Losing AC Power

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Old 01-02-20, 08:46 PM
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Losing AC Power

New Years Eve morning my Cadet Heater suddenly shut down, along with a dimming of the light behind me. There was a code F4 on the heater, which translates to "Low Voltage" per the manual. Not much else was running at the time other than the always-on things like the fridge and the chest freezer and the other wall heaters. I contacted the electric utility. They came out and found nothing wrong on their side. They were kind enough to inspect my breaker box (technically on "my" side) and said it was wired beautifully and they tested thru the master breakers but no further. All was well. They added "the Beast" some sort of load device, and all was still well.

Since then, more and more of my electrical is shutting down. Now my fridge won't stay running, the range won't even start, most lights are dimmed. I started shutting off breakers and I'm down to just the breaker for lights in my bedroom and office so I can have internet. All my wall heaters won't work and I have shut off those breakers so they stop cycling. I've shut off the hot water heater too (like I said, all but one breaker are off now). This one breaker for bedroom lights and my internet seem to be solid - not dimmed like the lights in the kitchen and other rooms. I physically unplugged anything possible before flipping the circuit breakers.

No breaker ever switched off on its own, which makes sense since it's low power, not overload. I have tried cycling the master cutoff a few times.

Any ideas? I have a repair ticket in through my home warranty but they won't be able to come for a week. I just moved in this past summer. Have not made any electrical changes. The problem stumped the electric utility guys although they weren't allowed to debug inside my home. Also stumped my friend who is a retired contractor. Also stumped the guy at the hardware store where I bought a voltmeter. Voltage at the live outlets are a good solid 115.

Thanks in advance for any ideas.
 
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Old 01-02-20, 09:34 PM
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It sounds like you may be losing one leg of the 240v service. Possibly a main breaker issue.
You need to verify you have 240vAC in the panel.

You need to check the voltage at the receptacles under load. Plug in a heater or floor lamp.
 
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Old 01-02-20, 11:14 PM
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Are the lights and the heater on the same breaker? I suspect they are and you have a loose connection on that one circuit. The problem could be in the heater receptacle or any other one on the circuit. Look for wire connected to devices using the back stab push in connections. Those are a very common source of this problem especially when using heaters and vacuums.
 
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Old 01-02-20, 11:17 PM
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The beast is a device they plug into the meter socket to test for a bad neutral. Here is one they used at my place several years ago. It shows the voltage on each line and can apply a load to either line to look for problems.

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Old 01-03-20, 08:24 AM
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Joed, the heaters are on separate breakers from the lights. That's what has everyone confounded. There are two heater breakers, each feeding three Cadet wall heaters. Thanks for the picture of The Beast. The one they had was more suitcase-style, but same thing, they could read the voltage when the load was applied. It had two clamps that looked like those you use for car jumper cables.

PJMax, I'll see what I can find to load an outlet. thanks for the suggestion.
 
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Old 01-03-20, 10:56 AM
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The heaters may be on a different circuits than the lights, but I suspect they are all fed from the same leg of the incoming service and on that leg you will eventually find a problem.,
 
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Old 01-03-20, 11:18 AM
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Are the breakers for those circuits beside or across from each other? If they are, the bus could be going bad at one breaker connection and spreading to the breakers beside it do to heating.
 
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Old 01-03-20, 05:53 PM
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Casual Joe: Thanks for the hint.
Joed: the 240V breakers are in a column: range, then water heater, then the two wall heaters. The lights and outlets are all on the second column.

I was able to test the fridge power under load, and it bounced between 80 and 90 volts with a couple spikes up to 110 and then the fridge tried to cycle. That was the only breaker on at the time of the test except for my bedroom lights which has been stable. All the 240V breakers have been in the off position since last night, so if there's heating going on it's going on even when in the off position - which would be awful.

I have an electrician who is going to try to come here tonight on his way home to at least take a look.

thanks all for your thoughts. I appreciate it.
 
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Old 01-03-20, 06:26 PM
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I was able to test the fridge power under load, and it bounced between 80 and 90 volts with a couple spikes up to 110 and then the fridge tried to cycle.

You best not do any testing with the fridge and get that fridge on a circuit with proper voltage or you'll soon be buying a new one.
 
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Old 01-06-20, 07:54 PM
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Six days after the problem started, it's been fixed. The problem was Phase A of my incoming power. The power company came a second time. First time they couldn't find a problem. This morning, they had reviewed the history on this property, and the previous owners had sent in a complaint but they couldn't find the problem then either. (I moved in 6 months ago). This time, they measured 80V on the one leg of service, and 119 on the other. Nifty sniffer tool located the fault. They dug it out, and found this disintegrated piece of wire. There was a lot of rock in the area and they think a rock might have pinched the wire, and eventually it corroded.
 
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Old 01-07-20, 05:26 AM
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Glad the problem was solved. I am surprised "the beast" didn't provide a load allowing full current into the meter socket, This should cause a voltage drop in the thinning wire (between the pole and meter socket) that can be measured. Can't place blame for not finding an intermittent problem because Murphy's law always wins.
 
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Old 01-07-20, 08:42 AM
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The utility team was surprised that "the Beast" didn't cause the voltage drop as well. They told me it's 100A load. I'm happily surprised at how much quicker my heaters are heating to temp now.
 
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Old 01-08-20, 08:01 PM
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I'm happily surprised at how much quicker my heaters are heating to temp now.
You'll notice how much faster the meter spins now too.
 
 

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