Bad neutral on 220VAC from pole to house. Every appliance ruined.

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How does the electric comany deal with this situation?
My parents just lost a neutral wire from the pole to the breaker box in the house. Everyone had left the house by 7:00 AM that morning. My brother stopped by at about 5 PM to find the house filled with smoke and smelling like an electrical fire. He immediately turned off the main breaker and waited for my father to get home. My father turned off every individual breaker them turned the main back on. Then he started turning on one at a time. The water pump (110VAC) would just sit there and hum. However, the air compressor in the garage (220VAC) worked just fine. At this point it made sense that we lost the neutral connection to the pole.
EVERYTHING in the house was fried... Phones, the stove, all TV's, the dishwasher, the computer, fish tank pump, DVD player, surroud sound, flouresent light fixtures, cell chargers, routers, alarm clocks, digital camera, etc....
The dead of winter in PA brought the house to 47 degrees F since the furnace quit. Dad kept everything turned off and called the electric company right away. They were there within an hour (not bad for RURAL PA.) They confirmed that the neutral was bad and ran a line above ground from the pole to the house.
We are just thankfull that the house didn't burn to the ground.
Now is going to be the fun part... Getting the Electric company to reimburse for the damage. Any advice on how to deal with this? Does the electric comany prorate how much items are worth based on the age? Or should we expect them to settle with us?
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On 10 Feb 2007 21:09:49 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I had this exact same thing happen in my garage. Fortunately this was ONLY the garage (on a separate overhead cable). I found the problem when I flipped on the lights and noticed some of them were real dim and other real bright. I plugged in an electric drill and it just hummed. Then my 120v air compressor kicked in, and it too only hummed, but that same moment several of the CF lightbulbs got real bright and fried. In the end, I lost 6 CF lightbulbs, two regular bulbs, the garage radio (which I have set ro come on when I turn on the lights), and the charger for my cordless drill which was plugged in at the time. Luckily the drill and air compressor were fine after the neutral was fixed.
I cant tell you about the legal matters, and think that it might be an insurance issue. However, I do question how all those things could be burned out. They couldn't have had all those tv's radios, computer, and everything turned on, unless they really waste a lof ot power.
I can see the alarm clocks, fish tank pump, furnace, water pump (if it tried to kick in), and possible some large appliances such as refrigerators, microwave, etc. But dont just assume that all tv sets computers, etc are bad. If they were turned off, they should be fine. You also mentioned a digital camera. That makes no sense, they run on batteries. It is likely some if not most of the large appliances survived as they are more forgiving. Like the air compressor in my garage. What happens is the load is extremely unbalanced when the neutral is removed. So, some things get up to 240V while others get as little as 10V or so, (like my electric drill which only hummed). Your well pump most likely hummed because it got too little voltage, and likely will work fine once the neutral is fixed.
Once the power is normal, you or they will have to check each electrical device. Those that were not turned on should be fine. Some others may have survived too. I bet that pump will work. If it hummed, it got too little voltage. Too much would have fried the motor and there would be no hum at all.
Of course, there is some device that really took the brunt of the load and that is what caused the smoke. Which is it? Possibly a furnace motor? Lots of smoke usually means a large motor. Small electronics normally just burn out and die instantly.
As for the computer, a new power supply may be all you need.
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Gerry Atrick wrote:

I'd suspect that the TV's just *might* be fried, unless they are very old. There's no real "off" setting on a TV with a remote control, only a "standby." Anything inside the case that's energized with the power off may be toasty.
nate
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Well, nothing was turned on. It doesn't have to be to be fried. For example, the TV still draws a small amount of power if it is not on. (Before it fried, you could hear a relay click when plugging in/ unplugging the TV).The camera makes perfect sense if it is charging in the docking station -
The computer doesn't turn on. Maybe it is the PS? The monitor is fried because it is always on and it just goes to sleep. The central vac was not on and that is toasted.
I am not lying about anything... Just stating what has happened.
The power must have been like this all day. The ice cream in the freezer was very soft... almost milky.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com writes:

