Some electrical outlets not working

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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Just responding to your dubious posts.
UL is not going to like the fuses you describe.
--
bud--

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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

I carry a neon tester in my shirt pocket. On a 120V circuit it draws somewhat less than 1mA. That is around the edge of what you can feel as a shock. It will light up at much lower currents. One of the reasons I carry it is you can hold one of the test leads and touch the other lead to a wire. If the wire is hot, the neon lamp lights up dimly. That is with the capacitance between me and the 'world' as part of the circuit.
Neon testers can have the same problem as digital meters - they can indicate when there is no real voltage. If my tester indicates there is voltage, if it is not bright I know the indication may not be real.
What is the leakage current for a fuse that is blown - with vaporized metal.
I don't buy that the fuse was "failed - not blown"

Must be a Canadian thing.
--
bud--

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Further investigation is going to be necessary, because last night I did notice that lights were dimming, almost imperceptibly. And not necessarily just the ones on the aforementioned affected outlets.
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wrote:

don't
<Further investigation is going to be necessary, because last night I did notice that lights were dimming, almost imperceptibly. And not necessarily just the ones on the aforementioned affected outlets.>
I thought about this for a while and it's possibly that the flickering is not just in your house, but on the whole local circuit. At night, the power companies continuously adjust the system and you might be seeing the effects of those adjustments. I say that based on the fact that all lights are flickering, not just the one on the bad fuse circuit.
-- Bobby G.
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You probably have an intemittent connection. Because messing with the fuse fixed it once I'd suspect that area first. Your electrician should be able to tighten all the connections where the wire enter and leave the box. If that doesn't solve it then the problem may be in the meter.
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wrote:

are
don't
That's certainly my take on it, but there's always the possibility of "inherent vice." If it were my problem, I'd be examining that fuse with a both an ohm meter and a Dremel tool. I'd probably hook it up to an audible continuity meter with sturdy spring-type battery clamps connected to each end so I could shake it, pound it, put it in the freezer for a while and heat with a heat gun to see what, if anything, allowed current to pass before I sliced it open to see how cooked it was.

That's a very good point. With the high possibility that the fuse holder has metal parts with dissimilar coefficients of expansion, an intermittent based on changing temperatures from a loose connection is a very likely possibility, IMHO.
We had a disposal problem that only showed up in the spring and fall. It would kick off, and then restart, usually when you jiggled the switch. Turned out to be a bad backstab connection that flaked out every time it got suddenly cold outside (the switch and outlet is was linked to were on an outside north-facing wall). Since circuit panels are often located near outside walls and are typically not well insulated, I believe as you do that a loose connection to the fuse could be the real problem here. Especially now that the OP has reported that the lights are still flickering. That's no bad fuse, I'm afraid.
Hopefully the OP will keep us updated . . .
-- Bobby G.
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On Sat, 20 Nov 2010 20:34:53 -0500, "Robert Green"

In this case I'll have to agree. Replacing the fuse did not totally solve the problem, so the fuse was a symptom, not the cause.
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wrote:

don't
I don't know how you can say that without examining the fuse close up. Sounds like it may have crumbled from excessive heating from carrying too much of a load. Only a hands-on inspection will determine that, and it would probably mean cutting open the fuse to determine the failure mode.

Jumpin I would say *exactly* the reverse is true when dealing a lethal entity like 240VAC where a main fuse has failed and with so many other unknowns. Not being concerned enough might lead to a similar set of circumstances where a badly manufactured Chinese replacement fuse FAILS to blow and there's a meltdown as a result. A blown fuse is a warning that something's wrong. Assuming it's just a failed fuse and moving on seems to be bordering on terribly careless. Each to his own, I guess.
FWIW, hearing about a fusebox in a home in this day and age raises an alarm in my head that there's a potential overload situation. While fuse panels of 200A certainly exist, every *residential* fuse panel I've ever seen in the NE USA was a four banger with 15A screw-ins and a 60A total rating. I realize that experience is terribly limited, but regardless, a blown main fuse is not something to take lightly.
I don't know what the rules are up in the "Great White Way" or in other parts of the US, but I assume one of the safety reasons for switching to breakers is that they are much harder to override with pennies or aluminum foil. Not sure what the NEC has to say about installing new 200A service with screw-in fuses in the USA and I certainly know that my limited experience does not even speak for the USA NE - just the houses whose panels I have seen. All I know is when a fuse protecting an entire incoming phase fails, an investigation is warranted to determine the cause. Assuming it's simply a bad fuse is bad troubleshooting.
In this case, caution is especially called for because we just don't have the information necessary from the OP to make a good call. We have no information at all about the daily peak load he's putting on the panel, either. We don't have a picture of the panel with the cover off, which can often tell you what kind of workmanship is involved or if the wiring is shoddy or deteriorating.
I recall seeing one poster here show us a picture of his circuit box with all of the single wires laid out as neatly as the strings of a harp! I had never seen and will probably never again see such incredibly precise work - I wish I could remember the dude's name - when you see workmanship like that, you can usually discount poor wiring - but I digress.
With all the unknowns, it seems far more prudent to raise a caution flag than to give him the green light and say "bad fuse, replace and fuggedaboutit." The part of this that really gives me pause is that he reported that it's an intermittent fault. Yes, fuses, light bulbs and most anything electrical can fail that way, but when a safety device fails, it's far more serious than a light bulb failure. When the fuse protecting an entire leg fails, I consider that especially serious because it can easily indicate too much current is flowing through that leg, something that individual circuit fuses will not catch.

