Electrical circuit problem - help!


Last night a circuit breaker tripped. On this circuit are the overhead lights and outlets in a couple bedrooms and a hall light. I flipped the breaker back on, but power only came back to one of the bedrooms. The hall light and power in the other bedroom are still out. I've never seen this behavior before. What could the problem be and how can I troubleshoot this? Thanks in advance!
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stavros wrote:

Probably a daisy-chained circuit, and a switch or an outlet is fried, or has a loose connection. What was the last electrical item turned on or in use before breaker tripped? Wherever that was plugged in or switched, pull and check that outlet or switch. Multiple rooms, I would bet on on fried plug or loose connection. Hall light is probably fed off the bedroom next to it, from the last outlet in the daisy chain, or from the ceiling light in that room. As cheap as new outlets and switches are, as long as you have it apart, may as well replace it, just for giggles. Especially true for heavily used outlets and switches, or if your house is more than a few years old. It could be a junction box in attic, but that is a lot less likely. If live bedroom and dead bedroom have a common wall, the problem is probably the last live outlet or the first dead one, closest to it in the wall.
If the above does not make sense, go buy a DIY electrical book with pictures, or hire somebody. That isn't a flame- there is no shame in not knowing how to do something, and everyone has to start somewhere. And unlike most home repairs, messing up electrical work can actually kill you.
-- aem sends...
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Excellent advice, thanks. I hadn't thought about the daisy-chaining aspect of outlets on a circuit. I'll see if I can narrow down which one is giving us grief.
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Do you have GFCI outlet (outlet with a red light/button) somewhere nearby, like in bathroom next to the bedroom?
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Good thought, but no.
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stavros wrote:

It's easy to narrow down: It's either the first bad outlet on the chain or the last good one.
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I lucked out and quickly identified a failing outlet in the chain. Just by jiggling my voltage tester in the receptacle slots, the rest of the lights and outlets in the chain flickered on and off. I have a bunch of new replacement outlets, so I set out to replace this one and ran into a new question.
There are three runs of Romex heading into this outlet box, and they're all connected to this receptacle. I've replaced several outlets in my house, but I've never seen this wiring before. My new replacement outlets have four connectors - two hot and two neutral - and this is what I'm used to dealing with. Instead, this old failing outlet has eight push-in style connectors, and there are three hot wires and three neutrals already connected.
Can I use my standard four-connector outlet to replace this one? If so, how do I wire it? Can I take the three hots and wire cap them together, along with one extra pigtail for the outlet, then do the same with the neutrals?
This is not a switched outlet, btw.
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wrote:

I lucked out and quickly identified a failing outlet in the chain. Just by jiggling my voltage tester in the receptacle slots, the rest of the lights and outlets in the chain flickered on and off. I have a bunch of new replacement outlets, so I set out to replace this one and ran into a new question.
There are three runs of Romex heading into this outlet box, and they're all connected to this receptacle. I've replaced several outlets in my house, but I've never seen this wiring before. My new replacement outlets have four connectors - two hot and two neutral - and this is what I'm used to dealing with. Instead, this old failing outlet has eight push-in style connectors, and there are three hot wires and three neutrals already connected.
Can I use my standard four-connector outlet to replace this one? If so, how do I wire it? Can I take the three hots and wire cap them together, along with one extra pigtail for the outlet, then do the same with the neutrals?
This is not a switched outlet, btw.
As long as it's not switched, or half switched, pigtails is exactly what you do.
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RBM wrote:

Pigtails will work, if there is enough room in the box. If not, you can extend the box out (if the people in the house will accept that ugliness), or cut it out and replace it with a larger 'old-work' box. The extra romex probably feeds the ceiling light or hall light. Most electricians try to lay out wire runs to avoid a 3-way connection, because they are a PITA. Nobody else said it, so I will- you don't have aluminum wiring, do you? I've never personally seen an outlet for use on copper with 8 backstab holes.
And like most people on here keep saying- ignore the backstab holes and use the screws.
-- aem sends...
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wrote:

If there was enough room in the box to begin with, there is enough with pigtails.
or cut it out and replace it with a larger 'old-work' box.
You're not getting a nail on box with 3 cables in it, out of the wall without making a hole larger than the box, at which point, you're better off using something like a "smart box"

We do?, that's news to me, and totally ridiculous.
Nobody else said it, so I will- you don't have

Since you are not an electrician, why would you?