On the other hand, calling everything "toasted" is a little bit extreme. There's a difference between "no longer works" and "burnt".
For example, the central vac system contains a transformer that provides low-voltage power for the circuitry that turns on the motor when a hose is plugged into a wall outlet. This is powered all the time. Excessive voltage would cause that transformer to saturate and draw too much current. If you're lucky, this just blew a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker for the transformer, and resetting the breaker or replacing the fuse is all that's needed to make the central vac work again. If you're unlucky, the control transformer burned out and needs replacing - but this is still minor compared to replacing the entire canister unit.
    Dave
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On 11 Feb 2007 07:22:41 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Which is exactly why I have my computer and all its components on a power strip and when I turn it off, it's completely off. My electric bill is high enough. Think I'll start doing the same with the tv's if they are always drawing power. I dont know why they make things that way. Apparently they are in cahoots with the electric utilities. Yeah, I suppose it saves a few seconds of time starting them...... like I care if the tv takes a few extra seconds to warm up !!!!
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On Mon, 12 Feb 2007 16:21:26 -0600, Gerry Atrick

The IR receiver in the TV does have to be active, to be able to respond to an ON command from a remote control. Some TVs have clocks in them, another need for continuous power.
I wish they'd work properly with hard power switches. Many forget to come on.
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Mark Lloyd
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Most CRT-based TVs from the last several decades keep the heaters in the CRT somewhat warm when the TV is "off". It speeds warmup and also reduces thermal shock to the heater.
My TV also loses its channel programming when the power is off. That might be less common these days, since flash RAM is cheap.
    Dave
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On Tue, 13 Feb 2007 02:01:06 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@cs.ubc.ca (Dave Martindale) wrote:

I don't think I've ever seem one that actually lost the channel programming, but I have seen one (an RCA set made about 1981*) that would always be on the lowest numbered programmed channel (probably 2 if you get that) after a power failure.
Most seem to remember everything except that they're supposed to be on. In this case interfering with use with a cable box (with switched outlet, as used to be common). You'd still need the TV's remote.
* RCA sets from that time wouldn't work with universal remote controls. We had to get a factory replacement for about $70 (*instead of the $10 ones at Wal-Mart).
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I've never seen one that didn't, and we've had a variety of brands. It is a real PITA living in a somewhat rural area, where power failures are a little more frequent. I don't mind using auto set, but nuking the Spanish language / no interest channels is time consuming.
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The first question is "where is the meter"? If this open was between the meter and your panel, then it's your problem. If the problem is between the transformer and the meter, then contact the power company's main number and ask how to file a claim. They can't hide the open neutral. It will all be documented and they will probably depreciate the damaged items and pay the difference. You also need to contact your insurance company, that's why we have it.
--
Steve Barker

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How would you get 220v to your 110v outlets unless your sevice was a 3 phase service and everything shared the neutral?
Just curious.
On 10 Feb 2007 21:09:49 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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Two 120V devices on opposite legs of the service, plugged in and turned on (clocks, for example). Their neutrals are tied together at a common point in the service panel, of course (the neutral bus bar). Current flows from the service through the hot wire of Circuit A to one device, through the neutral back the service panel, through the neutral wire of Circuit B to the other device, and finally back to the transformer through the hot wire of Circuit B, thus completing a 240V circuit through the two appliances.
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

    What impact would the fact that neutral was tied to a ground lead on the service panel have? Would that not negate the two out of phase 120 volt lines from placing 240 on the circuits by placing neutral at ground potential? Just curious.
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No. First of all, the service may not have been properly grounded, in which case all bets are off. Second, even if the service *was* properly grounded, there are still two return paths: through the opposite leg of the service back to the transformer, or through the earth back to the transformer's ground rod. Guess which one has by far the least resistance (and therefore the highest current flow).
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

This is why it's never a bad idea to go overboard with the grounding rods, if you can.
nate
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I understand sharing neutrals. I just have never seen it in a residence.
Everything that the original poster mentioned seems to me that ALL neutrals were shared on every circuit. Or there was another problem. Possibly a surge.
On Sun, 11 Feb 2007 13:16:32 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

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wrote:

I've heard of shared neutrals, but haven't seen it except one case of erroneous DIY work. I've since fixed that.

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Probably didn't get a full 220V, but if there were unbalanced loads, some equip. would see very low voltage and others would see very high. The only items that would work correctly would be pure 240V appliances (water heater, A/C, etc.)
nate
Tazz wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote: [snip]

IMO -- first step should be to contact your homeowner's insurance company. Have them reimburse the losses. Then *they* get to fight with the utility over who's going to pay for it.
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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