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L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 11:10 AM
This morning I appear to have a number of dead circuits in my house. Actually, most of the circuits are dead, but several are functioning. I have reset all the switches in the switch panel to no avail. I have visually inspected wiring runs from the panel through the attic and find nothing.

I can't understand how numerous circuits can all be dead at once. They are not all on one side of the panel. And even if a wire were chewed through somewhere, it should only be one circuit.

I have reached the limit of my electrical expertise and will probably need a professional if this situation doesn't magically rectify itself. We've lived in this house for 10 years and never had this happen. The wiring is old and remodeled but not decrepit or bizarrely configured.

Anybody have any insight as to what could cause such a weird situation?

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 11:14 AM
You will have 2 legs coming into your house from the meter, there will be a fuse
box between the meter and your circuit breaker box.......there is a fuse blown
in that box effectively killing power to half your house

Mrleft8
01-13-2012, 11:18 AM
Are you a republican, or a pot smoker?..... Those are two possibilities.... :D
My guess is that you had a power surge that kicked some of your breakers, which may have been weak to begin with. Are all the dead circuits on one brand of breaker, while others that didn't kick are a different brand?
I had a box full of "after market" breakers that wore out after only about 5 years, while the main box had GE breakers that are still good after 20.

Mrleft8
01-13-2012, 11:20 AM
You will have 2 legs coming into your house from the meter, there will be a fuse
box between the meter and your circuit breaker box.......there is a fuse blown
in that box effectively killing power to half your house

This could be true. They'll be big "Buss" fuses. You also won't have any 220 power. Once again, it's probably due to a power surge.

Waddie
01-13-2012, 11:20 AM
+1 on the above post. Because of the way your service box is constructed you might think they aren't on the same side, but I'll bet they are. You have two 110V (sometimes called 115V) lines coming into your service panel (fuse box) and one of them is probably dead. I would shut off anything that runs on 220V (which are the 110's combined) like a dryer, electric water heater, electric stove, heat pump, etc. as they are protected but could be damaged.

regards,
Waddie

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 11:24 AM
Thanks, I think Jack must have it. There are actually 4 buss bars in the box and three of them trace to one leg, thus my confusion.

But so far I can't find the fuse box. I would expect such a thing to be near the meter, but it's not. I trace the cable through the attic to the switch box and find nothing.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 11:29 AM
Is it possible that fuses would be located inside an exterior wall behind the meter? Maybe to keep idiot homeowners from frogging with it?

Honestly, that seems like the only possible location at this point?

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 11:34 AM
Not likely, they would need to be accessable. Do you have a volt meter?

check the 4 buss fuses to make sure they have power to them
and through them.

Mrleft8
01-13-2012, 11:38 AM
Those 4 big buss fuses are probably what would in some cases be in a separate box. One fuse could be shot, which would be the positive feed line from the pole. Each leg will have two fuses, one for positive feed, and one for negative ground. Most likely one of the positive feeds blew.
This said, however.... I'm terrified of any electricity more powerful than a flashlight, and would call an electrician to confirm my suspicions, and fix the problem.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 11:44 AM
Not likely, they would need to be accessable...

I would think so, too. But I trace the supply all the way to the panel, and no fuse box. The only stretch I can't see is between the meter (mounted on exterior wall) and the top plate of the exterior wall where the supply enters the attic.

I do have a voltmeter but since I don't even know where the buss fuses are I probably shouldn't try to check them. I guess the switches need to be removed to access buss fuses?

Man I gotta get outta here and go to work. Thanks for the advice. Looks like I will need to call the power company.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 11:45 AM
... I'm terrified of any electricity more powerful than a flashlight, and would call an electrician to confirm my suspicions, and fix the problem.

I am in the same boat. Skeered.

pipefitter
01-13-2012, 11:46 AM
I had the same thing happen. I finally traced it down to the meter socket itself. The meter hadn't been seated properly in the contacts and it arced on one leg over time and burnt the contact. It also heated the wire of the one leg to where it compromised the insulation well up into the conduit where the drop from the pole comes into the meter. I had to replace the meter socket and the wires that go to where the splice comes in from the pole.

Mrleft8
01-13-2012, 11:49 AM
I got nailed by 220v 30A power once, and it blew me across the room. It was almost as painful as getting hit by lightning (I'm pretty safe on that count now... They say my chances of getting hit again are pretty ZZZZZZZZZAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

Mrleft8
01-13-2012, 11:52 AM
Put one foot in a metal bucket of water, and then, using your tongue, test for power at each breaker pole.... It should feel like a mild fizzy sensation.......
WAIT! That's a 9v. radio battery...... Never mind! :D

Lewisboater
01-13-2012, 11:55 AM
You...light up my life...

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 11:58 AM
I had the same thing happen. I finally traced it down to the meter socket itself. The meter hadn't been seated properly in the contacts and it arced on one leg over time and burnt the contact. It also heated the wire of the one leg to where it compromised the insulation well up into the conduit where the drop from the pole comes into the meter. I had to replace the meter socket and the wires that go to where the splice comes in from the pole.