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You can, in fact, get a nail in box out of it's own wall opening with the patient use of a Sawzall blade handle and a fine toothed metal cutting blade. If the box is metal you cut up the side. If it is plastic you cut across the top and the bottom. Sectional boxes can be pried apart at the back seams by using an old screw driver. You can then remove the parts one by one. It does take considerable time and patience but it is doable. -- Tom Horne
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I would say from what is described;.yes.
And the method you describe using wire connector nuts with more easily managed pigtails to the outlet being replaced sounds fine. Proper size wire-nuts and make sure they are tight connections. Because those connections are carrying the total load of whatever i plugged in further downstream on that circuit.
Circuit-wise; seems as though you have live and neutral pair coming and connected to the outlet; a live and neutral daisy-chained to the next item (outlet) on that circuit and another pair branching off to something else or another run of daisy chained items?
Live is often black and goes on the brassy looking connection. Neutral often white and connects to the shiny whitish connection of each outlet.
BTW make sure the ground is connected to the metal box and/or the outlet and is also connected/extended through to the other branches.
Your idea of using pigtails avoids trying to stuff back into the wall box a whole bunch of at least six stiff wire fastened to back of the new outlet and possibly straining or cracking it! Some electricians will recommend that for all outlets other will say it is required under certain electrical codes; which do differ slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
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stavros wrote:

For this one location, get a different outlet. The newer ones have a clamping plate activated by the screw instead of the wire wrapped around the screw (it's name escapes me, I want to say 'breast' but that's probably not right).
Here's another hint: Turn the outlet over. If your grounding plug was down, orient the grounding plug up on the new one. This serves as a visual clue as to which outlets remain as back-stabbed.
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It would be helpful to know what was being used on the affected circuit at the time the breaker tripped. It would also be helpful to know exactly how many lights and outlets are affected, and their locations. You want to start with the easiest possibilities first, which may be that another breaker is tripped as well. The breaker handles don't always move to the tripped position, so you'd either have to turn everyone off then on, or open the panel and check each with a voltage tester.
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In article

My guess is that there was some kind of a failure that caused a short circuit from hot to neutral or ground. The consequence was that the short cleared but left an open circuit. ]
I presume that you have at least one multimeter that will allow you to track down some possible problems. Check which outlets on the string are energized. Realize that the hot could be energized but that the neutral is open. Check the hot (narrower slot) to both neutral and ground. If you have long enough leads, you can check for continuity from socket to socket. BE SURE TO OPEN THE BREAKER SO YOUR METER AND YOU ARE SAFE.
My guess is you will be able to see damage by inspection if your meter localizes the problem somewhat.
Bill
--
Private Profit; Public Poop! Avoid collateral windfall!

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On 8/23/2009 7:33 AM stavros spake thus:

Hard to diagnose at a distance, not knowing all the details of your place. Several possibilities:
o There's another breaker somewhere in that circuit controlling the devices that are still out. Strange, shouldn't be there, but anything is possible.
o There's a break in the wiring ahead of the devices that are still out, or an intermittent connection. Unlikely unless there are accompanying sizzling and popping sounds (arcing). Potentially dangerous.
o There'a a GFCI outlet somewhere in the chain that's tripped, with the other devices that are still out downstream of it.
More details?
--
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism

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On Sun, 23 Aug 2009 12:17:43 -0700, David Nebenzahl

Gee. A back stabbed outlet failed. Surprising. No?
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Yes it's surprising. All of the production home builders swear by those profit increasing, er I mean, price reducing innovations. They could not possibly have anything in mind but the customers best interest could they. UL labs have certified that they are very unlikely to burn your home down or kill you by electrocution. Why isn't that enough for you? You don't mean you actually expect the receptacle to be suitable for its intended use in addition to all of those wonderful features do you. What are you some kind of Communist? Man oh man some people are never satisfied! You say you can deliver 100,000 board feet of lumber for five cents less. Who do I have to assassinate? -- Tom Horne
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Faulty back-stabbed outlet identified and replaced. No electrocutions, no fires. Wife happy, everything under control. Thanks to all for the advice!
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