Help with service power

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Old 05-26-20, 08:07 AM
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Unhappy Help with service power

I have a breaker box on my pole that leads to another inside my mobile home. The main power leads go through breakers at the pole, then more at the box inside. Inside breakers are not tripping, but outside ones are. Voltage appears constant and correct at 110v for each lead at the pole, but fluctuates between 8v or so and about 50v at the inside box. I am tempted to assume this means the problem is between the two breaker boxes, in the main power leads, but it seems odd to me that both leads would be affected, and I received a small shock from a ground attached to my mobile home frame. I also noted that the ground is connected to the neutral lead in the box on the pole, and I'm not sure it is supposed to be like that, but my power has been working for a long time that way. The only thing I've done is clean connections and change out receptacles when things stopped working. Before I dig up buried cables, will someone tell me if there's something else I should be doing? Even if I could afford an electrician, it would probably cost more than my home is worth...
 
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Old 05-26-20, 08:39 AM
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Yes, the neutral and ground are to be connected at the pole as that is considered your service disconnect.
Your voltage readings are indicative of a bad neutral between the pole and your inside box. Check those connections at both ends.
 
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Old 05-26-20, 09:16 AM
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Thanks. I don't understand it, and it seemed to me that I should suspect the positive leads, but that's why I asked. I was just at the box fiddling about, and I had one breaker smoke when I reset it. It tripped a main, and I got sparks from a ground bus when I reset it. I suspect there is more than one issue involved here that may or may not be related. I'm running my fridge off a receptacle on the pole that is unaffected, and my seperate circuit to my pump is intact, so I have water, but only cold, and I'm in the dark other than a single lamp running off the extension cord plugged into the pole receptacle. The entire ****hole should probably be rewired completely, I just can't afford to have it done. It has begun to rain here, but as soon as it dries up, I'll check those neutral connections and see what happens.
 
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Old 05-26-20, 09:41 AM
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Hi, it wouldn’t hurt to give the power co. a call and have them check out their side, could be a bad connection on their side, should be no charge to you for this.
Geo
 
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Old 05-26-20, 09:52 AM
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Make sure you have 240vAC at the panel for the mobile home.

Since the panel at the mobile home is considered a sub panel..... there should be four wires from the main pole to that pole. Ground and neutral are kept separate. It sounds like you only have three wires.

It can be hard to measure voltages when the neutral/ground is fluctuating. You would get more accurate readings if you could measure to an actual known ground like a water service.

 
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Old 05-26-20, 09:58 AM
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Also measure the voltage between neutral and ground at your house panel. Should be zero. If it is not then you know for sure there is an issue with the neutral wire feeding the panel as both wires come from the same spot in the panel at the pole. If the voltage is zero and you still have odd voltages on the two legs (leg-to-leg of 240, sum of each leg to neutral will add up to 240) then both neutral and ground are bad or neutral from utility is bad.
 
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Old 05-26-20, 10:12 AM
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I have the three power lines, 2 positive and one neutral, allowing for 220v circuits from the secondary panel. I also have a ground lead from the pole to the secondary panel. If I can get the breakers to remain set, I generally get less than 10v at the positive leads entering the secondary panel, but 110v at the pole end of the cables. This gives me a very dim glow at some lights, none at others. Last night, I noted that the lights were brighter (some, but not all), so I checked again and got 50-55v. The lights flickered and went back and forth from dim to dimmer, eventually returning to barely glowing or nothing at all.

I do not understand what you mean when you say, "It can be hard to measure voltages when the neutral/ground is fluctuating. You would get more accurate readings if you could measure to an actual known ground like a water service." I do not understand what a water service ground has to do with voltage in my main circuits. I have power to my shallow well pump. It runs off a different circuit that doesn't include the secondary panel. Voltage tests are normal on that circuit.
 
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Old 05-26-20, 10:18 AM
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Astuff, I'm having trouble with the main breaker tripping at the pole. Do I need power to the secondary panel in order to do the neutral to ground test? I'm operating under the assumption that there are no stupid questions when you don't know what you're doing...
 
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Old 05-26-20, 10:20 AM
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Ok..... you have four wires. You have a neutral and a ground.
Did you measure between neutral and ground ?

A -------------------------------- 120v
N -------------------------------- 0v
B -------------------------------- 120v

When you measure from A to B you should get 240v.
If you measure from A to N you should get 120v.
If you measure from B to N you should get 120v.
Those measurements are relying on N to be at 0v. If it's not..... any measurement made to it is inaccurate.
If you substitute a known ground as your N point.... the measurements are accurate.


Turn off the main breaker at the mobile home or all the separate breakers.
If the main breaker at the pole still trips..... you have underground wiring problems.
 
