# Electrical problems

Page 1 of 2
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:15 pm
So I was on the computer, then all of a sudden I hear BOOM, like an circuit breaker tripping, and everything went quiet. The computer was off.
I took a peek in the electrical panel, but no circuit breakers had tripped. Odd, I thought. But I still didn't have electricity to my computer.
I did some investigating, and it seems the bathroom light, and two outlets are dark. That's it. Nothing else. Also, with a voltmeter I checked each circuit breaker. I thought maybe one of them had broken, but was left in the ON position. I took my voltmeter, and checked the voltage of each wire going to the circuit breakers against the neutral. All came up as 120 V. And when I would turn off any one of the circuit breakers, the meter showed 0 V. So it wasn't that.
But still, I have no electricity. What could be the issue? Any suggestions?
Other oddball ideas that came to my mind was that maybe those particular outlets and lights were connected to my neighbor's circuit. Could this be, or is it totally out of the question?
Actually the room where the dead outlets are has one outlet that works. Also the light is on in that room. Weird, I thought all the outlets in a room would be in the same circuit. And the bathroom, which has no light now, has a working outlet also.
I'm pretty much at my wits end, and probably will have to get an electrician. But maybe someone would have any experience of a similar situation, before I call one to turn a circuit breaker or twist a knob.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:18 pm
Oh yeah, as a clarification, I live in a condo, if that wasn't clear from the post.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:24 pm

You know how to safely chack the main panel but not outlets and everything else? Trollin.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:27 pm

Look around for a GFI.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:30 pm
On 5/7/2008 4:15 PM Mikko Peltoniemi spake thus:

Some questions that I assume others would want answers to as well:
o You said "BOOM", but that's not a sound that circuit breakers normally make. What kind of sound did you actually hear when the power went off?
o Any chance that there's a GFCI (ground-fault protected) outlet somewhere in your house that tripped? It's possible that your computer outlets are connected downstream of that outlet, on the "load" side, and that's why the breakers are all on but you don't have power. (It probably shouldn't be wired that way, but it does happen.)
o If what you said you did to check your breakers is accurate, in that they all seem to be powered on, then there seem to be 2 possibilities:
1) There's another panel somewhere with more breakers in it, and one of them is tripped.
2) There's been some damage to a circuit, resulting in partial disablement of that circuit. Could be a blown wire inside a junction box, etc.
Sounds as if you would do well to get a licensed electrician to look at things.
--
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute
conversation with the average voter.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:40 pm

Circuits for general lighting are rarely done room by room, so it would be perfectly normal to have some lights and outlets working and some not, in the same room. If you heard a pop or "boom" it was probably a short circuit. This should have tripped a breaker, but clearly broke the electric connection somewhere along that circuit. The wiring is daisy chained between lights and outlets on that circuit, so you would be looking for the last live outlet or the first dead outlet on the chain. Not knowing how the chain is run, may require the help of an electrician. I doubt it is a matter of flipping a switch, although it is undoubtedly an easy repair once the location of the problem is found.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 7, 2008, 11:43 pm
Mikko Peltoniemi wrote:

Turn off the circuit breaker. Test other outlets. Find the one that's now off but comes on when you energize the circuit breaker.
This is probably the culprit. Call is "SUSPECT." That is, SUSPECT is live, but everything downstream is dead.
Wires go from the circuit breaker dot-dot-dot to SUSPECT. From there, wires are SUPPOSED to go to the remaining outlets on the string. Odds are the wires connecting SUSPECT to everything else have a fried connection.
If the wires on SUSPECT (or to the next downstream outlet) are connected with stab-in connectors, they've probably made a bad connection, current increased, and the resulting heat melted something in the outlet.
Fix is easy. Replace the outlet that's at issue. Don't use the stab-in connections.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 12:53 am
Mikko Peltoniemi wrote:

Follow the BOOM. I would suspect a backstabbed contact on an upstream outlet burned its way open after intermittent contact arcing.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 1:13 am
Bob wrote:

Ok. I think that'll be the last thing I do before calling an electrician. It wasn't a loud boom really, was it was definitely audible. And yes, there is a GFI, in the bathroom, which is live.
I didn't think of the outlets being daisy chained, but yeah, if only I knew which way the wire goes, I would know which is the last working outlet...
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 2:41 am
Mikko Peltoniemi wrote:

