P > My lights started acting weird a few weeks ago. Sometimes they would work,
P > other times not. Then the other day most of them just quit working. I can't
P > afford an electrician so I have to figure this out myself, and I have no
P > clue where to begin.
The working/not working would indicate an intermittant connection
somewhere. The lights worked when the connection was present, didn't
when the fault opened. May have been temperature-related: worked when
The 'trick' is to figure out where the fault is. What is the 'common
point' to the problem? All the lights don't work, so you don't need
to look at the individual lights but rather a common point such as the
wall switch controlling the lights (assuming the lights are controlled
by a common switch in this example). A $10 voltmeter can be a handy
tool, though at a switch the white wire can either be a switched black
or the neutral. (Refer to other sources for explaination.)
P > The wiring in my house is strange. There is a circuit breaker box outside
P > and a fusebox in a closet with two rows of four fuses. The top row has thre
P > fuses in it - the last one on the right is empty - and the bottom row has
P > two fuses, one on each end is empty, and of the two that exist, one has
P > "ref." written below it, so I assume that means refrigerator. None of the
P > fuses are burned out.
Are the fuses still being used? Don't assume anything when "playing"
with electricity -- just because the fuse is marked "ref" doesn't mean
it still goes to the refrigerator. Test and be certain!
It is possible the fuse isn't making contact -- we had that problem
occasionally when we had fuses here. Try screwing in a little
tighter. You can also test if there's "output" from the fuse with the
voltmeter. Open the fuse panel, black lead to the output of the fuse
(wire to the rest of the house) and white lead to ground. You should
also check to see if there are any loosened wires inside. (Personally
I would pull the main cartridge fuse when I'm doing this.)
P > At the circuit breaker box there are 8 switches, all I know about them is
P > that one turns off my water pump at the well, another was for the electric
P > water heater before I changed to gas.
Would be a Good Thing to have a sheet of paper indicating what fuse /
circuit breaker does what. Tape to the panel, inside the cover,
whichever is convenient.
P > In Oct. 2001 a light switch went bad in the kitchen, and after that, none o
P > the outlets in the whole house were live except for one inside a kitchen
P > cupboard where the refrigerator is plugged in. The ones inside and outside
P > the well house also worked, and the electric water heater also worked.
P > For almost a year I lived with that situation because I could not afford an
P > electrician and had no idea how to fix it myself. I just made do with
P > extension cords. Then a friend offered to wire some new outlets for me,
P > without a labor charge, and so of course I agreed. All the new wiring is
P > visible, tacked to the walls and ceiling, as are the new outlets.
<shudder> Better than extension cords but it's going to be 'fun'
trying to sell the place!
P > He ran Romex from the fusebox and made an outlet in the closet, and from
P > there to a light in the bathroom, and next to a switch for the porch light,
P > then it splits, with one wire to an outlet in the living room and the other
P > to an outlet in the bedroom.
P > So, not counting the refrigerator and well house outlets, a total of three
P > outlets and two light switches worked, until a few days ago.
P > I don't see a burned fuse. The outlet in the closet *does*
work, but the
P > next thing down the line, the bathroom light, does not. I took the cover of
P > the light to see what I could see, but I have no idea what to look for.
Loose connections, black marks indicatng arcing. Just because an
outlet or light is next to another outlet or light does not
automatically mean they are on the same circuit.
P > One further thing I should mention about my friend's wiring job: When I
P > plug my surge protector into any of the three new outlets he made, the
P > little red ground fault indicator light comes on. It doesn't do that when
P > plugged into the refrigerator or well house outlets.
Probably indicates the ground (bare or green) wire is not connected to
the house ground somewhere. WIth that condition your surge protector
is nothing more than a fancy outlet strip.
Continued in next message.
* A memo from the Department of Redundancy Department files
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