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Electrical Question

Old 05-30-11, 11:20 AM
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Electrical Question

I have an electrical question I would be curious to see if anybody may know the answer to.

A friend of mine (who's quite good with electrical) and myself ran and installed a new overhead light. A few days after the fact I noticed that one of my outlets wasn't working.

When I checked my fuse box I see that a breaker is tripped and when I try to turn it on it immediately trips. I replaced the breaker thinking it may be the breaker but get the same results.

My question is this, I find it fishy that only a few days later I notice an outlet not working. Could doing something to one circuit effect another circuit or is this just coincidence. I was thinking about undoing what we did to see if that made a difference however if somebody knows for certain this couldn't be the reason I won't bother (my friend think it's not possible)

Also, does anybody have advice on trying to diagnose the issue. I'm not oppose to paying an electrician however I like doing this myself whenever possible for the experience etc.

Advice/thoughts is appreciated.
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Old 05-30-11, 11:29 AM
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Re: Electrical Question

Not an electrician but first thing I would ask is if the outlet worked prior to the overhead light project. If it did, then I would recheck your work on the light, especially if it's fairly easy to do. You never know how things could be wired unless you did it yourself.

Otherwise it might just be coincidence and you have a short somewhere in the outlet circuit.
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Old 05-30-11, 01:41 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Also not an electrician, but a short is definitely what I'd suspect to start...
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Old 05-30-11, 01:44 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Did you wire the light into the outlet's circuit? If not, I'd go with TomOpus' idea that it is a coincidence.
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Old 05-30-11, 01:59 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Usually a number of things are on each circuit. Is the new light on the same circuit as the outlet box? If so, it is reasonably likely that something in your work caused a short. If they are on different breakers, it is unlikely.

If the circuit blows with nothing connected to the outlet, then my first guess is that the outlet has shorted out. With breaker blown or off, pull off the cover plate, check the wiring. If you don't see anything wrong in the wiring, replace the outlet (they are cheap).

However, what other outlets are on the same circuit, what is plugged into them? I would disconnect as much load on the circuit as possible (any of the loads could have an internal short or fault). Then turn the breaker on-- if it immediates blows, the wiring or at least one outlet on the circuit is defective. If it is OK, plug all loads back in one at a time and check they are OK. The defective load will blow the breaker. One load might have an intermittant defect; that will be harder to catch.
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Old 05-30-11, 02:46 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Haha, OldDude said "defective load".
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Old 05-30-11, 09:44 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

They have little plug in testers for recepticals at Lowes for like 5-10 bucks.
Just plug it in and depending on what lights light up, if any, could show you the problem (not grounded,short,etc..)
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Old 05-31-11, 02:58 AM
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Re: Electrical Question

First... Don't come to places like this for advice of this sort. Do you go to Starbucks and ask them how to make a hamburger? There are plenty of places online dedicated to helping the DIY home repair crowd, be it electrical, plumbing, or general construction. Google is your friend (sometimes).

Second... If you intend to continue down a DIY path, buy some books for a reference library. Nothing beats having info at your fingertips when you need it. Having to do a DIY repair is aggravating enough without also having to go dig up (from a friend, library or online) the info you need. Home Depot, Lowes, etc., all carry these type of books. There are two basic types: softcover, spiral-bound books that cover a specialize subject (electrical, plumbing, etc.); and large, hard cover, general reference books that cover nearly every subject for home DIY repairs. I have about half a dozen books total.

Third... Always (and I can't emphasize this enough) have the proper tools. Never, never, ever try to "make do" with a tool that's "good enough" when there is something that is made just for particular task. And if you have a significant other who might object to the price of tools, point out to them that a specialty tool that costs $15 to $25 is way less than the minimum hourly rate of almost any professional repair person. Tools are an investment.

Fourth... Know your limits. Don't try something you aren't comfortable with, or you have no experience doing... unless you have the time (and money) to learn from mistakes. An emergency repair like a water line leak is not the time for "on-the-job" DIY learning.

I've done plenty of DIY electrical work. I find it much easier than plumbing. I've done enough plumbing (in just replacing sinks, faucets, and toilets) to realize I really, really hate it. I've done enough pipe work that I've decided I won't ever work on it again. I call a plumber for pipe work of any kind.

As for the the OP's question... need more info.

You said you "ran and installed". I get you installed a light, but what exactly did you "run"? Wiring, I presume? Did you run a completely new circuit including a circuit breaker? Or did you just tap into an existing circuit to power the light and run wiring for a switch?

I had a similar situation a few months ago when we did some remodeling work. I was doing some minor kitchen rewiring; replacing some older outlets with GFIs, replacing older switches with newer ones, and trying to get them on the same circuits. Something was wrong and no mater what I did, I couldn't get one GFI to work properly. It would work... then it wouldn't... then it would... then it wouldn't.