If it is something like that, the power company should handle it, I would think. The meter belongs to them, no?

I think I'm going to call my power company and get a consultation.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:00 PM
Go to your breaker box and check all the screw lugs and make sure they are all tight on all the wiring.

I haven't poked around in the breaker box with a screw driver and given my general ignorance I don't think I'd better. I have pulled switches out and visually inspected the bars and I see no scorching, nada.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:06 PM
But I can't find a fuse, or main switch before my panel, Mike!

I am on hold with the powah company.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:06 PM
I hope the gang is not screwing up the beams I am supposed to be setting.

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:07 PM
if you have a meter, just check contanuity through those 4 buss fuses......
If it makes you feel better, go out and pull the meter out first, that will
kill all power to the house. After you find/fix the issue, contact your electric
company to come out and reseal the meter

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:10 PM
I believe as far as ownership goes, the elect. co. owns the meter, you own the meter box.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:11 PM
Alright, they told me that unless I have an outage they can't help. Where could my main breaker/fuse box be hiding.

Mrleft8
01-13-2012, 12:14 PM
The main breaker should be at the very top of your breaker panel. It'll be a big, perhaps red double pole breaker.

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:14 PM
It is most likely the buss fuses in your breaker box
since there is not one outside @ the meter

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:14 PM
ALL MY CIRCUITS JUST SPONTANEOUSLY CAME BACK ON! I did nothing at all in the last 10 minutes. WTH? Erster must be onto something, gotta be something loose, no?

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:15 PM
Can you post a pic of the box?

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:17 PM
Can you post a pic of the box?
If all the lugs are tight in the box, then pull the meter and check there.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:18 PM
Actually, it's possible that the act of removing switches and replacing them joggled something and I just didn't notice that power had returned because I had everything switched off. Figured it out when I opened the fridge and the light came on.

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:18 PM
go pound your face on the power box thats inside the house and see if you get some flickering of the lights or electronics.

ftfy.....................:d

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:22 PM
Okay, so nothing is resolved but everything is currently working and I gotta go to work.

Thank you gentlemen for holding my hand during this exceedingly trying time.

jack grebe
01-13-2012, 12:24 PM
You may not want to leave it like that................chance of fire and all

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:24 PM
Youse guys is funny.

Erster, there are no fuses in my panel, just switches and bars. I think you are right that something is loose. Poking around in there with the switches must have repaired the connection for the time being.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 12:25 PM
You may not want to leave it like that................chance of fire and all

I agree. I will come back to this this afternoon. Thanks again.

pipefitter
01-13-2012, 12:32 PM
If it is something like that, the power company should handle it, I would think. The meter belongs to them, no?

I think I'm going to call my power company and get a consultation.

The power company should have paid for it since it was one of their techs who had put the meter in crooked. The glass dome of the meter was in a bind with the cover that goes over it which is how I noticed it. And since their seal band was still in place, it was obvious nobody else had been into it. It wasn't until they declined to come check it that I broke into the box and found it. The contact clip on one pole of the meter had gotten hot enough to where it fatigued the contact to where it couldn't even be cleaned and reconnected. Fortunately for me, I had a hundred foot roll of the cable of the same size from when I hooked up a sub panel for my welding machine out back and friends who are electricians who had spare meter sockets and who also fixed it for me while I was at work. They also installed a new surge protector while they were at it, free of charge.

The electric company did have to come install a new meter though.

Plumbtex
01-13-2012, 12:35 PM
I've seen older houses, mostly rural, that had no main fuse or breaker before the panel. Pulling the meter was the only way to kill the panel. I too think you've lost a leg. Find the lines coming from the meter into the panel and check the voltage of each leg to ground. If any of the legs have low or no voltage and there is nothing between the panel and meter; call the power company. If there is anything between panel and meter trace back until you find voltage or the meter is the next stop. If there is voltage on all the legs where they enter the panel trace it forward until you lose it.
DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING METAL BEHIND THE PANEL COVER
This seems like a no brainer but I was once at a race track when the lights all went out. A couple of the track lackeys grabbed a cherry picker, hoisted themselves up to the panel on the utility pole, opened the door reached in and quickly touched the contacts WITH HIS FINGER to see if they had power. Fortunatly the panel was dead and the two geniuses will go on to make more little geniuses.

varadero
01-13-2012, 12:47 PM
Call a sparky now!!!!
Then let us know UROK.
Bobby

Ron Williamson
01-13-2012, 12:48 PM
I've seen loose neutrals (the white wires that don't go to the breakers) cause odd problems because they are tied fairly randomly onto the aluminum buss bars.
Also,they are sometimes double tapped, which doesn't help them stay tight.
R

Gib Etheridge
01-13-2012, 12:56 PM
I've never seen a fuse box between the meter and the breaker panel in anything less than a 400 amp service, which I doubt that you have. It may be code now, but your system is old.

See the 3 wires at the top of the panel? Left to right they are 120V, neutral and 120V. One of them could very well be loose or corroded. In either case it could be obvious due to heat produced due to poor conductivity. If they are call an electrician.

