Electrical current disappeared - why?

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Hi,
Can anyone tell me why the current to a single-pole wall toggle switch that controls a ceiling track lighting assembly would suddenly go from normal strength (lights working properly) to just a trickle (lights not illuminating) even though no electrical work of any kind had been done in the suite recently and the breaker is at the "on" position?
Thanks in advance for your replies, Darro
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Darro wrote:

Hi, Maybe the switch has gone bad. It can happen.
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Bad connection or failed use of "back-stabbed" recepticals in one of many preceeding daisy-chained outlets in the circuit.
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Not sure what is meant by 'just a trickle' (how was it measured?). Domestic electrcity is not like water etc. it's either on or off.
The best test is using a regular light bulb, not a test meter which can pick up stray induced voltages. If electricity is leaving the circuit breaker, with it in the on position, is it reaching the switch?
If it is and goes through the switch (again using the light bulb), then there may be break or fault in the neutral or return path to the circuit breaker panel. The neutral path and wiring does not (in North American practice) go through the switch!
If not familiar with electricity get someone who is to trouble shoot it. Agree it could very easily be bad connections, cheap components such as switches, outlets or light fixture that have just got tired/ deteriorated.
Could be simple problem but on occasion time consuming to find. Takes an hour, plus time coming to location to find a damaged 75 cent item. Time finding problem, one hour. Time to fix problem five minutes.
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On Sat, 26 Sep 2009 08:22:38 -0700 (PDT), stan

As I understand it, that's a problem with digital meters and with analog vacuum tube meters and FET VOMs (neither of which are likely to be found anymore), all of which have impedances of 11.1Megohms/volt, or thereabouts. But with a cheaper analog meter the impedance is 50,000 ohms per volt, a sufficient load that stray voltages are dissipated by the meter and so they don't show up in the meter reading.
The cheap needle meters sold at Home Depot and Radio Shack, and better meters sold at yard sales are 50,000 ohms/volt and that's marked on the white faceplate.

I agree with all this.
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mm wrote:

Hi, 50K Ohm/V DC analog meter is damn good at their time! If it were on AC scale I don't recall I ever saw one.
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You seldom see a 50K/V DC meter. Most were 20K/V DC and 5 K/V AC. Maybe the other fellow added an extra 0. Some were around 1 K/V DC that were mostly for electrical work and not electronic work. Those would probably be even beter for use by most home owners.
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Ralph Mowery wrote:

Yup, I am electronics back ground from vacuum tubes to SMT, nano tech. Still have old Simpson 260. Fluke, Triplett 650 VTVM for my RF work. Variac, old analog scope Tek, tube tester, frequency counter,etc. I use them all the time. Still go on the air chatting in Morse code. I am an old fart, LOL! Now most work I do for fun is fixing vintage guitar amps for my son and his music buddies. I wish I could play electric guitar or bass. I am a life time low brass guy. Still play in a local concert band.
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Tony Hwang wrote:

Do you have a high voltage probe to attach to your 260 for measuring CRT voltages? I think I have one some where. One day I'll inventory all the tools I have and probably find things that I thought were long lost.
TDD
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On Sat, 26 Sep 2009 20:50:56 -0400, "Ralph Mowery"

Maybe that was it. Maybe I just saw 50,000 in some later year. It's hard to remember. Of course I have almost everything I've ever owned, mostly in the basement, so I'll try to remember to check and get back to you guys.
And yes, there was a seperate value for AC, but somehow that never came up in conversation, and I forgot. Thanks.

It's something I read once or more times, or someone told me once or more. No one was trying to make money on me. :)

They still sell cheap needle meters at HD and RS, probably just one model at each, (and probably expensive ones too somewhere.)
http://www.imarketcity.com/poanmuwibach.html Six dollars. A slim analog you can count on. Wrapped test leads, 6 function,14 ranges and battery tester.
Specification: * DCV: 10 - 25 - 50 - 500V * ACV: 50 - 250 - 500V * DCA: 25mA - 250 mA * Battery: 1.5 / 9V Check * R: x10 - x1k * Battery: 1.5V AA * Accuracy: +/- 5% F.S. * Size: (inches) 2.5x3.9x1.3 * Weight: (Lbs) 0.28
Advantage: * Mirrored scale reduces errors to parallax * 14 versatile ranges with competitive price * Ideal for shop, home, boat ,car, office and school ===>* 2K Ohm / V DC/AC sensitivity * Recessed input terminals for safe use * Fuse & Diode protection
Package Content: Test leads included Warranty : 1 years
*** Click to go back to Analog Meter Section to see more ***
*** Click to go back to Multi-meter Section to see more ***
DG668Regular price: $6.00 Sale price: $6.00, 3/$16.50 but it doesn't say how much shipping is.
If the Shipping & Handling charge appears as $5.00 or lower, It is not valid - Please continue the order and i-Market will contact you to update the Shipping & Handling charge before the order is processed.
I hate this crap, and many vendors tell you the shipping right upfront.
That Google Products someone here showed me is pretty cool.
http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/producte/10001/-1/10001/357690?&cid=chanintel&ci_src 110944&ci_sku57690 20 dollars.
These are new designs, they didn't have 10 or 20 years ago. I wonder who they make them for. Who uses most cheap analog meters. Perhaps, non-Amerians?
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mm wrote:

I have a RS analog about 30 years old that functions about as well as a Simpson 260. I can't remember whether I built it from a kit. It's 50kohm/25kohm DC and 10kohm/5kohm AC.

Have you ever forgotten to turn off a DMM? It doesn't matter with a VOM (unless you drop it).
If you normally use a DMM for resistance, you can remove the batteries from a VOM. It will always be ready and there will be no danger of leaky batteries.
You leave a VOM in place to monitor a circuit indefinitely. The wrong needle position can be easier to spot than the wrong digits.
A VOM can provide a second opinion on a DMM reading, such as stray AC.
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wrote:

Good list. This one especially. Heck, I have a phone machine on the side of my desk facing the door, but I walk right by it all the time, even if the light is flashing and I have a message. A needle in a different is far easier to spot than an 8-segment number, all of which have the same shape but some have different segments lit.

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E Z Peaces wrote:

For straight electrical work, I recommend a Wiggy.
http://tinyurl.com/dk7mh3
TDD
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The Daring Dufas wrote:

Like a VOM set for AC, a Wiggy will detect either AC or DC. A Wiggy will work even for blind electricians.
However, if the voltage is below a threshold or the impedance is too high, a Wiggy will tell you the circuit is dead when there may be dangerous voltage. Also, a Wiggy draws enough current to overheat if you aren't quick.
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E Z Peaces wrote:

I've never had a Wiggy overheat. The fact that it will put a slight load on a circuit is a good thing. Stray voltages don't distract you.
TDD
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E Z Peaces wrote:

I'll have to dig out the specs on my Beckman 310. I could use the AC function to see audio at a pre-amp level. A lot harder to stare at the digital readout then an analog VOM, but it could catch a glitch in a +5VDC line that was too fast to budge the needle on a VOM. And even if it is so sensitive, if the simple light bulb load was left in the circuit it could certainly be used to troubleshoot problems as in this thread. We sure are a long way from the OP aren't we?
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Tony wrote:

I still have a Micronta DMM from about 1977. Two drawbacks were that it measured only volts, ohms, and milliamps; and it would deplete a 9V battery pretty fast. It's still useful because it's accurate at least to 20kHz, and sometimes I need several meters at once to see what's happening.
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I am going thru this same situation. I have 2 outdoor lamp posts wired in series that went dead. My cheap little 2-wire test lamp will light up at either post, but when i wire up a working lamp, it does not. I have concluded i have an underground short and the wire must be replaced. So whats the consensus on that? i'd love to know before i start trenching...
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mike_0 snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Lamp posts should be wired in parallel. A short would trip the breaker.
Weren't the bulb sockets already wired? Is it an incandescent test lamp? (If it's neon, it could be glowing from "phantom voltage.")
With no bulb in the socket, does your test lamp glow when connected between the terminals of the socket? Does it fail to glow with a bulb in the socket? If the test lamp didn't glow, I'd go to the house and check the beginning of the cable for voltage. If there's voltage at one end but not the other, there must be high resistance somewhere between.
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ok sorry if i confused the issue by saying they are wired in series. i guess i don't know what that means.
what i have is underground wire buried from house to lamp post #1, and a then another underground wire from there to lamp post #2.
I remove lamp1 from the top of the post and put power to the wire leading to lamp2, and lamp2 lights. so i figure that wire is fine.
power from house to lamp1, no light, but small test light works. I believe test light is incandescent.
i put a working 60watt light on the INSIDE end of wire1, and power to the lampost end, and the light did not light. Same thing with the 60w light outside.
I don't feel i'd be a fool to start digging. I DO plan to dig at the base of post first, hoping to find a broken wire..
and - the connection inside the house is to a GFI protected outlet that is working and has power.
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