OT Electrical Conundrum

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Don't try to send me off to rec.homerepairs; I don't know anybody over there. I've seen enough good electrical advice here to know somebody will have the answer.
Yesterday I noticed that neither of the bathroom lights worked. Knowing that the lights are on the same circuit as my wife's hair dryer (because the lights dim a little when she fires it up), I deduced that the GFCI breaker had probably tripped. It didn't look tripped, but I flipped it back and forth to be sure.
Still no lights.
I checked the hair dryer receptacle to be sure; no power there either.
Back out to the breaker box with my handy-dandy digital electric tester. The wire lug on the suspect GFCI breaker reads 121.6 volts to the neutral/ground buss.
But still no lights.
I snapped the breaker out of the panel and looked for corrosion or evidence of arcing. Found none. Snapped it back in, but forgot to check the results before moving on to the next step. Left the breaker off.
One of the receptacles has gotten old and tired from plugging/unplugging and doesn't grab the prongs good anymore. It seems to be closer to the panel box than anything else, so I pull that receptacle out of the box to check the feed wire for voltage. Flipped the breaker on and . . . voila! Voltage . . .and lights . . . and hair dryer! Everything works!
Since the receptacle was old and tired and I already had it out of the box, I replaced it and two other elderly and infirm receptacles on the same circuit. Everything works.
Bragged to SWMBO about how much I saved by not calling an electrician. She was unimpressed. Expected no less. Said that's why she keeps me around.
But I don't know what the problem was!
I'm about to go out of town for 2 months, and I know she's gonna flip the switch and find the bathroom stays dark. Then I'll have to pay a repairman for the first time in about 10 years because I won't be there to troubleshoot it.
When our kids were young, SWMBO used to tell them that Dad can fix anything but a broken heart. My reputation is on the line.
What was wrong?
DonkeyHody "In theory, theory and practice should be the same. But in practice, they're not."
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I'm no electrician, but it sounds like a bad connection in that receptacle was keeping the juice from making the rest of the circuit. This would make sense since it was the closes one to the box. Pulling it out of the wall jiggled things enough to work temporarily, and replacing it was the permanent solution.
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Current code requires pigtails if the circuit continues downstream. I'm sure things like this is the reason they don't allow receptacles to be used to continue circuits except GCFI receptacles.
Brian Elfert
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wrote:

I don't think so. Citation, please?
I've just read Article 406, which "covers the rating, type and installation of receptacles, cord connectors, and attachment plugs (cord caps)" [2005 NEC, Art. 406.1] from beginning to end, and I find no such requirement there.
406 also incorporates Article 210 Part III by reference; I don't find it there either.
I'm not going to say it isn't there... but I will say that I've never seen it, and when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it. So: if you say the Code requires this, please cite the article of the Code where the requirement can be found.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) writes:

1999 code: Section 300-13 (b):
In multiwire branch circuits, the continuity of a grounded conductor shall not depend on device connections such as ..., receptacles, etc., where removal of such devices would interrupt the continuity.
=== Looks like it only applies to three+ wire circuits with a shared grounded conductor, not the more typical 12-2NM w/g single branch circuit.
scott
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It sounds like it only applies to the ground conductor itself, not the hot or neutral.
Scott Lurndal wrote:

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No. It says "grounded conductor". That's the neutral. The ground conductor is, in Code parlance, the ground-ING conductor.
I sure wish they'd use the terms "neutral" and "ground" like everyone else does, but they don't, and that's the way it is.

--
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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"DonkeyHody" wrote in message

Simply put, and from your description, most likely just a bad connection in the first receptacle in the run.
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Swingman wrote:

That was my guess too, but I'm unsure about the connection between the breaker and the hot buss. I thought maybe the connection was good enough to show up on the meter, but not good enough to carry the amps needed. However, if the connection there were loose, the load on the circuit would bleed off the voltage downstream of the loose connection, and I wouldn't have 120+ volts on the breaker's wire lug, right??
DonkeyHody
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"DonkeyHody"
the

I doubt that was/is the problem ... but then again, I hire electrical contractors for everything but my own shop needs, so take my advice for what it cost you.
--
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DonkeyHody wrote:

Digital meters have very high input impedance and are notorious for showing "phantom" voltages on circuits that are dead, but adjacent to live ones. The solenoid "Wiggy" testers are popular since they don't have this trait.
BTW, not that you've found one loose connection at a failing receptacle, buy yourself a couple boxes of spec grade receptacles and perhaps switches as well and spend a weekend replacing the old ones and checking and tightening all the connections. Time well spent in improving safety. That bad connection was likely getting pretty warm every time the hair dryer was in use before it finally failed.
Pete C.
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Pete C. wrote:
> BTW, not that you've found one loose connection at a failing receptacle, > buy yourself a couple boxes of spec grade receptacles and perhaps > switches as well and spend a weekend replacing the old ones and checking > and tightening all the connections.
Define "spec grade"<G>.
Every wiring device on the planet is "spec grade", just depends on what is defined as "spec".
Lew
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

I don't need to define it, the electrical manufacturers already have and "spec grade" is stamped right into the devices. HD and Lowe's tend to label the bins "commercial grade" or "industrial grade", but the devices are marked "spec grade". They are vastly better than the $0.50 pieces of junk that I'm surprised are even approved for use.
Pete C.
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Pete C. wrote:
> > I don't need to define it, the electrical manufacturers already have and > "spec grade" is stamped right into the devices.
You're right, we did it and so did all the competitors.
Was and still is a good marketing gimmick.
Lew
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

So you're claiming that there is no difference between the $0.50 garbage and the "spec grade" devices other than the "spec grade" marking? I've compared the two side by side and they are vastly different in quality, particularly contact area and contact pressure.
Pete C.
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Pete C. wrote:
> So you're claiming that there is no difference between the $0.50 garbage > and the "spec grade" devices other than the "spec grade" marking? I've > compared the two side by side and they are vastly different in quality, > particularly contact area and contact pressure.
No, you are missing the point.
As you call it, "$0.50 garbage", am assuming you are referring to residential grade devices, can actually be called "spec grade", the "spec" being "residential".
The term "spec grade" is strictly generic and can be used to define almost any family of devices.
BTW, I'm with you, I wouldn't use the "$0.50 garbage" either.
Next time you need receptacles, take a look at a 5262.
It is back/side wired and designed for the high end industrial market.
Think you might will be happy with it.
Lew
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

I suppose it's like the "blueprinted engine" term, not very meaningful or specific, but with a generally accepted definition indicating built to tighter tolerances.
Pete C.
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

Old horse I guess. When I did my house I did 5252 from P&S. It is labeled specification grade on the box. Side and back wire screw. No wimpy push the wire in buzz and spark connections. They were a few dollars more than the cheap ones but they might last a long time. I do not know how many I used but I guess it added a few hundred dollars in materials. I also used the same spec grade type switches. Maybe overkill like wiring the circuits with 12 guage but oh well. Another 10 years and the mortgage is paid off. I think I will not have to replace any receptacles or light switches by then. Who knows. I first saw those wimpy electrical receptacles and switches when I worked in home construction setting tile and sometimes installed trim or framed. When I got a job in a 80,000 sf building I got to touch quality receptacles. Kind of like using a Bosch sabre saw after using $30 sabre saws. On the other hand friends who had houses built the same time have not replaced receptacles or switches so maybe I wasted money. It would not be the first time.
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Jim Behning wrote:
> Old horse I guess. When I did my house I did 5252 from P&S. It is > labeled specification grade on the box. Side and back wire screw. No > wimpy push the wire in buzz and spark connections.
There are actually 3 grades of receptacles for commercial/industrial work:
5242 (lowest), 5252(medium) & 5262(highest).
After that you get into the really high cotton with 8300 which is hospital grade.
H/G devices are very easy to spot. They have a green dot on the face.
Lew
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

Now you have me curious. But I do not have any electrician friends and do not want to bother a supply house with a "Can I see all three receptacles?" What differs among the three grades? The back wire and clamp was what I wanted along with heavier duty. HD carried them sometimes. I did have to hit a few stores after I emptied out the first store.
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