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  #1  
Old 08/24/10, 02:58 PM
thaiblue12's Avatar
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Some outlets are working others are not

Yesterday some of our outlets against one wall stopped working. My microwave which is around 9 years old has been giving me grief so I thought it had finally died. I went a bought a new one, plugged it in and nothing! So I got an extentsion cord and plugged it in just around the corner and it worked .But then that outlet died. A little later a few more along that same wall have died. The microwave new or old was not plugged in when it happened.

I checked the circut breaker and nothing is tripped, I also checked all the GFI's and they are fine.

The house is 8 years old and I am not sure what kind of wiring it has.

I do remember within a few months of moving 8 years ago we lost power as well. But I do not remember exactly what happened, if it was like this or a bit different. The end result was that the wire/cable that ran from the meter a 100 plus feet to the house got rodent chewed or some how damaged and it degraded the wire/cable and had to be replaced. I am really hoping that is not the case as the wire alone cost over $200.

Any ideas on what to look for? Or the problem?
Thanks

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  #2  
Old 08/24/10, 03:19 PM
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Flip the breakers off and back on.
Sometimes it's hard to tell when they are tripped just by looking

Also check any GFI outlets, since they have their own built in breakers and reset buttons

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  #3  
Old 08/24/10, 04:00 PM
 
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So you've got outlets that ok, then one or two die, then some more die later. I'm not an electrician, but it sounds serious to me. Typically what has happened is a circuit or gfci breaks and you've got to reset it. But what you describe wouldn't be a circuit or gfci, as you've got a few outlets going out, then a few more later, etc. Sounds like more than a simple reset to fix.

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  #4  
Old 08/24/10, 04:58 PM
 
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I can not speculate on what your problem is but I can tell you what ours was. Evert now and then we would have outlets die and apparently come back to life later. This would also happen with lights. It was only in 2 bedrooms and since they were teen occupied we thought they were doing something to them.

Our house has an attic space that is not high enough to use as an actual attic unless you are less that 3ft tall. I crawled up there and found the problem. Our electric wires are older 2 wire wires and one of the legs had come loose. Once I got that fixed all the outlets and lights worked and haven't had a problem since.

We are slowly replacing the "octopus" of wires in the attic space and putting each room on its own circuit and shouldn't have this problem in the future.

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  #5  
Old 08/24/10, 05:12 PM
 
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We used to loose some of our outlets, the aluminum wires would get brittle where they wrapped around the screw on the outlet. Everything past the broken wire would be dead.

Since new homes do not use Aluminum wire any longer this shouldn't be your problem. GFCI outlets sometimes go bad/get weak...

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  #6  
Old 08/24/10, 05:38 PM
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I had a similar problem that turned out to be a "hidden" gfci in a cabinet in the kitchen. Had no idea it was tucked back in there.

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  #7  
Old 08/24/10, 06:12 PM
 
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hmmm. recpt. are "daisey chain wired" , usually 5 to a 15 amp breaker, 8 to a 20 amp breaker, so i can see one in the line being wired poorly and causing trouble down stream....this could occur during a high amp load , then reestablish for low loads....but it is a serious problem since these poor connections cause heat and arcing. microwave ovens are heavy loads.

could be a poor neutral (return wiring) sometimes causes "odd" occurances.

modern wiring of kets and bath would have all recpt on a GFIC which are sometimes finnickey, but usually need a manual reset after an occurance.

it needs to be checked out.

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  #8  
Old 08/24/10, 07:30 PM
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Plug a light to each receptacle.

turn off circuit breaker to make sure all lights are out.

Take off each cover

Then unscrew each duplex outlet.

Check the wires on side or back to see if they are tightly screwed on.

IANAE

use one hand at a time.

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  #9  
Old 08/24/10, 09:13 PM
 
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Did you turn off each breaker, turn back on, and then check to see if the outlets are working? A lot of breakers will trip and still look like they are in the on position. If you have checked each breaker then you need to call a qualified electrician unless you know how to operate a electric meter and plug testers.

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  #10  
Old 08/25/10, 09:33 AM
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Well I am not an electrician, but I have wired an entire basement and changed breakers, plus I do not have the cash right now for the $60 trip fee and all that comes with it. I would like to avoid it if it is simple. If not I will have to keep using extension cords till I have a spare $300 or so.

No hidden gfi was a great idea and I looked through all the cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom. I also checked the 2 gfi outside and turned on and off all the breakers.

The microwave was plugged into a regular outlet since the gfi in the kitchen are on the counter and the microwave was in the breakfast room right near it. All the outlets in the kitchen still work. All overhead lights except in one area still work as well. If a mircowave hold such a load should I have plugged it into a surge extension cord? Will that help in the future?

