134V at Outlet - Solution


A few days ago I wrote about the problem with 134V at the outlet. I thought it might be the ground so I added a couple 8' rods, but that was not it. I looked up at the power pole, and there I could see the neutral conductor was completely broken off! I called Southern California Edison and they sent a guy out within an hour. All fixed by the power company! Shared neutral outlet pairs now read 118V/123V. The neighbor's bamboo trees sway against the power wires when it gets windy.
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buffalo ny: was there a symptom or damage that led you to check the voltage?
Fpbear II wrote:

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Yes, I noticed that when I plugged things into one outlet the appliances were kind of wimpy, and when I plugged into the other outlet, the appliances would work on turbo-boost. When I would turn something on that had a big load, the aquarium lights would appear brighter. This led me to check the voltage.

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Fpbear II wrote:

I encountered something very similar a few years ago. My wife commented that the lights were getting brighter and dimmer at times. I then noticed when something like the refrigerator turned on or off this would happen. I went to the circuit breaker box and found that the input phase voltages were changing, one being high and the other low. Called the power company and they found a very scorched piece of about #4 Aluminum wire in a distribution box. The neutral was open and my house was using the copper ground stake as a return.
They said that Aluminum is still very common in large distribution wires.
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My sisters house had a similar problem. When "things" would turn on and off the lights would flicker a lot. Not everything, just some things, like the refrigerator. I went thru her fuse box and found that one of the large neutral wires had been put into the bar but the screw never tightened. That got rid of the problem. -- Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts:
"What, sir, is the use of militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. . . Whenever Government means to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise a standing army upon its ruins." -- Debate, U.S. House of Representatives, August 17, 1789
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wrote:

I recall reading that post a few days back. It's always nice to see followups so we know what happened.
You are a lucky guy. You could have lost considerable appliances and light bulbs. Your grounding system saved your ass. Be sure to thank it.
I had this exact same thing happen in a garage We had separate feed and panel in that garage, which came directly off the meter. On the side of the garage at the service head, the neutral came apart at the crimp (tree smashing against the wires in wind storm). When I went in the garage the lights were either real dim or real bright. I plugged in a small power tool and the lights went out, and the tool ran real slow. Then I noticed a puff of smoke rise from a portable ac powered radio. Then my air compressor flipped on, and all hell broke loose. The compressor ran slow and would not start the motor. At the same time several compact florescent bulbs literally went up in smoke, my cordless drill battery charger fried, several other lightbulbs died, my hand tool went from too slow to too fast and that died too. I shut off the main breaker and soon found the open neutral and fixed it (trimmed tree too). When it was over, every light bulb was dead, some of the compact flor. bulbs were charred, the radio and electric drill were dead along with the battery charger. The compressor and one light bulb survived. This could have been much worse in a home where there are many more appliances and electronics.
I since added more grounding to that garage too.
In the end,
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The power company lineman told me that when the neutral is broken, people sometimes feel some electric tingle when touching the water faucets. I told him indeed, I could feel this when touching on the shower head and also when my hands were in my reef aquarium. Now after the repair, this sensation is gone. I guess that I was getting a shock of the same 4V voltage I measured between the ground wire and the fence post. Now I am curious - what was causing this when the neutral was broken? Was the electricity that would normally go through neutral flowing back through ground? Was I feeling the potential difference between the earth where I was standing and the service panel ground?
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Fpbear II wrote:

That's exactly it. There was enough resistance between your grounding rod system and true ground that there was still the possibility of getting a little tingle from your water pipes. The reason you don't normally have this is because the neutral usually takes care of it; but with no neutral present ALL unbalanced current was going through your grounding system.
Now just imagine what would have happened had you not had a good grounding system... wouldn't have been pretty.
nate
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wrote:

Good info. Typically when I check an outlet that a home owner says is 'weird' it's not unusuall to find that it's a shared neutral, and the neutral is floating.
Thanks for sharing....
tom @ www.Consolidated-Loans.info
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Fpbear II wrote:

Good catch! You probably won't regret having added the grounding rods, and they may have saved you from more expensive damage. In any case, now you know what a floating neutral looks like.
nate
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