Problems with an electrical outlet and dish network receiver

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Hello all,
This is the first time I have posted to this group and please excuse any information in my post that may be inaccurate or lacking detail as I am VERY inexperienced in electrical wiring.
Now to my problem...
Yesterday I had Dish Network come to my house to install satellite in my house. Every thing was going smoothly through the rewiring of the Coax cabling (this was of an older variety and needed to be replaced to support the satellite signal.) After all the wiring and the dish was mounted, the technician proceeded to install the two receivers. The first one went fine, with no problems and while it was downloading software and guide data, he went to another room in the house to install the second receiver. He plugged in the second receiver into a near by surge protector.
He then needed to adjust the wiring coming into the receiver and when he touched to the receiver box and the wiring on the back got a jolt of electricity. He said that it felt "like the 110V variety" and that the current running through the coax should only be about 16V (I think that is what he said). So he unplugged the unit from the surge protector and made some changes to the cabling and then decided to try pluggin the power cable directly into the wall outlet and it tripped the circuit breaker in the main breaker box.
He said that it was a was possibly a defective unit and went to the truck to get a replacement. He brought this new unit in and hooked up all the cabling prior to hooking up the power. He then tried to plugged the power into the wall outlet and before the plug was even inserted in the wall jack it sparked and left a black area around the screw that holds the face plate on.
We took the receiver box to another room and plugged it in and everything was ok. So we decided to run a heavy-duty extension cord from that outlet to the room where the receiver needed to be hooked up in. This is currently how things are but I would like to rolve the issues for that outlet near the location of the receiver. I do not want a bright orange extension cord running from one room to another.
Here is some general information about the electrical wiring in my house (the little that I know)...
--The house was built in the late '60s or early '70s. --I believe the home inspection stated that some rooms have reverse polarity and/or no ground. --A new service coming into the house and new circuit breaker box was installed prior to me purchasing the house. I was under the understanding that the issue above was corrected when this was done (because this new service/circuit box was another issue flagged on the inspection). --The whole house has finished walls and electrical wiring is not easily accessible.
My questions...
-- Could reverse polarity be the culprit? Or lack of proper grounding? -- How can I test for this in this outlet (and others that may be a problem)? -- If this is a polarity issue, I believe that I can fix this myself. Is there any way to test to make sure that this issue is resolved before I plug the receiver into that outlet so that I do not fry this one too? -- If a professional gets involved, can any one give me a ball park idea of how much charges can be? (for example how much to correct grounding, etc)
Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Bob
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From what you describe it sounds as though a dead short is created when something is plugged into that receptacle. Using a voltmeter I would check each side of the receptacle to ground and to each other.
The fact that you had reverse polarity and lack of a ground on some receptacles prior to the service upgrade leads me to think that maybe those problems have not been resolved. The problem may not be in just one receptacle. I'm wondering if the problem is in the electrical panel.
I don't think that is a good situation for you to get your feet wet learning about wiring. I suggest calling in an electrician. I'm not sure that an exact price can be quoted until the problem(s) are diagnosed. I suppose rates will be from $50. - $150. per hour depending on what part of the country you live.
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I agree that I really do not want to jump in and get my feet wet on something like this. My problem is I'm not sure if my family's budget can take a big bill by calling in a electrician. I realize that this is something that I cannot cut corners on and more than anything safety for my family is the most important thing.
With that said I have done some minor things like replacing some switches, wall outlets, light fixtures, and ceiling fans. However, I have never done anything with the wiring (aside from using existing wiring) or the breaker panel.
Another person replied prior and suggested using an inexpensive tester to test the outlet. Are these testers reliable? If I use one and determine that the outlet is truly wired in reverse polarity, if I were to fix (probably replace) that outlet and ensure that it is wired correctly can I consider this issue resolved or could there potentially be other problems that this kind of tester would not show?
Also, John mentions "Using a voltmeter I would check each side of the receptacle to ground and to each other." I have had some experience with a voltmeter, but when I check each side to the ground versu checking to each other, what results should I expect?
Again, I by all means do not want to cut corners and only "patch" this problem and still have other existing problems, but if this could take care of this issue until I can financially work out having a big expense associated with having a professional come in would be preferred.
Thank you to everyone who has responded, it is greatly appreciated.
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Those radio shack testers work but they cannot tell you the quality of the ground.