They wired this house in an odd way, as to what is on which breaker. They had also marked them incorrectly so I had relabeled it for the most part.
I think to be safe I will just turn off the master breaker and look at the outlets and see if there are any loose wires or damage.

Thanks for the advice.

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  #11  
Old 08/25/10, 09:56 AM
 
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You can buy a device at the lumber store that traces outlets to determine what breaker they are on. It works if there is power to the outlet. If it is dead, it doesn't work. I found it very helpful for tracing what outlets are on what circuits. Cost about $40, I think.

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  #12  
Old 08/25/10, 10:19 AM
 
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FWIW, it sounds like you might have a continuing rodent problem. If that is the case, you MUST get it under control quickly. rodents + wires = fires, which can happen while you are asleep or away. This is a common way that house fires start.

There are suggestions I could make on tracing the problem, but you would need to buy some equipment and need to open up the breaker box and some junction boxes. What I am uncomfortable with is that you relate three different events - the original socket goes out, then another socket goes out, then more sockets go out.

At a minimum, that means a wire nut or other connection, hopefully in a junction box, was getting so hot that the wires were corroding or falling away when current was applied but not creating a short that would trip the breaker. In a properly wired home, that does not occur. That is only one scenario of possible causes. I hate to say it, but you would do well to pony up for the electrician and have all the wiring checked out.

By any chance was the kitchen "upgraded" by a previous homeowner to sell the place? A lot of flippers and handynuts attempt to do things on the cheap that are out of their league.

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  #13  
Old 08/25/10, 02:58 PM
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hope you find it out..all the things i though of have been already suggested

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  #14  
Old 08/25/10, 04:12 PM
 
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Hi,
Check for Ground Fault Interupter equipped outlets anywhere on that circuit.

Often the GFI outlet will be wired so that it protects several outlets on the same circuit, and when anything is plugged into that circuit the GFI trips and none of the outlets on the circuit work.

This has happened in our house several times -- its perplexing because the GFI that trips can be a ways away.

Gary

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  #15  
Old 08/25/10, 05:13 PM
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You may have a bad breaker in the box... You may want to replace the breaker that controls the circuit you are having problems with as a first step.

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  #16  
Old 08/25/10, 05:56 PM
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Had a similar problem when the cable company ran their lines through the same underground conduits the power company used for their wires -- half of my house when black -- only half the other half worked fine. Call your local power company and see if something is wrong there

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  #17  
Old 08/25/10, 08:56 PM
 
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If your house was wired by a qualified electrician then your house should contain at least 2 small appliance circuits for your kitchen (these are the ones above your counters). 1 designated circuit for a microwave which is usually above the range oven. 1 designated circuit for your Dinning room. Your living room circuit could include hallways, bathroom lighting, and may include bedrooms if the house was built before ARC breakers were required. If you have a crawl space their maybe a outlet underneath by the doorway that might have a GFI outlet installed that maybe tripped. This GFI outlet could be tied in with the outlets that's not working.

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  #18  
Old 08/25/10, 09:15 PM
 
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I hate to say it, but like Harry said, I think you may have a new and/or ongoing rodent problem. This happened to me three times, and each time it turned out to be rodents chewing through the wires. As someone else said, this is very dangerous, could cause fire while you're asleep.

The first two times we cleaned out the nest we found under the house (mobile home), put out poison and rewired everything we found even slightly damaged. The last time I used "Just One Bite" poison and put out LOTS, and kept putting out more every few months and that seems to have done the trick.

From what some professional exterminators told me, if they nested there once they'll always tend to come back and that even if you clean out the nest other rodents can still smell lingering traces of the nest, food, urine, feces, etc., and will be drawn to it and make a new nest. You have to do something to keep them away permanently. Since you said you already had a problem once and it sounds just like what happened to me, that's probably your problem. Sorry, believe me I know how expensive it is.

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  #19  
Old 08/26/10, 09:31 AM
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I am not sure if I have a GFI in the crawl space. The well is still working and that is where the pump is. There is one light switch down there and an outlet, but I will have to look around.

The rodent problem I had was not in the house. I still have none in the house with my cats around. It was underground-outside. We have moles, voles, gophers and etc and they probably chewed up the cable that runs from the meter to the main fuse box. I think degraded like this but worse and it had to be replaced. It was never pulled up or dug up but that is what the electrican said it most likely was. Once that was replaced it worked just fine again for 8 years.

I have lost no more outlets but I have to say after reading this I am scared of a fire starting. I had called a few electricians, but none are local and not to thrilled about coming up here. I am going to ask friends and neighbors if they know of anyone good and local.

