More About: Troubleshooting Electrical Problems
Troubleshooting Old Electrical Wiring
I Came in to help a friend. Old existing 12 gauge wire, appears it goes directly to the panel and a 20 amp breaker. I wired up some GFI outlets(1st time, but sure its right), light on outlet comes on, 220V showing on my meter, plugged in fan, nothing. The breaker at panel does not trip. Working on other wiring in the attic, I noticed some of the same old wiring had been cut out, (small pieces under staple). Any idea? Of course I'd rather replace the wiring entirely, but low pitch of roof and drywall is up. Feeling dumb, Thank You for your time.
Hi Jason, first off - if you are in the USA you should not have 220 volts to the GFI Outlet. This alone could be an indication that there are problems with the wiring that needs immediate attention. You mentioned that you are helping a friend, so I am curious about what the original problem was that needed assistance? You are right in mentioning that it would be best to remove and replace the old wiring, and make any corrections as needed to make the home safe. The home owner should consider having a professional electrical wiring upgrade.
Electrical Circuit Troubleshooting
I have a circuit that is out. We were sitting down watching TV when our dining room ceiling fan/light flickered and went out. The line comes up from the electrical box to a bedroom, and that ceiling light works, but everything from there out does not, yet the switches and ceiling lights have power. We tested them with a meter and they all beeped showing there was power going to them. The only weird thing that happened is after the lights went out a couple of days later a smoke detector that is hard wired to the same line started going off. It would give a couple of beeps, then speed up and beep loudly and after a few seconds the beeping continued but the sound level would get much quieter. We had to disconnect it to stop it-none of the other detectors went off (not hard wired)and we checked for any sign of fire-there was none. Help! Any ideas? Why would the lines show power going to them if the fixtures do not work?
From what you have explained I believe that the circuit has lost connection with either the power or the neutral source. This may be found be at one of the device boxes, such as an outlet or light fixture. This would explain why there is an abnormal voltage reading, but devices are not getting full power, which is most likely a result of power that is feeding back through the wiring and devices from other locations.
I was trying to electrically test and tag a food processor without success. The item was not marked as being double insulated, so I made the assumption it was type one. The item was fully sealed so I was unable to attach the probe to exposed metal. Any advice?
Tim, you may need to reference your common test lead to the termination point of the ground, or attach to the ground at the power source.
Questions about Why a Home has Lost Power
Question from Jeff, in Belfair, Washington:
Why has part of my house lost power?
We lost power to the area due to storm. When the power came back on we could not get lights to two bedrooms and the bathroom, plus several outlets. My brother pulled a breaker and tested it with another breaker, and he replaced the breaker, now we tested the line wires the white wire if grounded makes the light come on plus all the outlets but get nothing. When a GFI is installed back in the box I get nothing with the tester. When I jump it with a tester white to black, only when I test the white wire to the bare ground wire. There are three Romex wires into the box, and light switch about six inches away. What am I missing? I hope I said enough for you to help me. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Local Electric Utility Company
Jeff, This sounds like the electrical service from the main utility is only providing partial power. This may be due to a transformer problem, or other damage that occurred from the storm. Call your local electrical utility provider and describe the lost power condition, and request that they send a repairman who can test the main electrical service to your home.
Question from David in Lone Grove, Oklahoma:
When I operate my oven my lights come on, what is causing this?
I came home today, my refrigerator and electricity in the front 2 bedrooms of my trailer house works, but nowhere else. I can turn the burners or the oven on and my lights will come on, I turn stove off and the lights go off. I unplugged the stove thinking there might be a short in it, but guess not.
David, One portion of the electrical service is faulty, and this is causing a voltage feedback condition. This is a serious condition that will require troubleshooting the electrical power and service panel, and then making the appropriate repairs by a qualified electrician.
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