Don't touch them or we may never hear from you again.

It sounds to me as though you will need to remove the meter from the meter panel to isolate the breaker panel before you can tighten the 3 allen screws. You may find that the power company frowns on that, and if you do pull the meter remember that the feeds to the meter panel will still be hot, and you will be very well grounded standing on the ground. You may find that the meter connections themselves are burnt/corroded.

It might be best if you just look for something obvious at the connections, then call an electrician. Don't leave anything open where someone can get electrocuted in the meantime.

http://www.alwirerepair.com/New%20Panel-1.jpg

OconeePirate
01-13-2012, 01:41 PM
http://forum.woodenboat.com/images/misc/quote_icon.png Originally Posted by pipefitter http://forum.woodenboat.com/images/buttons/viewpost-right.png (http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?p=3268147#post3268147)
I had the same thing happen. I finally traced it down to the meter socket itself. The meter hadn't been seated properly in the contacts and it arced on one leg over time and burnt the contact. It also heated the wire of the one leg to where it compromised the insulation well up into the conduit where the drop from the pole comes into the meter. I had to replace the meter socket and the wires that go to where the splice comes in from the pole.



If it is something like that, the power company should handle it, I would think. The meter belongs to them, no?

I think I'm going to call my power company and get a consultation.

The house I'm in now has a similar problem. The box belongs to the house, the meter to the company, but only the company is allowed to pull the meter off the box. Ugh. When I moved in Georgia Power wouldn't even hook up the power because the lug in the box was burnt up.

The landlord sent their hack handyman out to "fix" it. Now I still occasionally lose power on half the circuits, but can hit the dryer (220 circuit) and they'll come back on. My guess is the dryer pulls enough zap the "broken" leg of the circuit back together?

Of course I've called the landlord and had them get their electrician out here and he couldn't find anything. I'm just an idiot tenant so my theory that the problem is between the meter and the breaker box is BS, I don't think he even investigated that possibility. I did warn the upstairs neighbors that the power was weird and if I had time I'd notify them if the house caught on fire.

They FINALLY fixed my heat pump when the weather started getting cold and I haven't had any electrical weirdness since then so maybe either they fixed the wiring at the same time or the more regular 220 draw is keeping things fused together?

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 05:23 PM
I'm convinced at this point that my system is as suspected by Plumbtex and Gib Etheridge, with no main breaker or fuse box between the meter and the panel. The house was built in '68 so I imagine there was no requirement for it at the time.

I have visually inspected as much as I can at this point. Since I can't cut the power without removing the meter I am not going to touch anything more in the panel at the moment. I will talk to the power company about pulling the meter for a more thorough inspection. Thanks everybody for the advice, concern, and humor.

Lewisboater
01-13-2012, 09:01 PM
I suggest you coordinate the power company and an electrician to visit at the same time so things can get resolved correctly the first time.

MiddleAgesMan
01-13-2012, 09:15 PM
The things you keep calling switches in your panel aren't. They are circuit breakers and do the same thing fuses do in older installations.

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 09:23 PM
I suggest you coordinate the power company and an electrician to visit at the same time so things can get resolved correctly the first time.

Eminently sensible idea.

MAM, I am going to protest that circuit breakers are, indeed, switches.

Ron Williamson
01-13-2012, 09:28 PM
They aren't supposed to be switched while carrying a load,unless they are Bulldog Pushomatics or some such, so they really aren't considered to be switches.
R

L.W. Baxter
01-13-2012, 09:33 PM
Okay. Wiki says "A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch..." but Wiki is frequently imprecise. I will henceforth refer to them as "circuit breakers", even if I intend to switch them on or off.

Ron Williamson
01-13-2012, 09:53 PM
It's also easier to understand if you are flipping a switch or a breaker.
R

Paul Girouard
01-13-2012, 11:06 PM
They are circuit breakers , not switches, BUT they can be switched on and off.

Even in 68 you would of had a main CB either a 100 amp or less likely back then a 200 amp. Like Gib's photo shows. More than likely one of the big lugs allen lug / contact is loose , or the meter base / meter contacts are worn / loose , if it's not the big allen lugs , it's the power companies meter to pull, it should have a seal on it, a electrician could pull the meter and check the meter contacts, then he'd call the Power company to put a new seal on the meter base.

You could check the lug nuts , just don't reach across or touch any thing but ONE allen lug at a time , get a "T" handle allen wrench to attempt to tighten the lugs.

As skitish as you seem to be call a electrician you work around to do it.

Good luck!

chas
01-13-2012, 11:23 PM
Tks Paul, you got there before me. This Is the right path. Jim

Edited to add: In Canada, the power company is responsible for everything to your panel (assuming you have no intermediate poles on a long incoming service), which contains at most times that 100 amp main breaker that you use as a homeowner to shut off all power to your household circuits, which are protected against overloading by individual circuit breakers of varying amperage. The panel is always located on or near an exterior wall, so that anything that goes wrong inside the house is the homeowners responsibility. If you have power anywhere in your house, the problem will be your responsibility, not the providers.