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Without additional information at this point I would be concerned that the little polarity tester may burn up in your hand. The fact that there were problems in several places leaves everything in question right now.

On a normal 120 volt receptacle you should have 120 volts between the two vertical slots. The taller slot should be the neutral. Between the hot side and the ground hole you should have 120 volts. Between the neutral slot and the ground hole you might have 0-3 volts.
I am thinking that there is a possibility that you have 220 volts on your receptacle. The fact that the circuit breaker tripped immediately after plugging something in sends up a red flag. Of course anything is possible.
Many years ago I was doing a job in a television editing facility. They used 3 wire bx for all of the isolated ground circuits with the red wire as the grounding conductor. No one before me ever identified the red wire with green tape at each end. Inside the electrical panel was a bunch of red wires on the ground block. I was opening up a receptacle which I had tested to be off and I got bit. The red wire on the isolated ground terminal was hot. Since it was isolated it never created a short. I don't know what happened when someone had plugged something into that receptacle.
It is possible that your grounding conductor for this circuit is diconnected somewhere and possibly the grounding part of the circuit is energized. One more story. A customer calls me and tells me that he gets a shock from his medicine cabinet every time he steps out of the shower. The cabinet was the type with the built in lights. I checked voltage from the medicine cabinet to the water faucet and there was 120 volts. I pulled the medicine cabinet out of the wall and was checking for shorts and continuity everywhere, but could not find anything. I put the cabinet back together and checked voltage again and there was nothing. I thought that I unknowingly fixed the problem. I checked it one more time before getting ready to leave and I had 120 volts again. I traced the wiring back to the light switch in the other bathroom. The ground wire in the switch box from the non-metallic feed was not connected. The circuit left the box as a bx three wire. The bx did not have an anti short bushing in it and was cutting into the switch leg of the three wire. Every time someone turned on the switch in the bathroom everything that was grounded after it was energized.
The reason that I mention bx is because that was a popular residential wiring method in the 60's and 70's.

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Doing electrical work with wet feet is very hazardous.
Bob
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You can buy a simple plug in outlet tester from Home Depot. It's a three prong device which will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly or how it's wired wrong. If the polarity is reversed in the outlet and this man's equipment has the neutral and ground wiring connected together inside his device, it would cause a dead short and trip the breaker when it was plugged in

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RBM wrote:

I'll second the miswired outlet answer.
The OP didn't mention whether the satellite equipment used a two or three wire plug on its power cord. I'd bet it was a three wire plug and some previous bozo managed to get the hot connected to the ground terminal on that weird receptical.
Nor did the OP say whether some other appliance plugged into that weird outlet worked ok or not. A two wire plug device like a table lamp wouldn't be bothered by a hot ground terminal.
What you said is correct, but having the neutral lead tied to ground inside equipment like that is a no-no. On equipment with two blade plugs designers will often have a very high resistance (like 100K ohms) or so connected between neutral and the equipment's chassis to discharge static buildup, this was commonly done with TVs using CRTs which can have 20,000 volt dc anode supplies in them.
I've even seen two bladed wall wart power supplies where you can measure about 100K ohms between the plug blades and the low voltage side.
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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On 20 Feb 2006 08:12:23 -0800, "Bob"

I bet you have no grounds in the wiring method and someone has made a bootleg ground to trick the 3 wire tester. (tying the white to the ground screw) That can end up putting 120v on the ground. With that the bonding of the cable at the Dmark will be your short. It can also kill you.
http://www.iaei.org/subscriber/magazine/06_a/roberts_fig2.gif
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With what you explained above with the "bootleg ground" I assume based on the image you linked to that I should be able to tell that this is the situation if I turn the breaker off and then remove the face plate to the outlet and visually inspecting it for some sort of connection of the white wires being connected to the ground screw of the outlet, correct? If this is the case, what has to be done to correct the situation? If I simply remove the connection of the white wire to the ground screw with it solve my issues? What are the consequences of not having a ground? Again, I'm not looking for a quick fix issue that is still a huge safety concern, but I'm trying to do as much as I can myself before having to invest in seeking the help of a professional. I am also just to learn and get a better understanding of what I am dealing with.
Thank you!
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I still can't get over this. The installer could have had a pacemaker or something.