The truth is that we don't know a whit about either of those big IFS in this case. We don't know how well the loads are balanced in the house - many times one leg is bearing much more of the load than the other. That can be simply plugging in space heaters into the "wrong" outlets. In a house with a bigger circuit panel than the feeders dictate, that can happen easily. I've seen more than one "heavy up" that didn't include an appropriate upgrade from the feeder.
All we know here is that one leg of the incoming power lines had an intermittent, not quite completely failed fuse. We know very little else. (Since writing this, the OP has added a post indicating that he's got 200A circuit panel but we don't know if it's really 200A service or a 200A box sitting on 60A feeder lines.) With no ability to go onsite, we've got a barrel full of IFs that raise the caution flag.
Yes, I agree with you that fuses do fail from inherent vice but IMHO *every* fuse failure or circuit breaker pop warrants an investigation to find out what popped it. In this case, I would be looking at the total KWh's used monthly in relation to the size of the panel and also whether the panel was properly balanced with each leg carrying as close to half the load as possible. I'd turn everything in the house on and get out my tong meter to see what branch circuits were carrying in terms of load. I'd visually inspect the outside feeders to make sure they were sized for 200A and not 60 or 100.
IIRC, the panel should be sized so that even if every device in the house is running, the main fuse won't blow. I am not sure that's the case here. We also know fuses fail in multiple ways: in addition to failing intermittently or "popping" correctly in an overload, they can also fail to blow and thus not protect the wiring. That's an extremely hazardous situation.
If the two fuses for each leg are of the same vintage, I would replace both of them if I wasn't going to heavy up the panel and the load appeared to be well-balanced. My best guess, from the limited facts we've been presented, is that the load is too great for the panel and that one leg was carrying a heavier share of the load than the other, causing the fuse on that leg to deteriorate and partially fail.
But in reality, we don't even really know whether the fuse was bad. Replacing a fuse in a loose fuse holder could jiggle bad electrical connections just enough so that the intermittent disappears for a while. We can't know that unless somebody actually checks the dead fuse with an ohmmeter and carefully inspects the connections coming from the pole.
Running a cartridge fuse hot for a long enough time could easily cause serious deterioration. If that leg's overloaded, simply replacing the fuse could lead to tragedy, especially if the bad fuse is replaced with one that doesn't operate at its rated load, but higher than rated. And before you say that's unlikely, consider that you're the one saying we're dealing with a bad fuse to begin with. (-: Who's to say, without an examination, whether that intermittent fuse *should* have opened completely but didn't?
I've seen people ask very "shocking" questions, that indicate a lack of knowledge about electrical work. My favorite is whether it's OK to use a ground as a neutral. These kinds of comments lead me to almost always err on the side of caution when giving advice on the net, especially with things that have the lethality potential of possibly overloaded circuit panel. There's almost *never* enough information given by the OP to make a clear call. That's just the nature of Usenet.
In my limited experience, it's far too common for people to add circuits without thinking about the total load. I'm partially guilty of that crime. I've added the skinny "two in one" breakers to my house that have the potential to overload the main fuse if I run every circuit to capacity. I definitely should have heavied up the incoming feeders to meet code but I added the new circuits not to draw more juice, but to replace the old cloth covered circuits one-by-one with 12/2 romex w/ground and GFCI protection.
I left the all the old circuits in place because they serve porch and overhead lights that would have required major demolition to replace. Now, almost all the large loads like space heaters and window ACs run off 20A grounded circuits. I've got sensors on the incoming feeders that connect to my HomeVision controller to let me know the overall current draw on each phase. I used that information to switch circuits around until they were balanced, at least for the static large loads. I monitor it periodically to ensure the loads have stayed balanced.
I have a lot more breakers than I should, but the overall load has not changed - it's just been redistributed and rebalanced so each leg shares the load as well as I could balance it. The only difference in the overall load occurs at peak cooking times. One of the reasons for the rewire was to add an XTB coupler/repeater/amp for my X-10 stuff, and more importantly, to be able to use the microwave, the toaster oven and the refrigerator in this 70 year old house without blowing a breaker. That's not going to put a strain on the main fuses for each incoming leg because the kitchen outlets are served by different phases, a trick I learned right here in AHR.
Unfortunately, that's not the case in many other installations where there are too many circuits drawing from one phase and overloading it. I don't think replacing a fuse is going to get the OP off the hook. It could still be something like a bad connection to the main feeder in the circuit panel that's heating up and heating the fuse, too. Again, only an on-site inspection will reveal things like that.
I hope the OP continues to post his progress in running the problem to ground. (Electrical pun!) My money's on something other than the fuse being defective. There's something rotten in Denmark (do we even know where the OP lives, BTW?).
-- Bobby G.
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On Sat, 20 Nov 2010 20:04:45 -0500, "Robert Green"