Again, good luck with it. I think the electrician will look first for a loose connection on one of what will be likely be two buss bars. That's all I can do without pictures. / Jim

Paul Girouard
01-13-2012, 11:50 PM
http://www.alwirerepair.com/New%20Panel-1.jpg


Nice neat panel work , your work Gib?

Waddie
01-14-2012, 04:18 AM
Nice neat panel work , your work Gib?

I don't know whose work it is, and it's a common way to run the wires, but I always taught to loop the wires down to the bottom of the panel and then up to the individual circuit breaker, thereby allowing extra wire in case the panel needed to be re-worked in the future.

How would you ever get that short black wire on the bottom circuit breaker on the right to the top spot if you had to later on?

regards,
Waddie

Canoeyawl
01-14-2012, 11:38 AM
I've been reading this thread and will limit my comments to "My first thought is Zinsco Breakers"
and that lovely work posted by Gib has no signs of romex and must be metal conduit throughout.

Zinsco breakers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMV1jmDn3o4)

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 11:46 AM
[QUOTE=Waddie;3269145]

How would you ever get that short black wire on the bottom circuit breaker on the right to the top spot if you had to later on?

/QUOTE]

I'd add any additional breakers on the lower open spots on the buss bar , there's be no reason to have to move that wire up in the panel. And Chip may be right , that panel is on a brick exterior wall , you can see the conduits coming in on ten RH side , so there's plenty of options on "where to move the wires", it's a nice neat panel , clean workmenship. Some people can try to find fault with any thing, you seem to be one of those Waddie, show us some of YOUR work, then you can comment with your vast knowledge based on what you show us.

If you don't have pictures go chase Jamie around the board about political opinions.

Gib Etheridge
01-14-2012, 12:13 PM
I do work that neatly, it has to do with a certain amount of obsessive compulsive behavior, but that is not my work there. I found it using Google Images and selected it for it's clarity.

Michael D. Storey
01-14-2012, 01:13 PM
suggest your box does not give you a one side on one side off, but an every other one on going down the side. Use a volt meter to check if both the cables on top, the black one, and the one with the red tape, are live. Check against each other to give 220 v or so; check against the white tape to give 110 or so. If you have a loose connection, youy could have no power,but moreanlikely, under that circumstance, you would have signs of overheating.
If you can follow back to the other end of your supply cables, check the same there. Do not screw with your meter.
I regret carrying on, if someone has already answered this pregunta.

Waddie
01-14-2012, 01:56 PM
Paul Girouard; I'd add any additional breakers on the lower open spots on the buss bar , there's be no reason to have to move that wire up in the panel. And Chip may be right , that panel is on a brick exterior wall , you can see the conduits coming in on ten RH side , so there's plenty of options on "where to move the wires", it's a nice neat panel , clean workmenship. Some people can try to find fault with any thing, you seem to be one of those Waddie, show us some of YOUR work, then you can comment with your vast knowledge based on what you show us.

Yep, I can be critical at times. But I'm entitled to my opinion. Besides leaving extra wire in the service panel, I also prefer 12ga over 14ga for 110V wiring, I don't like backwired outlets ( wire pushed in the hole in back of outlet) and I insist that all wire nuts be safety taped.

Most new homes I see today use 14ga. outlets are backwired. no safety tape on wire nuts. Most appliances hardwired. I don't like that either. All appliance should have a disconnect.

regards,
Waddie

PAlien
01-14-2012, 03:51 PM
I'm thinking the main breaker is failing. I recently was called in to trouble shoot a range, and the double pole breaker, while not tripped, was intermittently not passing voltage on one leg. Easy enough to check continuity through that if the problem re appears.

bobbys
01-14-2012, 05:40 PM
My Breaker box is in 2 sections I have a shut off for the top but not the bottom, Im scared to death of touching the lower box.

A useful tool i have found is a device that plugs into a outlet and the lights tell you if its wired correctly

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 06:25 PM
Yep, I can be critical at times. But I'm entitled to my opinion. Besides leaving extra wire in the service panel, I also prefer 12ga over 14ga for 110V wiring, I don't like backwired outlets ( wire pushed in the hole in back of outlet) and I insist that all wire nuts be safety taped.

Most new homes I see today use 14ga. outlets are backwired. no safety tape on wire nuts. Most appliances hardwired. I don't like that either. All appliance should have a disconnect.

regards,
Waddie

Talk is cheap , money talks and bull$hit walks, still no photo of your work, your opinion , IMO , still has very little merit, but you're entitled to it, it just doesn't hold much value to me at this point.

Opinions are like a$$holes , everyone got one , and they all stink.

