Dead Electrical Circuit Troubleshooting

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Hello guys,
I've got a dead circuit in my house. I tested the output of the breaker, and it's fine. I have also done some research, which indicates that a tripped GFI outlet could cause the problem, however, I removed the GFI that's on the dead circuit, and there is no power going to the GFI even. None of the lines, on that circuit, that I've located in my house are hot.
Does anyone have some additional troubleshooting ideas?
Thanks,
Trevor
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Logic tells me if there is power at point A and no power at point B. Guess what? Something wrong between point A and B? You measure votlage between neutral and hot wires. Again logic tells me there is continuity problem oon either or both wire between point A and B.
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Hey Tony alittle fore play may help also Tony
wrote:

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This seems oblivious but if you haven't done this start here:
1) With the breaker on, identify all dead outlet and switches. Check every outlet, switch, appliance, junction box and light.
2) Turn breaker off, identify all dead outlet and switches. Check ever outlet, switch, appliance, junction box and light.
3) Any device that is dead in step two and is live in step 1 needs to be checked for problems.
4) If all the devices in step 3 check out then you either missed an device or junction box or you have a wiring problem between two boxes and it might be time to call a pro.
n Apr 6, 8:26 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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On Apr 6, 8:06 pm, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

That sounds like some good advice. I haven't, as of yet, been able to find any live outlets on this circuit. This circuit actually affects a large number of things, including:
Basement lights 3 power outlets in the living room 1st floor bath - GFI outlet 1st floor bath - fan 1st floor bath - light Front & Back outdoor a/c outlets Garage door motor Alarm system in garage
I still haven't checked a couple light switches though, so I'll have to see about those.
Thanks,
Trevor
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On Sun, 6 Apr 2008 18:46:24 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

It is a pretty safe bet that the home run goes to the GFI outlet. All the other devices are being protected by the GFI.
If the breaker is hot and no power at the GFI, it almost has to be the wire going to the outlet. (This is very rare)
Make sure you look closely at the breaker and the wire leaving the breaker at the panel. It could be a loose connection on the neutral.
If you do have a loose connection on the neutral you should still show a hot connection at the GFI box. Tell us what kind of tester you are using.
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I am using a stand-alone, contactless voltage tester. It's pretty accurate at telling whether or not there is voltage coming out of a wire, and I haven't been able to find any live wires on that circuit. As someone suggested, there's a good chance that the run is bad, although I don't know what has caused it to fail at this point. I'm actually pretty sure that the main run isn't going to the GFI, at least as far as I can tell, because I traced it up from the breaker panel, and it's going the opposite direction from the bathroom.
The only odd thing I've noticed so far, is that the GFI outlet's "test" button doesn't operate, although I'm assuming that, that's because it doesn't have a hot line?
Thanks,
Trevor
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Unless the house was built in the last five or six years, there would be no reason to believe the bathroom outlet would be fed directly, and even if it were, it wouldn't likely be protecting all the stuff you've mentioned.
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On Sun, 6 Apr 2008 19:24:46 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

The tester you are using is a pretty good choice for what you are doing.
Basement lights not GFI required 3 power outlets in the living room not GFI required 1st floor bath - GFI outlet 1st floor bath - fan not GFI required 1st floor bath - light not GFI required Front & Back outdoor a/c outlets Garage door motor not GFI required Alarm system in garage not GFI required and should not be
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Terry,
Thank you for the follow up. I don't have GFI outlets on the exterior a/c outlets. The home was built in 1982, so it's not exactly new, but this circuit -was- working as of just a few hours ago. Leading up to the circuit failure, the only thing I did was to switch off a couple breakers to the first floor, because I was pulling off a ceiling fixture in a coat closet, so I could paint around it safely. Later on, after I switched the breakers back on, it started being problematic. The funny thing is, the light fixture that I unscrewed (not fully removed), still functions properly, and isn't on the same circuit as the one I'm having trouble with. Due to the numerous devices on the problem circuit, I'm guessing that I have a bad wire somewhere. Is it possible that a loose wire on a lightswitch could cause this whole problem, or would I still see some outlets working?
Thanks,
Trevor
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On 4/6/2008 8:16 PM snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com spake thus:

In a word, no, at least as long as the house was wired correctly. Wires to light switches (or any other kind of switch for that matter) pnly control the device being switched, and never carry current to a downstream device.
On the other hand, a loose connection in a junction box *could* cause your problem.
--
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Are you talking about the switch loop? You're right about that. But a box with a switch in it can be carrying current to downstream devices. You can even use the hot lugs on the switch to do it. I know the gold standard is to pigtail the hoots, but it is certainly proper to have wires on light switches carrying current to downstream devices.
-- Doug
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On 4/7/2008 12:35 PM Douglas Johnson spake thus:

Yes, yes and yes. Sounds like you pretty much know how this stuff works.
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On Sun, 6 Apr 2008 20:16:19 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I think the next step is to find the first box. If you don' think everything has been GFI protected then try to figure out which box is the one coming from the panel. It should be the one closest to the panel.
If you can see from the attic, you may be alble to look and see which is the first device from the panel.
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On Sun, 6 Apr 2008 19:24:46 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

It's *pretty* accurate? Don't you think things would go faster if it were 100% accurate. Like most meters are?
What does it use, a neon light? That's no way to test things.
For example, how do you know if the output of the circuit breaker is hot (has 110 volts with respect to ground) or not? Did you check that? Earlier you posted as if it were hot. How do you know? How were you able to distinuish that circuit breaker from the ones on either side of it? No neon light or other non-contact device is that accurate. (Well maybe not none, but none that you or I can afford to buy)
I don't think you know if the circuit breaker is working or not.
Have you taken the cover off the circuit breaker box? If not, post back so we can talk about safety issues before you do.
If not, how do you know if the breaker involved is broken or not, is conducting electricity or not?
If not, how do you know which piece of romex or BX is the one that comes from the breaker in question?
Is your breaker box in an unfinished portion of the basement, or the attic? If so, you can identify the cable coming from the breaker in question (How did you identify which breaker to suspect?) and follow that cable in the ceiling etc. until it goes to or at least towards the first outlet that it powers.
Then check that outlet, not with a non-contact something but by plugging a known good lamp or radio in and seeing if it works. If it doesn't, pull the outlet out and use a meter on the white and black wires, and the screws to which they attach.
While there can be problems with digital meters, I think if you just consider anything under 80 volts to be equivalent to zero in this situation, your tests will give the right results. Digital meters are sold at Home depot and maybe radio shack for 15 dollar, certainly under 20. They have an analog meter, with a needle, in that price range too, but it is so little (smaller than a pack of cigarettes) and cheap, i'd tend to say, Wait until you think you need an analog meter and you know you're going to use it for things, and then buy one that is at least 25 (I don't know what they sell in that price range).
Are you using now a meter or just a tester?

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mm wrote:

It's not a "meter;" it's a "tester." Do you know the difference between "accuracy" and "precision?" And if most meters are 100% accurate, as you claim, why the disclaimer on digital meters?

You don't know what it is or how it works or its method of indicating voltage. I despair of your advice.
But I think we have a teaching moment:
http://www.greenlee.com/product/gt-15/start.html
About $15.00
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On Apr 6, 11:46 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Quite a lot and a mixture of lights and outlets on that one circuit????
Under our codes that most likely will be wired with #14AWG and require no more than a 15 amp circuit breaker.
Sounds as though the best way to to trouble shoot that would be to follow the voltage from the output of the circuit breaker, as the OP has done, and then go to each outlet or fixture in turn.
Best device to use would be an electric lamp/bulb screwed into a socket with two insulated wires sticking out; some testers will give false readings on voltages picked up by 'induction' from adjacent working wires.
Voltage is normally between live (mostly black; assuming North America) and neutral (usually white). But voltage can momentarily be tested for between live/hot and ground. In fact such a test can identify an open neutral wire between outlets.
Sounds like there is an open connection inside one of the outlet or light fixture boxes possibly a deteriorated duple outlet. Hopefully not one of those with the 'push-in' wire connections!
As mentioned if the GFI is early in the run and protecting everything else downstream of it it could be defective and therefore affect the whole circuit. Small "t" terry
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Couple friends of mine had dead outlet in the kitchen. The problem turned out to be where the wire came from the (live) outlet, going to the dead one.
Sorta like this, crudely illustrated:
Breaker========[outlet]========[outlet]-=========[intermittent outlet]
This may not relate to your problem, but their house had back stab outlets.
--
Christopher A. Young
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On Apr 6, 8:26 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Can you follow the wires out of the panel to the first junction box or fixture?
If the breaker is indeed good (you didn't say how you determined that) and the very first fixture is dead, then you've pretty much narrowed down the general location of the problem.
There may be a junction box in between the panel and the first fixture with an open conection.
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wrote:

Can you follow the wires out of the panel to the first junction box or fixture?
If the breaker is indeed good (you didn't say how you determined that) and the very first fixture is dead, then you've pretty much narrowed down the general location of the problem.
There may be a junction box in between the panel and the first fixture with an open conection.
The first thing I would do is pull the wire from the breaker. Make sure the lug is not clamped down on the insulation.
Jimmie
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