorant when it comes to electricity. I am literally dumb as a brick with electricity. Obviously, I can change outlets & light switches, but seriously, I do not understand electricity, its terminology, etc. So, when giving advice, I'll ask questions cause... I am telling you guys, I know less than zero about electricity & how it works. DC I know... AC is just all backwards & makes no sense to me.

House built in early 80s in Louisiana.
 
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Old 10-03-16, 08:40 PM
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The circuit is in line like this:
GFCI outlet
Vent hood or stove
Stove or vent hood
Refrigerator
Right off the bat you have issues. The countertop receptacles don't get shared with the fridge or the stove or the vent hood. The fridge should gave been on its own circuit.

Do you know if the GFI protected everything ?
You have three or four locations.... if that's all that's on that circuit then it stands to reason power should be at one of those locations.... unless there's a junction box in line and a connection opened.

When checking for power.... check from white to black, white to ground and black to ground.
 
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Old 10-03-16, 08:58 PM
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First, thanks for the reply.

For clarification, when we updated the electrical during the remodel, nothing was changed, only updated. Again, the house was built in the early 80's & was wired like that at that time. I think there are 2 double breakers & 12 single 5 amp breakers in the panel for a 3 bedroom 2 bath home. 1200 sq ft.
Again, the three outlets & vent hood have always been like that since it was built.

To be clear, I am not arguing with you, just trying to provide clear info, basically stating we made no changes in wiring or circuits. All worked fine until now. Doesn't mean its right but that's the way its always been.

Hope this helps......
 
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Old 10-04-16, 07:18 AM
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Do any circuits or receptacles elsewhere in the house still work correctly when you use both an incandescent light fixture and a hair dryer?

If lights brighten noticeably when you use a hair dryer elsewhere in the house then you have a neutral problem. This is a hazardous condition that could start a fire. It is desirable to put all the irons in the fire (no pun intended) at once rather than try one thing at a time, which means calling the power company right away to check for a possible (it has happened) defect in the incoming service lines.

(If some circuits work correctly while others experience abnormal dimming then you do not have an emergency involving the power company.)
 
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Old 10-04-16, 09:35 AM
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If its a neutral that is loose somewhere, its got to be in the 2nd outlet... the one behind the stove that I replaced. But, if its the 2nd outlet, how come the 1st one don't work? To me, the 1st outlet shouldn't be affected.
You asked a good question (highlighted). Did you test for an answer? In other words, did you take measurements starting at the Service Panel instead of a randomly chosen outlet downstream?
 
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Old 10-04-16, 11:17 AM
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Not arguing but usually when remodeling..... electrical is brought up to code.... especially when using the services of a large electrical contractor.
 
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Old 10-04-16, 07:12 PM
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OK, I got home this afternoon & decided to go back over my work before starting anything else.

I pulled the face plate off the 1st outlet on the circuit & tested it again from the ground to hot & neutral to hot. Still about 5 volts... needle barely moves.
I pulled the (gas) stove out & removed the face plate & pulled the outlet out of the box to give it a good once over. Its then I noticed that when I installed that outlet about 3 weeks ago, I failed to tighten one screw on a hot wire. It was on the screw but the screw wasn't tightened. Once tightened, I checked the voltage & I still had only about 50 volts... yes, 50. Up from 5 volts.
Then I decided to pull the 1st outlet out of the box & check it. Although I didn't see any obvious problems, I decided to loosen & jiggle the wires around & re-tighten the screws. I re-checked & I now have 120 volts. So, apparently, a neutral wasn't getting a good connection on a screw... I guess. I really don't know. It all looked secure but after a bit of re-adjusting, I have 120 volts.

After putting both outlets back in the box & installing the face plates, I go back in the kitchen about 5 minutes later & its off again. So, I go back out to the breaker panel & the breaker is NOT tripped but, I decided to turn it off & back on anyway. I got back in the kitchen & its back on. Its been on now for an hour or so with no issues.
Just now, I went back in the kitchen & the clock on the stove is flashing.

Idea's ????????
 
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Old 10-04-16, 07:26 PM
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You have (a) loose connection(s).

Turn the breaker off so you know what is all on that circuit and check everything that is dead. Make sure you check the receptacles that were not off when you were having trouble because the loose connection could be there as well. Check both the hot and neutral wires and make sure the screw connections are tight. If any of the wires are backstabbed into the devices, remove the wires and connect them on the screws. Make sure the wires wrap clockwise around the screws.

While I do agree that it is normal that the electric is updated in a remodel (more circuits, etc. ) it is not required.
 
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Old 10-04-16, 07:29 PM
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If you are checking from black (hot) to ground and are not seeing full voltage..... it's a hot wire issue.... not neutral.

If you're just checking from black to white.... you're not getting the full picture.
 
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Old 10-04-16, 07:31 PM
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To add redo any wire nuts on the circuit, don't just look. In any case where a back stab and its associated screw both have wires pigtail those wires to the screw instead.
 
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Old 10-04-16, 07:45 PM
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All wires are connected to the screws. When I changed all the outlets & switches, some wires were put in the holes in the back. I put ALL wires on the screws. I made absolutely sure all screws are tight on wires.

My intent was to make sure all wires were on the screws clockwise. Otherwise the wires could back off when the screw it tightened & as far as I know, all wires are on screws clockwise.