Regards,
PEG

MiddleAgesMan
01-14-2012, 06:30 PM
....Most new homes I see today use 14ga. outlets are backwired. no safety tape on wire nuts....
regards,
Waddie

Are you sure? I knew of many cheap homes from the 60s and 70s that had 14 gauge on 15 amp circuits but I thought the building codes had forced the adoption of 12 gauge/20 amp breakers. My home (from early 70s) has a mix of 14 and 12 gauge wire which will be OK until some jackleg comes along and sticks a 20 amp breaker in to replace a 15 amp one that keeps tripping. It's just that sort possibility that I thought had been addressed with the newer codes.

As for an appliance, if it's a built-in I would expect it to be hard wired; if not, it's on a plug.

If building new, today, I would use 10 gauge with 20 amp circuits for most of the runs, and I'd upgrade every other circuit in the same manner. The extra cost will be paid back in a few years due to increased efficiency from reduced resistance.

Waddie
01-14-2012, 07:39 PM
Are you sure? I knew of many cheap homes from the 60s and 70s that had 14 gauge on 15 amp circuits but I thought the building codes had forced the adoption of 12 gauge/20 amp breakers. My home (from early 70s) has a mix of 14 and 12 gauge wire which will be OK until some jackleg comes along and sticks a 20 amp breaker in to replace a 15 amp one that keeps tripping. It's just that sort possibility that I thought had been addressed with the newer codes.

As for an appliance, if it's a built-in I would expect it to be hard wired; if not, it's on a plug.

If building new, today, I would use 10 gauge with 20 amp circuits for most of the runs, and I'd upgrade every other circuit in the same manner. The extra cost will be paid back in a few years due to increased efficiency from reduced resistance.

Building code allows 14ga, and that's what is used. 10ga is much more difficult to bend, has a larger bend radius and is difficult at times to run. 12ga is a good compromise. I've seen plenty of new construction electric stoves hardwired to the appliance set screws - the wire wouldn't even fit all the way under the screws. Pull it out a couple of times for cleaning and strands start breaking.

Backwired outlets - also still code - are when the wires are simply pushed into the back of the outlet and a tiny prong holds them in. A fire hazard.

Paul, like I give a crap what you think.

regards,
Waddie

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 08:21 PM
Paul, like I give a crap what you think.

regards,
Waddie

Like wise Waddie one.

Post some photo's of some of your work or it all just talk / words.

Regards

PEG

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 08:43 PM
So LW-ya status update please , so we know you're not fried to the panel human welder like!! :eek::D

StevenBauer
01-14-2012, 08:55 PM
He said back on page one that everything was working again. He's probably fine.




Steven

Breakaway
01-14-2012, 08:59 PM
. All appliance should have a disconnect.

I am on the fence with this point. The plug makes pulling the appliance out for service or housekeeping easier ( and perhaps, safer). But with a receptacle and plug, we've introduced increased resistance into the picture. Damned if you do or damned if you don't.

Kevin

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 09:00 PM
He said back on page one that everything was working again. He's probably fine.




Steven

That was yesterday , I think he would have looked into it more after work and / or today to be sure. He did some banging around , re-setting C/B's but he never "found" a cause. So I think he'd have done more T/S, maybe not, if it works why "fix" it thinking , but without finding some thing solid I'd be looking for a real answer to the issue.

L.W. Baxter
01-14-2012, 11:18 PM
I'm good, Paul. Bored and disgusted by the Broncos game, but hardly shocked.;)

OconeePirate
01-14-2012, 11:19 PM
If your neighbors have power and your intermittently dropping a leg in the panel even after reseting the main breaker please call an electrician. It could be a bad main breaker. Mains loose in the lugs or a burnt bus bar. Try not to follow most of the advice here and fix it yourself.


Can't I just wait until the house catches on fire and sue my landlord for negligence since they've been repeatedly notified of the problem?

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 11:32 PM
I'm good, Paul. Bored and disgusted by the Broncos game, but hardly shocked.;)


LOL glad to hear it Lee. Did you do any more trouble shooting on the elec. issue?

L.W. Baxter
01-14-2012, 11:46 PM
LOL glad to hear it Lee. Did you do any more trouble shooting on the elec. issue?

Nope.

I feel capable of checking and tightening connections in the panel (I did wire my own sportfish boat) but only with the power shut off. As noted, the only method I have for turning off the power is removing the meter, and to do so I need to arrange to have it re-installed. It is on the list of things I should do as a responsible adult.

Paul Girouard
01-14-2012, 11:57 PM
Nope.

I feel capable of checking and tightening connections in the panel (I did wire my own sportfish boat) but only with the power shut off. As noted, the only method I have for turning off the power is removing the meter, and to do so I need to arrange to have it re-installed. It is on the list of things I should do as a responsible adult.


Can you take a photo of that breaker box and post it? It's hard to believe there's no main shut off C/B,,,, really hard !!! Even in 63 , or 53 there would be a main C/B. You'd have to go WAY back to find a breaker box without a main!

ETA: Maybe if the house was built without a permit , with a home owner builder , who though he "knew" a better (/ cheaper way) or some way around it. he's of had to use some "inventive" circuit breaker configuration to avoid a main breaker , using a sub panel as a main panel.