You need a picture of mine? 22 circuits, one of which is a 30 amp 220 pullout, and the other is a 50 amp 220 pullout. Installed in 1978 when the house was built. It also has a fused disconnect for the central AC beside the panel
Other than the garage circuits, which I have blown numerous times with table saw, compressor, and various other "tools of high demand"I've only replaced 2 fuses in 29 years. One of which was DEFINITELY a simple fuse failure, and the second almost definitely (a lighting only circuit with less than 800 watts maximum load on a 15 amp fuse - which has not blown for the second time in more than 8 years.) It was cracked in the "blow zone", the crack not visible to the naked eye
The first fuse, which was intermittent, had failed where the fuse element contacts the threaded shell. The solder didn't fail, so it was not a loose or oveheated fuse - the fuse element just cracked, right next to the soldered joint. If the lights or TV were on for a while they'd start to flicker a bit, then go out. Turn them off for an hour and turn them back on, and they'de work. Being wired with aluminum wire, I checked every connection on the circuit before thinking to replace the fuse. All outlets are now CO-ALR devices. Maximum load at any time during the problem time was less than 300 watts. Max circuit load in previous 15 years or so? Who knows, but in the 8 years I'd owned the house not likely more than 1500 watts or so - back before we got the central vac it had likely run the vacuum a few times. That (replacement) fuse has been there now something like 10 or 12 years.

My panel looks about the same, as did virtually every panel my electrician father ever installed.

It is just as irresponsible to scare the guy into spending big bux to replace what may be a perfectly safe and serviceable fuse panel

Except in the case of cheap chinese automotive mini-fuses I've never seen or had first-hand knowlege of a fuse failing to blow. There was a whole batch of ATO fuses recalled by Princess Auto that were made in China with the element made of too heavy a guage material that would blow on a short circuit, but required over 300% of the rated current, IIRC..
A properly operating fuse does not "blow" as soon as it's rated current is reached. Generally a 25% overload should blow in less than 10 minutes. A 100% overload MAY take up to 4 or 5 minutes to blow the fuse, and still be operating "correctly".
However, a BLOWN fuse, in my experience, is ALWAYS an open fuse, with enough metal melted out of the element to be both obvious and permanently disconnected.
A FAILED fuse, on the other hand, can be failed in such a way as to be visibly impossible to detect, and intermittent.
In a cartrige main fuse, of course, it is impossible to visibly inspect the fuse without dismantling it, although at least in years past, there were some that quite visibly changed colour when blown - and some had neon bulbs in them that glowed when the fuse was blown.
There was a line of pole fuses that also had the neon in them - the hydro crew could tell immediately if the feeder fuse on the pole was blown.

Quite possible - even iff that leg was never over 50 or 60% capacity. A good idea to check the load and load distribution? Most definitely. But don't condemn the panel or the installation without checking it first.

It now appears he still has flickering lights, so there is most likely a bad connection involved.

A whole lot more difficult to do and more unlikely with a fuse panel.
Not quite sure why the fuses with different sized cones, that did not allow a heavier fuse to be installed than the socket was designed for, never caught on. Likely because the American manufacturers took a "not invented here" attitude. (I believe it was a Canadian inovation)

Required by code in Canada - split countertop receptacles.