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  #20  
Old 08/26/10, 09:39 AM
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I would flip the breaker that goes to that line of outlets off until you know for sure what the problem is if it were me. The arcing in the wall would worry me too.

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  #21  
Old 08/26/10, 10:51 AM
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I had a problem that one side of the main breaker box was hot. Meaning only some of the outlets worked. I had a very low voltage reading on one side. Now this is a mobile home which has a "plug in" type of receptacle outside. And one side was corroded and only supplying Half of the power to the main breaker box inside the trailer.
Now the OP has already said they had a rodent problem a few years ago, so One Side Could again be giving a problem, very similar to what I had Half the box only having power to it. Leaving many outlets that did not work. OR had Very LOW power coming to them~! And when used they then went out. very similar to what is happening to the OP in this tread.

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  #22  
Old 08/26/10, 11:04 AM
 
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I've read that house fires started by squirrels are NOT covered by most insurance policies.

Have you determined if the bad outlets are all on the same circuit? The first thing I would do is try to map out what outlets and switches are on each circuit.

Good luck!

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  #23  
Old 08/26/10, 03:41 PM
 
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A Knight, that type of failure doesn't fit this situation.
Patt, flipping the breaker on that circuit is a very good idea.
ThaiBlue, at this point, I would be VERY surprised if it was a GFI problem.

I had hoped not to get into this, but...

Once the breaker is flipped, pull out the various affected sockets. Examine them carefully. If a wire is leading directly into the socket base without being terminated with a curlicue of wire around a screw terminal, use a pair of diagonal cutters to clip off that wire, then strip a bit of insulation and attach it using the screw terminal. A pair of needle nose pliers will twist the wire into the required curlicue.

If any of the screw terminals look scorched or damaged, or the plastic of the socket looks bad, replace that outlet entirely. If any wire ends show signs of being heated (melted or burned insulation, discolored wire) clip the wire end and make a new curlicue. SCREW DOWN ALL WIRE CONNECTIONS.

Look inside the outlet boxes for wire nut connections. Count them by color, and buy new wire nuts. Remove the existing wire nuts, verify the condition and if OK, re-use the existing wire nut. If ANYTHING looks wrong, make new wire ends and replace the wire nut with a new properly sized one.

Once all the sockets have been verified, power the circuit back on. If you are lucky, the problem junction(s) will have been fixed. If the circuit still doesn't work, then there is a junction box somewhere in the wall or on a joist or beam that has a bad connection, or less likely in this case, the connection in the breaker box is bad.

Wiring can be traced to find the spot where a connection has failed. Sometimes it involves punching holes in walls to get to junction boxes.

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  #24  
Old 08/26/10, 10:35 PM
 
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young man i know had a similar problem, it turned out to be on the power company's side of the meter, bad insulation on the feed line, didn't give enough juice for the whole house, called power company to come ck it out and fixed at no cost to him

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  #25  
Old 08/27/10, 09:24 AM
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If your appliances that are on 220 are not working, but the ones on 110 are, then you've got a problem with one leg of power coming into your house. Check with the power company.

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  #26  
Old 08/27/10, 01:01 PM
 
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Microwaves are 110 volts.

PLEASE FOLKS, before responding to this thread further, take a moment to read this post.

Electrical problems can be dangerous and get folks killed. When responding with advice to a potentially life threatening situation we all have a serious responsibility. THINK TWICE before posting and be sure to read ALL the posts from the original person. A number of people have chimed in with a variation of the "bad leg from the mains transformer" comment, even though it was obvious from the very first post that this is NOT the case.

I've worked with electricity. I've helped my father build radio stations, rewire circuits and install new ones. I've built radios and amplifiers and other electronics from nothing more than a crude schematic and a pile of loose parts. I've installed complete projection booths in movie theatres, dealt with 3 phase as well as split phase. I say this to provide emphasis to one point - I AM NOT AN ELECTRICIAN. I have basic knowledge and enough respect to keep me out of trouble, but I also know when to call in the professionals. If you have more electrical knowledge than I do, you know EXACTLY what I am saying.

Giving advice on electrical matters is not like advising on what to plant or how to do a common task. It carries a responsibility that I fear is not being respected here.

PLEASE, guessing and relating personal experience is not going to help. NOT reading the OP posts or just skimming the thread and then commenting is in fact a PROBLEM. I understand the desire to be helpful and to contribute. It is noble and one of the finest aspects of forums like this. All I am asking is that folks temper that desire to help and work a little harder on understanding the issue that is the topic, reading the previous posts for clarification and then commenting (or not).

I hope that the thread remains open and available, because I am curious and want to get the report back on what the OP eventually discovers. Thanks for reading and I hope I haven't offended.

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