Sunday, August 22, 2010

 

Licensed Philadelphia Electrician frightened by homeowners!

ELECTRICAL RULE NUMBER ONE - ELECTRICITY IS DEATH IN A BOX! NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING! EVER!

People never cease to amaze me!

I have been a licensed Philadelphia electrician for thirty of the thirty-five years I have worked as an electrician.

I have been told I am not a patient man. I don't think that just because I do not suffer fools gladly it means I am impatient!

I keep thinking "Now I have seen everything." ... and yet, I receive unending gospels of blatant ignorance and poor judgement!

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Question:
I recently developed what I thought was a blown breaker in our family room. Upon further inspection I noticed that not only was the breaker for that room not triped but that there was no circuit wired to it at all! Further inspection revealed two wires conected to the above breaker (Arc fault) for a different room. The black wire I have determined is for the room associated with that breaker. The red wire however does not seem to associate with any other circuit in the house as it doesn't seem to matter if it is connected or not. I can only assume that that is the wire for the susspect circuit that is without power. All breakers are Square D homeline series and the house is wired with Romex (no pipe). I have checked the wiring from the pannel to the atic for physical damage and there is none. If my assumptions are wrong about the Red wire doubled up on the above breaker then I am just chasing my tail. I have connected this wire to the breaker for the faulty circuit and it has not made a difference. When the fault occured I was home and it acted just like a blown breaker. All the power for the family room was killed. This circuit also supplies power to the lights in two other rooms. I apparently have an open in the circuit and I can't seem to find it. I have metered the panel and I have 125VAC to all circuits in the panel. I have also metered most of the recepticals, light switches and fixtures and I have no power to any of them, not even residual. I have run out of ideas and I am quickly running out of patience. Our home is only 7 years old so it does not make sense that corrosian or a failed fixture is the problem. Any ieas you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Answer:
Let me apologize in advance, because you are about to be insulted.
JUST WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
You find a wire in your panel that is obviously intentionally NOT connected [you have not indicated that there was evidence that the conductor material failed and broke] and YOU GO AND ENERGIZE IT WITHOUT FINDING OUT WHERE IT GOES?
DID YOU THINK GREMLINS CAME IN DURING THE NIGHT AND DISCONNECTED IT TO TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF?
YOU ARE LUCKY YOU DIDN'T KILL SOMEONE!

ELECTRICAL RULE NUMBER ONE - ELECTRICITY IS DEATH IN A BOX! NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING! EVER!

Now, to your electrical problem.
You said: "When the fault occured I was home and it acted just like a blown breaker. All the power for the family room was killed."
How do you know it was a "fault?" A fault is a very specific electrical condition. It describes the intentional or unintentional electrical connection between two conductors of differing potential. Is that indeed what occurred? Or did the circuit just go "dead?" Or do you mean that electrical devices just do not work at outlets on the circuit anymore?

You say there was no wire connected to the breaker labeled for the circuit that went out. I DON'T CARE WHAT THE MORON WHO WIRED YOUR HOUSE WROTE IN YOUR PANEL! IF THERE WAS NO WIRE CONNECTED, THAT IS NOT THE POWER SOURCE FOR THAT CIRCUIT!

You say you "metered" everything. Did you take voltage readings between the "hot" conductor and neutral? ...between the "hot" and ground? ...how about the neutral and ground? ...how about between any of the three conductors and the conductors in a known energized circuit? [You will need to make sure that you test to a circuit that is NOT arc-fault protected.]

What kind of "residual" voltage did you expect? Are there capacitors in the circuit? Do you think electricity pools at the lowest point like water?

You said: "Our home is only 7 years old so it does not make sense that corrosian or a failed fixture is the problem." Why doesn't that make sense? The fact is that, if all the circuit breakers are allowing power to their terminal screws and no other intentionally installed safety device intervenes, then the only remaining option is that the circuit is interrupted somewhere else DUE TO EQUIPMENT FAILURE!

1] the circuit feed conductor is removed from the breaker,
2] the circuit feed conductor is open somewhere in the circuit because
a] the conductor is cut [accidentally or intentionally],
b] the conductor is broken [overtight termination, staple, connector, clamp etc.],
c] a connection at a terminal screw or splice point burned up due to resistance at a loose joint,
3] the circuit neutral conductor is open because it is suffering from any of the same causes.

An unhappy fact: the device where the power interruption exists may be functioning properly. The feed-in connection may be intact. The feed-out connection may be damaged, burned, etc. - especially common in the case of receptacles connected with push-in "speed-wire" terminals.

Clues:
Turn breakers on and off. The circuit with only one or two functioning devices is probably your culprit.

Draw out your house floor-plan and mark device locations. Map out the circuit. Look at what works and doesn't work.

Look at where the panel is. Think of the house without sheetrock. Consider John Glenn's story about being in a spaceship built by the lowest bidder. New houses are all lowest dollar installations. Wire and labor cost a contractor money. How would it have made sense to run the circuit conductors?

Your problem is at the beginning of the circuit, not the end!
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ELECTRICAL RULE NUMBER ONE - ELECTRICITY IS DEATH IN A BOX! NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING! EVER!
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You are more likely to be killed by 120 volts than any other voltage [120 volts creates the PERFECT fatal current through the human body's electrical resistance!]
TURN THE POWER OFF WHEN WORKING!
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LIFE SAFETY WARNING! [disclaimer]
This information is provided for the use of parties as they see fit!
I am not responsible for the application of this information by any party, including those lacking sufficient skill or knowledge to perform these steps safely and any hazard created is the SOLE responsibility of the user.
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