the picture describes a bit more than your words above. it also includes a wire criss-cross somewhere upstream.
I think you are giving them the benefit of the doubt by not supposing that they tied the black wire to the ground screw...
To be fair we are describing the same condition. I think its more likely though that the Panel is wired properly and the outlet is screwed up completely :)
--
Thank you,



"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
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Bob wrote:

This is probably a reverse polarity outlet. I am assuming your equipment does not have a ground prong? That's why the poor install guy got blasted. I guess some companies don't care about these things. It should be law that any devices that connect to other conductive devices MUST have 3 prong plugs...Anyway, buy a polarity tester from home depot or lowes, etc. and rewire that outlet. Its polarity is reversed. Even if its not, since you know you have some reverse polarity outlets, you need to find and fix them all. Surprised any inspector would pass such a thing. If your receiver has 3 prong plug, then you have both reverse polarity and an open ground. If not then this is one dumbass receiver design.
--
Thank you,



"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
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Nearly all new dishnetwork receivers use 3 prong plugs, primarily because a lot of installers dont ground the coax properly.
You can ask question at: http://www.satelliteguys.us/index.php
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Yes, the receivers have 3 prong plugs.
I am planning on buying one of the outlet testers this evening and testing the outlets on this trouble circuit. I will also probably go ahead and shut off the circuit and pull the face plate off of the outlet and inspect the wiring to see if there is anything unusal such as what was described as a "bootleg ground". If possible I may take a picture and post somewhere and link to it for everyone to take a look at and give some more expert oppinions of my situation. I appreciate everyone's help.
Thanks!
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

If the coax is not grounded properly you have a serious problem. Its a bad idea to ground something thats outside of your house (especially on your roof), by way of something inside your house.
Not agreeing or disagreeing with you, just an observation.
--
Thank you,



"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
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I agree it should be grounded immediately before the coax enters your home and the grounding block should be unified with your main house ground. for a long list of reasons not all are, and this is helped by grounded plugs on all new receivers
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Hallerb has described why electricity should not be coming from coax - if properly installed. That coax earth ground is required by code. Yet many installers either don't know or don't bother to make that earthing connection (that should also connect to breaker box ground). A house built in the 60s or 70s may not have that earthing ground - may only use a cold water pipe. Therefore cable and AC electric may not be sufficiently bonded together. Visual inspection is required - this cannot be measured.
AC electric voltage might be coming from safety ground of AC recpetacle. For example, if receptacle safety grounds are not properly connected to breaker box, then even another shorted and dangerous appliance could put AC electric on that satellite receiver dish. There could be many possible sources of dangerous voltages coming from that AC outlet - if safet ground was compromised. We strongly suspect one thing. Unacceptable AC voltage is probably on the AC safety ground. A voltage that may (only may because we only have a subjective shock - no numbers) trip a circuit breaker if safety ground is then properly connected to breaker box.
That three prong tester would confirm a missing safety ground. Tester can detect defective safety ground, but tester cannot confirm a safety ground is properly installed. Appreicate the limits of that tester.
snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

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Suprisingly home inspectors around here just use the 3 prong tester. it probably catches the worst of the problems
i suspect he has a some reveresed wires, that should show up with the tester
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Yea, this just reminded me of the fact that I lost a router and cable modem due to lightning strike last year. When I checked outside I discovered that the cable installer did not ground the cable line. I told them I wanted my stuff replaced. They came out and repaired the ground within a few days once I told them they were violating rules and endangering my family.
They sent me to a "lawyer" to discuss replacement. I just hung up. If I really wanted replacement I would have sent them to my lawyer...
--
Thank you,



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wrote:

Does this apply to grounding a satellite dish to an outside water faucet?

--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.laughingsquid.com
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