Luckily, we had an electrician running some new wiring in other parts of the house. After checking over things and some digging around, he discovered a short in the wiring in the wall between this outlet and another one. There was a needle sized hole right through the wiring insulation. He figured the short was occurring whenever the wiring was flexing whenever the GFI was being pulled in and out of the outlet box. No idea what caused the hole and we had never had a problem with the previous, non-GFI outlet in 21 years. It was original wiring to the house and must have been there since it was built about 40 years ago.
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Old 05-31-11, 07:53 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Thanks for the opinions and thoughts unfortunately none are things I haven't already considered and/or tried I suppose it's time to call an electrician.

To clarify on my earlier story.

1. I did not run a new circuit
2. My friend ran wire and tapped into a circuit that had plenty of room based upon the numbers he was seeing on the voltmeter
3. The outlet not working is on a totally different breaker, all outlets that are on the breaker are off (I have found 4 oddly 1 in the basement, 2 on 1st floor outside) So the outlets aren't tied to the switch which is why I'm confused if it's related or not.
4. All outlets that are not working having nothing plugged into them, so it's not a load issue.

My friend does a lot of electrical work, and I have replaced a lot of outlets etc. so between us we have all tools etc.

I'm hesitant to say it's not related to the work, but I find it odd since they're on totally different breakers and circuits
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Old 05-31-11, 08:19 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by aktick View Post
Also not an electrician, but a short is definitely what I'd suspect to start...
Argh. A short circuit is a working circuit. What you're referring to is an open circuit. /petpeeves
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Old 05-31-11, 08:40 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by NORML54601 View Post
Argh. A short circuit is a working circuit. What you're referring to is an open circuit. /petpeeves
What? Only if by "working" you mean the big spark followed by darkness that comes from connecting hot to neutral.
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Old 05-31-11, 08:41 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

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Old 05-31-11, 08:43 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Hold the phone. You guys may have solved my issue.

I always assumed the first outlet in the circuit was closest to the fuse box - this was not not the case. It appears it's the outdoor one.

After investigating it more, that one appears to be a little black and very, very old.

I took that one out and was able to cut the breaker over again and it stays on.

So, I'm thinking I swap that out in the daylight and see what I have.

Otter may have solved my issue by getting me off my arse.
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Old 05-31-11, 09:42 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

First, let me apologize for my first post. Reading it now, I see some condescension, rudeness and snarkiness. No excuses, sorry.

Now to the matter at hand.

In light of the new info, I suggest trying another new circuit breaker. It won't hurt to try.

Ten years ago I had to replace a circuit breaker. The new one didn't work so, thinking I had a bigger problem, I called an electrician. After I described what was happening (or rather what was not happening), he suggested I replace the brand new one with another new one and then call him again. As I recall, he said it wasn't uncommon to get a bad one, and suggested I get several just in case the next one I got was also bad.

I bought three or four and the very next one I installed worked.
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Old 05-31-11, 10:05 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by OldDude View Post
What? Only if by "working" you mean the big spark followed by darkness that comes from connecting hot to neutral.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_circuit

A short circuit (sometimes abbreviated to short or s/c) in an electrical circuit allows a current to travel along a path where essentially no (or a very low) electrical impedance is encountered. The electrical opposite of a short circuit is an "open circuit", which is an infinite resistance between two nodes. It is common to misuse "short circuit" to describe any electrical malfunction, regardless of the actual problem.
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Old 06-01-11, 05:24 AM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by NORML54601 View Post
Just to play Goldilocks and the three bears:
*A short is excessive current flowing due to a hot/neutral fault. The load won't work because of the excessive voltage drop caused by the excessive current.
*Normal is the normal current flowing to the device. Always a good idea
*An open is zero current flowing because one connection is "open"

Shorts will cause fires in the wiring unless the circuit breaker protects the line, and certainly can't be considered normal. Opens are harmless, but the load won't work. His charred outlet sounds like a short to me.

Normal is best, Open is second best, and a short is the most dangerous.
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Old 06-01-11, 04:14 PM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by Jon2 View Post
First, let me apologize for my first post. Reading it now, I see some condescension, rudeness and snarkiness. No excuses, sorry.

Now to the matter at hand.

In light of the new info, I suggest trying another new circuit breaker. It won't hurt to try.

Ten years ago I had to replace a circuit breaker. The new one didn't work so, thinking I had a bigger problem, I called an electrician. After I described what was happening (or rather what was not happening), he suggested I replace the brand new one with another new one and then call him again. As I recall, he said it wasn't uncommon to get a bad one, and suggested I get several just in case the next one I got was also bad.

I bought three or four and the very next one I installed worked.
No problem at all. No offense taken, I know it's sorta stupid to do things you only know a little about when the effects could be greatly negative but hey I'm a guy and that's what we do

I assume this issue will resolve with the outlet switch and or maybe another breaker, it's raining so sadly I can't go out and change out the outlet to try.
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Old 06-12-11, 12:40 AM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by Numanoid View Post
Haha, OldDude said "defective load".
Better yet, Jon2 hires plumbers to do all his "pipe work."
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Old 06-12-11, 04:27 AM
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Re: Electrical Question

Originally Posted by Jon2 View Post
First... Don't come to places like this for advice of this sort.
BS. Everything I need in life I find here. I trust Groucho more than Google.
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