--
The e-mail address in our reply-to line is reversed in an attempt to
minimize spam. Our true address is of the form snipped-for-privacy@prodigy.net.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 9, 2008, 2:50 am

Probably more a Crack or Pop? Just as a glimmer of hope. Running a shop vac once. On, off, on, off. Worked fine. Then off, then on, then crack/pop. some outlets off. Turned out an outlet between the one I was using and the breaker had a crud terminal and it finally arc'd out.
The thing that drove me nuts is I wasn't habitually familiar with the house yet.I traced, disco'ed outlets, tested and everything. Can not find it. OK, leave it for now. Lots of other fish to fry in HUD Wreck. One day I move a piece of drywall I had standing against a narrow wall for a later task. Oh lookie here. An outlet. Do ya think it was the culpret?
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 9, 2008, 2:59 am

Ooops. I see in another part of the thread is the details. By bad.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 12:59 am
On Wed, 07 May 2008 19:15:27 -0400, Mikko Peltoniemi

into the wire.
You should check closely in the bathroom. Bathrooms have GFCI receptacles. They have a reset button on them.

lost power.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 1:28 am
Since you have a voltmeter check the hot to ground voltage on the outlets in case it is a bad neutral. Most likely a bad connection where the wires are backstabbed into the outlets. These are always less reliable than using the screws on the side.
If you comfortable doing it, turn off the power to the appropriate outlets and pull them out and look for problems. Remember if the connection feeding and outlet is bad, the outlet may seem to be off but the breaker feeding it still could be on.
Always wear sneakers, leather gloves and safety glasses (in case a wire arcs, which can spit hot copper) just to be sure.
If there are wire nutted connections these may need to be tightened. Be careful and methodical and you should be able to fix the problem
wrote:

<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 2:03 am
Jeff wrote:

Yes, this helped a lot. Since I didn't know for sure, I guessed to possible ways of the wire coming in. Meaning, I had two possible last good outlets. So I went to one of them, and it turned out to be a bad connection in that.
Actually, it turned out to be a bad connection next to the GFI outlet, which was still working. Who would've known that all the power to my computers was actually going through the bathroom...
But in any case, it was a nutted connection, which was loose, so I tightened it, and lo and behold, everything's working again.
I guess I didn't need an electrician to turn the screw.
Oh yeah, and thanks for the safety tips. I've been shocked enough when I was young and curious and taking everything apart, that I know I don't want that again. ;)
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 3:09 am
On 5/7/2008 7:03 PM Mikko Peltoniemi spake thus:

When you have the electrician come over, you might want to have them fix that situation. I had a customer with a similar situation; their bathroom outlet went out, along with the lights in their garage. Turned out to be a GFCI outlet in the outside of the garage with all those things wired downstream of it, which made no sense.
It's a very simple fix.
--
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute
conversation with the average voter.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 10:59 am

Actually, it makes perfect sense. Depending upon the date when the house was built, and the electric codes at that time. The most economical (cheap) method of wiring the required GFCI protected outlets was to run the fewest required circuits, to the fewest required GFCI devices. Kitchen circuits, when first required were within 6 foot of the sink, and 20 amp, but most other circuits were general lighting circuits, so it was common to find the required GFCI outlet in the garage, next to the breaker panel feeding the outside outlets and all the bathroom outlets, and if the circuit wasn't to taxed, it may feed a few more lights or outlets

<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 12:59 pm

Whenever I hear a BOOM (like a bomb blast) I know the whole neighborhood goes down without power, either mine or another neighborhood down stream on another feeder. That BOOM comes from an adjacent substation tripping a high voltage, high current circuit breaker. So breakers do go BOOM, just not the little house breakers.
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 8, 2008, 10:28 pm
Frank wrote:

Since all it turned out to be was a loose wire, I can only assume the boom that I heard was actually a door slamming. That door slam then rattled the wire just enough to become undone, and thus breaking the circuit...
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
• posted on May 9, 2008, 2:58 am

How bout some more details. Loose wire in a light, outlet? Another notorious back-stabbed outlet?