A few days ago I wrote about the problem with 134V at the outlet. I thought
it might be the ground so I added a couple 8' rods, but that was not it. I
looked up at the power pole, and there I could see the neutral conductor was
completely broken off! I called Southern California Edison and they sent a
guy out within an hour. All fixed by the power company! Shared neutral
outlet pairs now read 118V/123V. The neighbor's bamboo trees sway against
the power wires when it gets windy.
Yes, I noticed that when I plugged things into one outlet the appliances
were kind of wimpy, and when I plugged into the other outlet, the appliances
would work on turbo-boost. When I would turn something on that had a big
load, the aquarium lights would appear brighter. This led me to check the
I encountered something very similar a few years ago. My wife commented
that the lights were getting brighter and dimmer at times. I then
noticed when something like the refrigerator turned on or off this would
happen. I went to the circuit breaker box and found that the input
phase voltages were changing, one being high and the other low. Called
the power company and they found a very scorched piece of about #4
Aluminum wire in a distribution box. The neutral was open and my house
was using the copper ground stake as a return.
They said that Aluminum is still very common in large distribution wires.
My sisters house had a similar problem. When "things" would turn on
and off the lights would flicker a lot. Not everything, just some
things, like the refrigerator. I went thru her fuse box and found
that one of the large neutral wires had been put into the bar but the
screw never tightened. That got rid of the problem.
Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts:
"What, sir, is the use of militia? It is to prevent the
establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. . .
Whenever Government means to invade the rights and liberties of
the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order
to raise a standing army upon its ruins." -- Debate, U.S. House
of Representatives, August 17, 1789
I recall reading that post a few days back. It's always nice to see
followups so we know what happened.
You are a lucky guy. You could have lost considerable appliances and
light bulbs. Your grounding system saved your ass. Be sure to thank
I had this exact same thing happen in a garage We had separate feed
and panel in that garage, which came directly off the meter. On the
side of the garage at the service head, the neutral came apart at the
crimp (tree smashing against the wires in wind storm). When I went in
the garage the lights were either real dim or real bright. I plugged
in a small power tool and the lights went out, and the tool ran real
slow. Then I noticed a puff of smoke rise from a portable ac powered
radio. Then my air compressor flipped on, and all hell broke loose.
The compressor ran slow and would not start the motor. At the same
time several compact florescent bulbs literally went up in smoke, my
cordless drill battery charger fried, several other lightbulbs died,
my hand tool went from too slow to too fast and that died too.
I shut off the main breaker and soon found the open neutral and fixed
it (trimmed tree too). When it was over, every light bulb was dead,
some of the compact flor. bulbs were charred, the radio and electric
drill were dead along with the battery charger. The compressor and
one light bulb survived. This could have been much worse in a home
where there are many more appliances and electronics.
I since added more grounding to that garage too.
In the end,
The power company lineman told me that when the neutral is broken, people
sometimes feel some electric tingle when touching the water faucets. I told
him indeed, I could feel this when touching on the shower head and also when
my hands were in my reef aquarium. Now after the repair, this sensation is
gone. I guess that I was getting a shock of the same 4V voltage I measured
between the ground wire and the fence post. Now I am curious - what was
causing this when the neutral was broken? Was the electricity that would
normally go through neutral flowing back through ground? Was I feeling the
potential difference between the earth where I was standing and the service
That's exactly it. There was enough resistance between your grounding
rod system and true ground that there was still the possibility of
getting a little tingle from your water pipes. The reason you don't
normally have this is because the neutral usually takes care of it; but
with no neutral present ALL unbalanced current was going through your
Now just imagine what would have happened had you not had a good
grounding system... wouldn't have been pretty.
replace "fly" with "com" to reply.
Good info. Typically when I check an outlet that a home owner says is
'weird' it's not unusuall to find that it's a shared neutral, and the
neutral is floating.
Thanks for sharing....
tom @ www.Consolidated-Loans.info
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