At this point, when I checked voltage, I did so from hot (black) to ground (bare copper) I get 120 bolts.
 
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Old 10-04-16, 08:47 PM
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An hour & a half later, here is where I am. I went back in the kitchen & the clock on the stove is off again. I check the fridge & its off. I realize I hear this faint clicking sound. I go over by the stove & I see & hear, the clock on the stove faintly blinking off & on consistently like a turn signal on a car. It is NOT the clock flashing like the electricity went off then came back on. This is an electricity surge ... again, like a turn signal on a car. Consistent clicking & faint on & off.
So, I go get my meter again & stick it in the 1st outlet on the circuit. The voltage is surging from 50 volts to 20 volts...... again, consistently, just like a turn signal on a car.

I now have the breaker off & fridge plugged in an outlet on another circuit.
 
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Old 10-05-16, 06:59 PM
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I did so from hot (black) to ground (bare copper) I get 120 bolts.
You need to also check between hot and neutral. If you lose connection on the neutral that will also drop the circuit.

This is an electricity surge ... again,
It is not a surge, it is a poor connection.

I will say again, check ALL your connections. Start at the breaker and work your way down the circuit. Check every connection, in every box, including any light fixtures that are on that circuit. Check connections on the screws of devices and splices made in wire nuts. You might even want to remake the splices in the wire nuts. I would do this with the circuit hot, but I am a trained professional. For a DIYer, I would do a bit and then check the circuit by turning on the breaker.
 
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Old 10-05-16, 08:19 PM
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Tolyn, I guess I wasnt clear but I checked both as you mentioned. From hot to both ground & neutral. I am convinced its a lost neutral somewhere but I just haven't found it. I have checked everything on that circuit except the vent hood... twice. I know its not a given but, the vent hood was installed probably 3 or 4 years ago, wasn't removed or affected in any way during the remodel & hasn't been an issue.... but I understand it could be now. I just haven't checked it. But, I have checked the 3 outlets which is the only other thing on this circuit.

I also understand that its looking like the issue is on another circuit but I don't understand how. But, there's a lot about AC I don't understand. I also figure the issue is going to be somewhere between the beaker panel & the first outlet on this circuit, possibly in a junction box in teh attic which I have not looked at... at all.

At this point, I think my main interest is the "pulsing" that I previously called surging due to lack of electric terminology. While I don't mess with AC electrical issues, I don't think I have ever seen this pulsing I spoke of above.

I'll end this post with an apology for going on & on with this but I really am trying to learn whats happening (in layman's terms), understand my problem & how to fix it, before I have to call an electrician out here for $90 an hr. I appreciate everyone's patience & input to educate me & help me get this worked out. I am just not physically able to get into the attic & research this issue up there. If I cant resolve the issue from inside the house, I'll have to get the electricians back out here to hunt down the problem & correct it.
 
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Old 10-06-16, 06:21 PM
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OK, issue resolved.... Bad breaker.

I called the electrical contractor & he sent out a couple of guys. When they arrived, I went over the details & the issues. The lead guy said, its a breaker. I said, well that was my first guess (see my first post in this thread) but every electrician I have discussed this with is leaning toward a lost neutral. We removed the old breaker & it kinda had some white on it like it smoked or got hot or something. Put in a new one & solved the problem.

I am assuming, the pulsing was because the breaker was bad & couldn't take over 50 volts so it would attempt to shut down, but when it got to 20 volts, it would try to go back to 120 but could only take 50 & bump back to 20 volts, on & on..... that was what the pulsing was. I am just assuming. Again, I assume the breaker never tripped because there was no surge/increase in voltage to over load the breaker & cause it to go into the trip setting. Anyway, all the above; no voltage, low voltage, pulsing voltage... all from a bad breaker. The new breaker was put in about 8:30 this morning & its 7:00 pm & no issues. No lights getting dim & bright throughout the house etc, etc.

So, is this a new one on you or does it make sense? Comments?
 
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Old 10-06-16, 07:10 PM
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I would not say it is a new one on me as I have seen some crazy stuff. Most crazy stuff seem to be a neutral issue which is why I was leaning that way. If you look at my post #13 you will see I said "start at the breaker". If you checked with a meter at the breaker you would have still seen the pulsing which would mean it originates there.

Circuit breakers do not trip on voltage, they trip on current (amps). Likely what happened is the breaker started to fail and caused a loose connection. That loose connection will cause arcing and pitting which makes the connection worse. That keeps going until the connection get so bad it fails and you loose power. This is my theory.

I'm glad you got it fixed and I'm sorry we were not able to help you find the problem.

P.s. I hope the electrician replace the breaker with the proper breaker. It is common for people to just pop in any breaker that will fit, whether that panel is rated for it or not.
 
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Old 10-06-16, 07:27 PM
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Thanks Tolyn. I realize that not every issue can be solved on a forum on the internet. The forum is here to assist in finding solutions to problems/issues & help get them resolved but its not always possible. My appreciation for everyone that participated & provided advice isnt always because the issue was resolved but, that you tried. I know I learned something here & by posting the outcome, hopefully it will help someone else down the line.

I am sure they replaced the old one with the proper one. Again, this is a large electrical contractor with probably 50 or 60 electricians on staff.
 
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