Nicholas Carey
01-15-2012, 12:21 AM
Can you take a photo of that breaker box and post it? It's hard to believe there's no main shut off C/B,,,, really hard !!! Even in 63 , or 53 there would be a main C/B. You'd have to go WAY back to find a breaker box without a main!

Our house [remodelled/improved c '73] came with a load center w/o a main cutoff. Seems that at the time none was required by the code, so to save money they installed an extension panel w/o one. Having replaced it, I can say that the difference in price, in the grand scheme of things, is negligible.

[shakes head in wonder at the apparent analytical skills people display]

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 12:34 AM
... a sub panel as a min panel.

If I understand you correctly, this may be the case. I'll take a shot of my panel tomorrow and post it.

Breakaway
01-15-2012, 01:36 AM
I havent read this whole thread, so forgive me please if this was said already: My main breaker is outside the house in a separate box below the meter.

Kevin

Gib Etheridge
01-15-2012, 02:14 AM
Opening the main breaker in a breaker panel will only isolate the rest of the panel from the feed conductors, that is to say, the main is between the feed conductors and the breakers. The feed conductors and therefore the allen (or whatever configuration) bolts will still be hot. Don't touch any of them with your hand or anything that will conduct or you will regret it.

Paul Girouard
01-15-2012, 11:31 AM
Good point Gib, L-Dub-ya might know that but it's better to bring it up than to find out he didn't know it.

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 12:06 PM
Kevin, I have no main breaker in a separate box outside at the meter, and nowhere between meter and panel that I can find.

Gib, got it, thanks.

Okay, I'm getting more attention than I deserve but I am happy to take advantage. I'm curious to find out just how incorrect my wiring is. I'm pretty sure it's bad.

So, I'll post these pictures on the condition that I not be judged morally inadequate for owning a substandard electrical installation. I did none of this wiring, ok?

Here is the panel:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7145/6701903983_079a728655_z.jpg

Here is a closeup of the swi- I mean breakers:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7008/6701904493_be2a229cf8_z.jpg

As you can see, there is a 50 amp breaker that controls the busses below with many of the household circuits. Also, you may notice--minor point--that the feed posts are not allen headed.

What is strange is that the circuits which remained live during the episode on Friday are located on all four of the buss bars. In other words, the dead circuits were not isolated in one area that would indicate where to look for trouble. Weirdness.

Paul Girouard
01-15-2012, 12:24 PM
UGGGLLLYYY

What brand C/B , Zenco? I'll show this to one of my electrician buddies , I'm sure they'll laugh / be shocked , not literally.

I'd still say check all the screws to be sure they are tight, that's the most likely cause. I can't see any arcing or signs of arcing , can you see any down in the holes where the wires go into the C/B-ers?

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 12:46 PM
Quicklag, Siemens, Challenger...

I don't see any signs of arcing anywhere...

StevenBauer
01-15-2012, 12:51 PM
Have you popped out any breakers to look for corrosion behind them?

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 01:01 PM
I've pulled them all one by one and not found anything visually amiss.

jack grebe
01-15-2012, 01:28 PM
Am I seeing that right???????????
Grounds and Neutrals on the same buss bars???

WTF


Those feeds coming in the top, is there no fuse or breaker from where
they came?........If not, stop right there. CALL SPARKY

jack grebe
01-15-2012, 01:30 PM
On second thought, Just call now.......that box is all f'd up

Gib Etheridge
01-15-2012, 01:34 PM
I don't see a main breaker. Is there one in the top of the box?

If you are very careful you should be able to tighten the three lugs (red, black and neutral) with a plastic handled screwdriver. Don't touch the metal part of the driver and keep your other hand tucked away somewhere where it can't complete the circuit by providing a ground. Wear rubber soles and make sure the floor is dry. To be a little more safe you can tape the metal shaft of the driver in case your hand slips. There are a lot of amps available at those lugs.

It occurs to me that if the neutral lug is not making good contact that would explain the random failures. Like Paul said, tighten everything. Aluminum feed wires can be corroded and not show it, aluminum oxide is not a good conductor. By loosening and tightening the lugs you will grind through any corrosion.

There is an anti-oxidant paste available for connections in aluminum conductors. If at any point you can shut off the power to the feed wires remove them, wire brush them and dip them in the paste. Do the same for the lug bolts.

While you're at it check the connections to the ground rod or plate out in the yard. I doubt that that will make any difference but check it anyway. You won't get a shock from that.

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 02:04 PM
I don't see a main breaker. Is there one in the top of the box?

Nope. There is no main breaker or fuse box. Just the meter and the panel. At some point, you guys are just gonna have to believe me. :p


If you are very careful you should be able to tighten the three lugs (red, black and neutral)...

All I see in my panel is red, black, and ground. Jack Grebe notes that the neutral wires are running to the same buss as the grounds. I take it that is incorrect, but since the wiring in this house has worked for 50 years, I'm a bit confused as to how-so.

SamSam
01-15-2012, 02:06 PM
Kevin, I have no main breaker in a separate box outside at the meter, and nowhere between meter and panel that I can find.

