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Electricians advice?

Electricians advice?

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Old 12-06-2010, 02:48 AM
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Default Electricians advice?

I have a wall socket that was two prong that my housemate used for a tv and dvd with a 3 prong adapter (screwed into the middle hole of the plate). I recently used that outlet with a hairdryer (was shrinkwrapping windows for winter). After a recent cold spell I have been told it no longer works. However neither of us can say if we used it after the other.

The last I used it was with the hairdryer and it seemed fuctional. The housemate thinks he might have used it two days after that but also unsure. Between that time and the next time he tried we did get a cold spell.

Outlet no longer working. With a voltameter it showing only 12volts. Which drops immediately if I plug something in to near zero. I tested the bare wires in the wall as well and still same so its not the socket itself seemingly. I have reset the fuses and still nothing.

If it was a bad wire, why am I reading any voltage from it at all (given 12 volts is a long way from 120+ normally). Is it a loose connection to the fuse box possibly? Anything else you can think of before we call an electrician. To be fair, we cant tear the wall apart so if its somewhere inside that area goodbye deposit.
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Old 12-06-2010, 06:22 AM
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I'm not an Electrician, but I suspect the small voltage you are seeing is from the neutral wire. It's the result of the small voltage drops driven by other loads on the circuit. With no loads the neutral ideally would be at ground, but we don't live in Ideal.

Seems your hot wire is not functional. Which is troubling if you have power on that wire at the fuse-breaker box. Suggests a possible wire problem, which in the worst case can easily be a possible fire hazard if there is a breakdown in the wire buried in the wall.

Suggest getting the landlord involved, or at the very least disable power from the fuse-breaker box.

Checking voltage at the box is a good idea too. The breaker and or fuse socket could have an issue. Be careful of course, ideally cut main power and check voltages before poking around too much for connections.

It's also possible that the outlet is ganged on to another outlet on the same circuit. You could pull those and check for a loose connection.

Last edited by Dave H; 12-06-2010 at 06:45 AM.
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Old 12-06-2010, 07:55 AM
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1. Check the breaker/fuse. Always start with the stupid stuff first.

2. Check if there's another outlet in line with a ground fault interrupt. If the GFCI tripped it would take out all the outlets on that line.

3. If you know which breaker is for that outlet, turn it off and pull the outlet out of the wall. Possibly a broken hot wire.

FYI black is hot, white is neutral, green is ground
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:01 AM
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The other outlets inline is a great place to start. See if they work as well.
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:08 AM
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All other on fuse work except this one. (Furthest from). No green wire per not grounded circuit. Was relying on the metal of the box touching the frame of house for "ground" (this is how the screw on 3 prong adapter works). Again it was only a two prong plug in. Not three.

Thank you for the suggestions thus far.
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:16 AM
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We had a similar situation in an older house. It was a poor connection and it was causing heat issues. Too much longer and the house could have caught fire.

Wasn't a huge issue. The guy checked the other outlets inline and was able to narrow down the problem. Went in to the crawlspace, located it and fixed it. He also had to cut a 2'x2' square out of the wall, but that's really easy to fix.
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Old 12-06-2010, 09:19 AM
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as suggested check and see if any other outlets/lights are in series with this run. we call them out here in CA daisy chained together. i ran into this same problem a week ago and i had a short in the hot wire that was in the kitchen light fixture. this particular run had 5 outlets and 2 lights daisy chained together and this light fixture was number 2. some the 5 outlets after it didnt work. sounds like something similar might have happened to you
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Old 12-06-2010, 10:39 AM
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GFIs are about the only time you'll see wiring in series for any part of a circuit. Device connections, outside of GFIs, should be done in parallel. even in CA.

I'm sure you did this already Oxy, just in case, pull the fuse and make sure the line-side of the fuse is seeing power. Load-side is when the fuse is installed and you put a meter on the wire connection that feeds the circuit. Check the side that feeds the fuse.

Because of the moisture in Seattle, a common problem I saw alot of is corrosion on the line-side connection behind the fuse. PM me for professional help if it gets to that. I have electrician friends that'll fix it on a "barter" system in your area (even licensed, HA!)

Last edited by downtempo; 12-06-2010 at 10:48 AM. Reason: line/load side edit
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:12 AM
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just picked up on that the other outlets work on that circuit, if you're sure that those functional outlets are on the same fuse... go down and buy a new outlet and swap it out.

Again, corrosion in devices is common in your area. You can try cleaning the terminals on the outlet with motor spray and a brillo pad. If it's a stab back outlet, well, those suck anyway... get a screw-type terminating outlet and change it out to be one of the cool kids

in the process of doing this you will be checking the pig tails that feed the outlet. Pig tails are what keeps the device in parallel. Sometimes the wires will get corroded under the wire nuts in the back of the box
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Old 12-06-2010, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by oXYnary View Post
I tested the bare wires in the wall as well and still same so its not the socket itself seemingly.
A couple of things come to mind. Obvious question first; Are you using an AC voltmeter?
The other thing is that some older (real old) homes did not have ground wires in the circuits, so you'll want to be careful where you use that adapter. The fact that you're saying "fuses" instead of breakers made me think of that.


Originally Posted by marooko View Post
The other outlets inline is a great place to start. See if they work as well.
+1 on this. If the other outlets in the circuit are working, and the wires to the outlet in question are showing no power, check the outlet that is next in line towards the power source. Check not only the connections to the outlet, and any pigtail/wirenut connections, but if the electrician didn't use pigtails, check the tabs on the sides of the outlet as well. If the electrician that switched-n-plugged the house, used an in-and-out method of wiring, a broken or burned tab could cause the circuit to terminate. Sometimes there are hairline cracks in the tabs that are hard to see at first glance.



Good luck!
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Old 12-06-2010, 12:13 PM
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^ that image is of the cool kid outlet (good advice Brian). Sometimes it is a combo termination:



The above shows the "in and out" style of wiring that doesn't use pigtails AND a stab back termination. Sometimes there will be holes in line with the screws but do not capture the wire when tugged. Those are a pretty user-friendly terminations and use the screws to secure the wire. Brian's image shows the holes I am talking about but are actually not stab terminations.
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