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<stuff snipped>

to
to
alarm
panels
But bro, you're a *Canadian* (-: They've always done things a little differently. I don't doubt you have a fuse panel, but that doesn't change my experience, which is that fuse panels in the US are typically associated with 60A service and most houses that I have seen that have changed hands even once have had those panels upgraded to get approval for a loan or to be considered insurable.
This site says:
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/electrical-wiring/part1 /
<<Many jurisdictions, particularly in Canada, no longer permit fuse panels in new installations. The NEC does permit new fuse panels in some rare circumstances (requiring the special inserts to "key" the fuseholder to specific size fuses)>>
So while you and others may have them, fuse panels are definitely on their way OUT.
That site also goes on to say:
<<Fuses are prone to explode under extremely high overload. When a fuse explodes, the metallic vapor cloud becomes a conducting path. Result? From complete meltdown of the electrical panel, melted service wiring, through fires in the electrical distribution transformer and having your house burn down. [This author has seen it happen.] Breakers won't do this.>>

Gack! You've got TWO items that are no longer considered codeworthy. Aluminum wire and perhaps the last fuse panel installed in Canada. (-:

aluminum
panels
phase
it's
can
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work -

I don't doubt that, but most panels I've looked into don't.

most
it's
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No, I don't think so. If fuse panels were as safe and reliable as you've been portraying them, then why aren't they allowed in new service? It's because they have serious safety issues compared to breaker panels. "Safe and serviceable" is hard to evaluate without seeing the box but we already have good reason to believe there's something very wrong with it since a new fuse didn't cure the flickering.
I also base my comments on the fact that I've never seen a screw in fuse panel in all the new homes I've every looked at and I bought my first house in 1984 and my parents bought several houses before that. The NEC decided against fuses, and I'll bet those reasons are safety related. I assume the primary reason is that fuses are too easy to bypass with higher-than-proper rated fuses, pennies or foil. I assume a secondary reason is that when they are unscrewed you can get shocked a lot more easily than when a breaker trips. A tripped breaker has no potential exposure to electrical current. More reasons? Fuses may not be screwed in completely and thus make intermittent contact.

We know none of those things. Another site says this about fuse panels and why they've disappeared from new home wiring:
<Old style distribution panels, those with screw-in fuses are generally considered fire hazards. The contact between the base of the fuse and the buss bar oxidizes or charcoals from poor contact. In order for the current to continue to flow heat is generated. In many areas, insurance companies will not renew homeowner insurance if the home is equipped with an electrical distribution panel that has screw-in fuses. . . .Electrical panels typically last 20-25 years. Sure signs of a failure in your electrical panel are flickering lights and excess heat at the circuit breakers.>
Well, our OP certainly has experienced the flickering lights part.
Source: http://www.allstarelectric.us/electricalpanelupgrades.html

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Well, explain why they're no longer going into new work if what those sites are saying is true. The NEC wouldn't abandon a successful technology for absolutely no reason, would they? (-:
As I am researching this, I keep seeing comments like this:
http://www.walleyecentral.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-152904.html
"I need to update the old screw-in fuse box on my cabin to modern breakers per my insurance company. What should I expect to pay for a 100 amp service upgrade? Wiring is modern 3-wire system, but for some reason, they never upgraded the fuse box."

both
be
presented,
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If the guy had flickering lights throughout the house, there's good evidence the panel isn't working properly.

Those are Type S fuse receptacles that used different threads on each value of fuse, making it impossible to substitute the wrong size. I had them in this house when it had a 60A fuse panel. Different color fuses, too.
Since we're now >>>>>> six quotes in, we're just kicking the football around now. It will be interesting to see what the final resolution of the problem will be, but I am betting it's going to end in a panel upgrade.
http://www.city-data.com/forum/renting/974108-fuse-boxes.html
says: "I've upgraded a number of panels from fuse to circuit breakers because some Insurance Companies will no longer insure with fuses."
http://ezinearticles.com/?Upgrade-Your-Home-Electrical-System !&id$69061
"In California, if a home is equipped with an electrical distribution panel that uses screw-in fuses, many insurance companies will not renew homeowner insurance."
It really seems that I am not the only one who believes that fuse panels should be replaced with breakers. Apparently the people that have to pay out for electrical fires do, too.
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote:

Breakers can explode under extremely high overload. They can cause the same arc flash and burn down.
If you have a solid short at a panel, the current is the "available fault current". (For a house service it is likely 5,000 - 10,000A).
Electrical apparatus, particularly fuses and breakers, has a rating for the "available fault current" of the source. If you use a fuse or breaker (or motor starter...) at a point where the available fault current is higher than the rating for the fuse or breaker it can explode.
Fuses are readily and cheaply available for circuits with available fault currents of 200,000A. Breakers are not readily or cheaply available with that rating.
If apparatus is applied within its rating - current, voltage, available fault current - it doesn't explode. The NEC requires apparatus be used withing its rating - including available fault current. I expect the "site" knows nothing about this.
--
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wrote:

<Problem solved. Contractor's estimator checked everything, double-checked the fuses and discovered a main fuse that was bad. Replaced it and solved the problem.>
For now. The failure of just one leg, at least in my limited experience, could indicate that you're drawing too many amps through one leg of the box in total, or that you've got some other intermittent problem in the box itself. Simply replacing the fuse may mean it will happen again in the very near future. What was the rating on the fuse? What are the ratings of the four screw-in fuses?
-- Bobby G.
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