Gib, got it, thanks.

Okay, I'm getting more attention than I deserve but I am happy to take advantage. I'm curious to find out just how incorrect my wiring is. I'm pretty sure it's bad.

So, I'll post these pictures on the condition that I not be judged morally inadequate for owning a substandard electrical installation. I did none of this wiring, ok?

Here is the panel:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7145/6701903983_079a728655_z.jpg

Here is a closeup of the swi- I mean breakers:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7008/6701904493_be2a229cf8_z.jpg

As you can see, there is a 50 amp breaker that controls the busses below with many of the household circuits. Also, you may notice--minor point--that the feed posts are not allen headed.

What is strange is that the circuits which remained live during the episode on Friday are located on all four of the buss bars. In other words, the dead circuits were not isolated in one area that would indicate where to look for trouble. Weirdness.
A few things that are questionable... no main breaker, doubled up wires to one breaker (such as 'dish washer'), one 50 amp breaker supplying all the circuits on the lower half of the box, aluminum feed wires to shop (aluminum wires need special consideration).

As far as having power to all 4 busses, the busses are not solid for each line wire side but have alternating feeds from both line wires so as to supply 240 volts to some circuits. The upper left quadrant of 240 circuit breakers will connect to each red and black line wire, whereas the lower right quadrant of 120 volt circuit breakers will alternate between red line and black line connections. So one of your main red or black feed wires could be bad, but you would still have some power to all 4 quadrants of your circuit breakers.

I had problems once with an intermittent lack of power and "brown outs". It turned out to be loose connections (I'm pretty sure it was the neutral wire causing the problem) on the transformer side of the meter. It's hard on all your appliance motors and shop motors to be starved for power or to have unequal power in 240 volt applications.

What brand of panel box do you have?
...educating you to the potential dangers of having a Federal Pacific Electric (FPE), Zinsco or Zinsco-Sylvania electrical panel installed in your home.http://www.allstarelectric.us/electricalpanelupgrades.html

Here's a photo to show how the busses interlock, sort of like fingers, to supply both sides of the box...

http://thefryefamily.net/Electrical%20Stuff/slides/232%20Electrical%20service%20panel.jpg

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 02:14 PM
Ah, thanks for the explanation of the buss configuration, Samsam. Starting to make sense.

As to the missing "neutral" lug, I guess I do have one, in the upper right of this picture. The wire is bare so I thought it was ground, but it is coming out of the same bundle as the red and black feeds, so???

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7013/6702750157_1265356465_z.jpg

SamSam
01-15-2012, 02:21 PM
As far as ground and neutral wires to the same lug, that seems pretty common. As far as your outside ground rod/wire being 'hot', it seems that if your incoming neutral wire is bad, any bad appliances or motors with full or partial short circuits would have the potential of dumping the power through the outside ground rod and thus render it more or less 'hot'.

Paul Girouard
01-15-2012, 02:36 PM
Ah, thanks for the explanation of the buss configuration, Samsam. Starting to make sense.

As to the missing "neutral" lug, I guess I do have one, in the upper right of this picture. The wire is bare so I thought it was ground, but it is coming out of the same bundle as the red and black feeds, so???

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7013/6702750157_1265356465_z.jpg



Ground and neutral are sort of the same thing, I think, in older panels there was no ground. My main electrical experience is in aircraft , power , component , maybe a switch, relay or switching relay in the line , but Aviation Electricians are nicknamed "one wires" for a reason , generally it's one wire from a power source runs thru a component / motor / light / etc the we run that other end to the airframe or "ground" , like your truck trailer wiring , I can muttle thru a three way switch generally , why they call them three ways when there's two switches controlling a light or group of lights in series , I don't know??

But you have to have a loose wire OR a loose intermittent / corroded meter base connection , that's what I'd look for.

I'd really look at getting a estimate on swapping out that service panel if it where my house, electrical fires are pretty common. It doesn't hurt to get a price from some one. You have to have a buddy who's a sparky I'd think.

SamSam
01-15-2012, 02:38 PM
One other thing that seemed a little iffy to me was the white neutral wires from the circuits are only separated from the main power lugs by that thin piece of grey something or other.

I'm no electrician so anything I say is unofficial, uninformed, questionable opinion. I often poke around in hot electrical boxes but that's just personal stupidity. I do know electricity can do some odd, unpredictable things when connections aren't good, such as feedback through other circuits, things being electralised that aren't supposed to be, like electrical panel boxes or the body of stoves, washers etc. So not to be a nanny, but electricity can be much faster and more deadly than snakes and tigers.

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 02:44 PM
One other thing that seemed a little iffy to me was the white neutral wires from the circuits are only separated from the main power lugs by that thin piece of grey something or other.

Cardboard. Good eye. Those flaps of cardboard are actually touching both the neutral wires sticking past the buss bars and the main power lugs. That doesn't seem right.

Paul Girouard
01-15-2012, 02:44 PM
I often poke around in hot electrical boxes but that's just personal stupidity.


