110 on both black and white

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Old 07-12-20, 07:33 PM
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110 on both black and white

I have a somewhat unusual problem that I can't seem to solve and hoping someone here can help.

One of the electrical circuits of my home has an issue:

* Everything will be working fine.
* Then one thing is turned on (a ceiling fan, something is plugged into an outlet and turned on, etc). It is a different thing each time.
* At this point 2/3 of the circuit no longer work.

This has happened 4 or 5 times so far. An investigation shows that those outlets and lights/ceiling fans that aren't working are not working because both white and black wires are reading 110v.

Troubleshooting done thus far:
* I have unplugged everything (thinking that something that is plugged in is passing through the voltage because it is broken).
* I have literally opened up every outlet, switch and ceiling fixture to disconnect the white and black wires, testing each one to see if I can find the cause.

What ends up happening is that after I have taken apart half or most of the outlets/switches/lights, it will suddenly "just work" when I flip back on the fuse to test again. Then I put everything back and it is good for a few weeks until the problem happens again. This time I start with that last outlet I was working on and move forward and back, taking apart electrical connections until it will just suddenly "work again" (without me doing anything other than removing wired connections and then re-connecting after it fixes itself.


3 outlets (the first 3 after the fuse box) always remain working, as does a 4th outlet I have on a switch (this "outlet on a switch is placed after the other 3 outlets"). Everything after this doesn't work with the cause being 110v on the white wire.


I am pulling my hair out on this one. Does anyone have something I can check? I can't think of anything "new" that was added since this problem started. The house is 30 years old and I have lived in it for the past 20. The house is in Ohio, USA.


Thanks in advance.
 
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Old 07-12-20, 08:09 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

I have a somewhat unusual problem that I can't seem to solve
This problem is posted here at least once a day and sometimes several times.

are not working because both white and black wires are reading 110v.
Of course they are. They should be. Except you didn't write it correctly.
You mean there is 120v from white to ground and black to ground OR are you using a non contact tester ?

A non contact tester is not used for diagnosing problems. It is ONLY used to tell you there is dangerous voltage in the area. Your problem sounds like you are losing the neutral within the circuit. The neutral is as important and as the hot wire. The problem will be at the last working device or at the first non working device.
 
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Old 07-12-20, 10:41 PM
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Right. I mean that there is 110v between white and ground and also black and ground. This happens randomly when something is turned on or when something is plugged in and turned on. It will go for weeks without a problem when the circuits have a decent load on them (a few lights, a few fans, a computer, phone, and an iPad or something charging). Then someone will turn on a light, that light will flash for a second, and then, bam, 2/3 the circuit doesn't work.

I have replaced the outlet connected to the switch (4th in the line and the last thing that always is working fine) and the next outlet (5th in the line, which is the first thing in the chain that will go out when it happens).

I will take another look tomorrow and replace both again. However, why would the problem randomly trigger when something is turned on (and that something has worked fine for weeks) and then randomly fix itself later?

Thanks
 
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Old 07-12-20, 10:57 PM
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You have an intermittent connection. A sudden load applied to the circuit will cause that connection to heat up. After several applied loads..... the connection opens.

We have found that the push-in connections on switches and especially receptacles are prone to intermittent problems. It is highly recommended to move the wiring to the side screws for better connection.
 
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Old 07-13-20, 04:32 AM
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I mean that there is 110v between white and ground and also black and ground.
You have a loose neutral. You will have to go through each box and relocate the wires to the screws
as PJmax recommends.
 
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Old 07-13-20, 10:12 AM
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I mean that there is 110v between white and ground and also black and ground.
And how are you measuring this 110 volts? Are you sure it's 110 and not 108 or 112, 114 or 115?

I agree that you have a neutral connection problem. From the description you gave I would take a hard look at boxes #4 and #5 from the panel.
 
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Old 07-21-20, 08:22 AM
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I was measuring using a simple 110/220 volt tester. However, since you thought it was important, I used a multimeter and both came in at 110v.

None of the outlets were back-pegged. All were tightly screwed in via the sides.

Given that outlet #4 was on a switch (and the problem happened even when that switch was off), I swapped out outlet number 5 first. That did not resolve the issue. Then I swapped out outlet #4 and the switch connected to it (also without success). Since everyone here was sure the problem was at or between these these two spots, I went ahead and replaced the wire in the wall between these two outlets, and that resolved the problem.

So perhaps there was a break somewhere internal to the wire (???). I don't think I have ever seen that before.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your help solving this mystery.

 
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Old 07-21-20, 11:28 AM
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I went ahead and replaced the wire in the wall between these two outlets, and that resolved the problem.
Very doubtful the wire was bad.
If it was... you should be able to see the break or strip the cable and find it.
 
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Old 07-23-20, 09:46 PM
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Yea - it surprised me too. I have never seen anything like it. Only other senerio that I can think of is that I had two bad outlets (outlet #5, the one after the one on the switch, was replaced with another bad outlet?). This seems just as unlikely.

Anyway, thanks for the help everyone.
 
 

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