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Old 05-26-20, 10:39 AM
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Pete, so I need to run a wire from ground on a properly working circuit and use it to test my positive leads? I got 0v from neutral to ground, but without power to the panel. Is the test valid without power to the secondary panel? I'm very discouraged after seeing smoke and sparks this morning while attempting to reset breakers. I halfheartedly weighed the pros and cons of suicide or arson, but put such thoughts aside when it occurred to me that I could actually both kill myself and burn my house down unintentionally as a result of this problem.
 
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Old 05-26-20, 10:58 AM
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You don't have any known properly grounded circuits. That's why I mentioned the metal/copper water service pipe. Any metal pipe coming out of the ground should be a known ground.

 
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Old 05-26-20, 11:48 AM
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Pete, oh, I think I get it now. I thought you meant a ground wire from a good circuit, but I think that you are saying I can not know for sure the ground is good just because the circuit appears to function properly. I don't think I have any metal pipes I could use, but it is a moot point as long as I have 0v from neutral to ground, right? I got 0v with no power to the panel, but I'm still not sure if the panel must be powered for the test to be valid. With the breaker off on the secondary panel, the main still trips within seconds. Previously, it has stayed reset for hours, but might take a few tries before it stayed on. It seems the problem is worse today than yesterday, which is very discouraging.
 
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Old 05-27-20, 12:12 PM
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So, I get normal voltage readings at the pole, and little or no voltage at the other end where the cables enter the secondary panel. I hooked up a long wire to ground at the pole, and got normal readings using the far end as my neutral/ground to test my positive cables at the pole. If the cables are intact, then I should get the same readings at the secondary panel, right? Using the same ground that worked at the pole, I get no voltage at the opposite end of the same power leads, so I think I have to assume both positive leads are broken between the pole and the secondary panel. If I'm a dumbass, which I may very well be, please explain why before I start digging. The only other thing I can think of to do is disconnect the cables at both ends and run new cable above ground to see if that fixes it before I dig. Comments? Suggestions? Encouragement?
 
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Old 05-27-20, 12:19 PM
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Also, I get 0 v from neutral to ground everywhere I check, but I'm still confused a little about the issue of "a good ground..." This may be unimportant, and I certainly need to keep this as simple as possible, but at the same time, I'm trying to be as thorough as possible.
 
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Old 05-27-20, 01:05 PM
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Make sure there isn't a junction box under the trailer or elsewhere. Sometimes cable is spliced to transition before it can go inside a structure. Do the wires look the same at both ends?

Provide pictures of the insides of both panels if you can - maybe we can see something you missed.

As mentioned earlier you can call the power company. Their techs can be helpful even when the problem is not on their end.
 
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Old 05-27-20, 01:15 PM
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I wonder if I could pull the existing cables through 20' or so of conduit with two 90 degree bends? Kind of expecting to find them severed because that's the only thing that makes sense to me, but it's hard for me to imagine how that might have happened.
 
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Old 05-27-20, 01:21 PM
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I'm pretty sure there's no additional junction or anything. I've already crawled all around underneath trying to follow everything and get a better picture of what's what. I just have the one large conduit leaving the pole. The two smaller ones go to my pump and my central AC. Only place where large conduit comes out of the ground is under the box in the trailer, same cables from same conduit, and they connect directly to the secondary panel.
 
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Old 05-27-20, 01:24 PM
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I'm a member of a rural co-op, and they don't even have anyone answering the phone. You can call and report an outage, but the response is automated. They know I have power to my meter, so I expect to be ignored even though I did report an outage.
 
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Old 05-27-20, 01:57 PM
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Depending on the wire type the conduit may only be for the above ground portion. If it does go all the way and the wires are damaged it means the conduit broke or shifted. Either way you aren't going to be able to pull new wires in without damaging them even if you get the old ones out.

Get another set of eyes out there before you start digging.
 
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Old 05-28-20, 11:24 AM
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Yeah, you're right... The conduit only goes straight down about 18" underground beneath the panel at the pole, and only about 6" at the secondary panel with just cable in between. All cables were burned clean through, and I could smell the charred insulation before I got to the breaks. The AC lines were buried with them, even though the AC has it's own circuit, and those wires were almost burned through, but not quite. I stopped digging when I found the breaks and bought new cables. I hooked it all back up, but haven't buried the new cables yet. I'm not going to bother digging up the old ones, but rather simply dig a new trench. Anyway, I'm back in business even though I still need to button up the job, and it sure felt good to take a hot shower after crawling through all the mud under my trailer.
Thanks for the help, guys!
Thanks for the help, guys!
 
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