I do know electricity can do some odd, unpredictable things when connections aren't good,



Poking can be fun!

Yes , it can do odd things, generally loose neutrals or grounds, depending on the equipment.

StevenBauer
01-15-2012, 02:46 PM
I don't understand why there is no main breaker. Seems potentially dangerous to me. Those main wires coming in can only handle so much current. The first thing they go to should be a breaker that would trip if their capacity was in danger of being exceeded. At a minimum I'd have an electrician add that breaker. Or the whole panel could be replaced. Time to have it looked at by a licenced electrician.

Canoeyawl
01-15-2012, 02:46 PM
A couple of things... I don't see a ground wire in that main panel. There is a potential danger there.
And there should be a main disconnect for all circuits after the meter. From what I can see only the 220/240v circuits have a disconnect.


Note - A neutral wire is a current carrying conductor (it is the other half of your 120v alternating current) and a ground wire is not.

here is a far better explanation than I can give, gleaned from the internet...

"First, you have to understand that the neutral is a current-carrying conductor, whereas the ground wire is not. As such, the neutral wires are insulated, the same as any other current-carrying conductor. The misunderstanding comes from the fact that the neutral wire is intentionally grounded at the main service panel only. The reason for this action is to allow ground-faults (or "short circuits" to ground) a return path back to the source of power, the utility transformer. Having the ground wires bonded to the neutral makes it possible for the circuit breaker to trip out easily under such conditions.

IF one were to connect the current-carrying neutral wire to the ground wires "downstream" then it's possible for some of that current to follow what is called a parallel path -- over the bare grounding wires -- instead of the insulated neutral wires -- as it finds its way back to the source.

Keep in mind that the metal outside frames of your utilization equipment --> appliances, furnaces, water heaters, etc. are connected to that bare ground wire, and you absolutely do not want those metal frames to be carrying any of that current in their normal course of operation. Such stray currents can have potential differences between them and a grounded surface, such as a concrete floor, or the frame of a different appliance connected to another circuit. Potential difference = Voltage."

linky
(http://www.electricalknowledge.com/forum/archives/1098.asp)

L.W. Baxter
01-15-2012, 02:47 PM
...You have to have a buddy who's a sparky I'd think.

Yeah, I have professional acquaintances, but the best candidate is the ex-husband of my second cousin. I may give a call and see how the Big Recovery is treating him.

Paul Girouard
01-15-2012, 02:47 PM
Cardboard. Good eye. Those flaps of cardboard are actually touching both the neutral wires sticking past the buss bars and the main power lugs. That doesn't seem right.



They stop the wires from touching , but ya they could have a worn spot , and a little goes a long way to screwing things up. Lots of wires in one lug also can be bad , they can all seem tight but "the one in the middle" might pull right out and not really be trapped / making positive contact

SchoonerRat
01-15-2012, 03:18 PM
I scrolled down the thread till I saw the positive outcome.

Till then I hadn't seen this asked and I was kinda curious.

I'm happy for you on the easy solution to your problem, and my curiosity is satisfied you had in fact paid your bill!

SamSam
01-15-2012, 03:22 PM
One more thing is those 4 tabs on the panel box with the screws in them, I guess they hold the cover on. I would look to see if any of them are screwed into any hot wires.

The big bare aluminum wire coming in with the power lines is the neutral, the big bare copper wire on the left going out the bottom of the panel might be your ground wire if it runs to a rod or a plate or a metal waterpipe.

PAlien
01-16-2012, 04:54 PM
So, you've got no "main" before the 220v branch circuits, but you do have a "main" for the 120v breakers. Did the problem affect any of the 220v circuits or just the 120v? If it affected both 220v and 120v then I'd say it's at the meter, but if it was all 120v that was affected, I'd test that "main" breaker.

MiddleAgesMan
01-16-2012, 05:12 PM
In the spirit of bobbys' "steel square" thread the answer is....

Aluminum.

Paul Girouard
01-16-2012, 08:19 PM
I checked with my electrician buddy today and it was code to have 5 maybe it was 6 "switches" ((or breakers but Brian used the term switches in this case) to turn the power off to the whole panel, so you 50 Amp mid way makes your panel code-able, his thinking was a loose wire or bad connection at the meter , the odd or weird part I think we've solved with who ever it was showing the "finger " effect that seemed to allow for the 4 sections to all have power , when we now know that isn't quite how it is.

Good luck.

chas
01-16-2012, 09:03 PM
What's on the end of that pink wire on the right? I could use one of them right now! / Jim

Gordon Bartlett
01-16-2012, 09:54 PM
It's called a "split-bus" panel, and it used to be quite common and legal, code-wise. This one is not quite compliant, however, because it appears that at some point someone installed two single-pole breakers in the top right position, presumably where there was once a double-pole breaker, or perhaps nothing at all. Doing this raised the total to 7 mains at the service entrance. The limit is six. In other words, all the power must be killed by throwing no more than six "switches". Add me to those who suspect a loose connection, either right there in the panel, out in the meter socket, up at the weatherhead, or right at the transformer.