I knew I had a problem yesterday morning when the furnace didn't come on at
the usual 6:30 time where it progresses from the thermostat's nighttime
setting into the waking time setting.
Investigation revealed about half the house was without power, and half
normal. I quickly ran extension cords to power the critical items (furnace,
refrigerator, computer) to working outlets. Clearly one leg of the 120v
supply was out. After cycling all the breakers, including the master, without
success I decided it was time to pick an electrician out of the phone book,
and the firm promised someone within an hour.
While waiting outside for the electrician, a neighbor came out with exactly
the same complaint. I knew then that it was a utility company problem, but
having commited to the service call decided there was no harm other than a few
$$$ in having the issue confirmed. (Turned out to be a burnt wire in an
underground connection vault, and it took them until 10:30 in the evening to
restore full power.)
The gentleman was quickly able to confirm my hypothesis, but then pointed out
some alleged issues in my breaker box. I personally choose not to fool with
breaker boxes, other than tightening the screws on the blasted aluminum wire
once every year or so; I'm comfortable with wiring and conduit manipulation
and the like, but feel breaker boxes are left to pros.
He pointed out one breaker which had two wires going into it. Being copper, I
knew this was a circuit I had had (professionally) added in the past, but
being on the nonfunctional leg neither he nor I could determine what was being
powered from this breaker. He claimed that was highly dangerous. Now that I
have power again, I'll be able to ascertain what's being powered from that
breaker, but my question is: is this automatically a Highly Bad Thing, or are
there instances where two wires into one breaker is a legitimate installation?
He wanted $450 to correct this, which given the triviality of snapping two
breakers into a box and connecting a wire to each seemed to me to be a ripoff
in the making, so I declined. He also suggested that since many of the
breakers were quite old (it's a 1969 house, although some circuits have been
added over the years), and since replacing them all would be expensive, that I
have him "lubricate" the breakers. I had visions of duct-cleaning "services"
in my head, and simply sent him on his merry way after paying the basic
service fee. Was he blowing smoke, or did he know something about circuit
breakers not apparent to me?