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    A most unusual problem.

    Went to a rental for a customer/landlady today. Power was out to a recep in the living room, three receps in the kitchen and the lights in the kitchen, living room, basement stairs and side door. (House built in the 50's) First thing I check is power at the branch circuit starting at the terminals on the breakers. All 1-pole breakers have 120 volts. So it must be a open connection somewhere.

    I first open the 2-gang switch at the top of the stairs. Nothing amiss there. Moving through the kitchen, no loose splices in the three receps that I can see. As I start into the living room, I dread the thought of going up into the attic to find a buried j-box. Nothing unusual at the dead outlet.

    OK, so maybe this outlet over here... which IS live, might have the problem in it. I pull it out to find 3 NMs in the box. Two are connected to the device, and one is taped and nutted off. Hmm. Why would that one cable be capped off?

    I hook 'em back up, turn on the breaker and.......... BAM! Everything works again.

    I'm stumped. How could these things have worked since my last call to that house (3 years ago.... and it was a POCO transformer issue; one leg was dead), then suddenly it quit only be need to be reconnected? Was this some sort of test of my ability to locate and correct an 'issue'? It obviously wasn't just a broken wire. Both the black and white were cut off (no exposed copper), taped, then wire-nutted. I've never seen anyone dead-end wires like that before... tape before wire-nut.

    #2
    Was the house occupied, or between tenants?

    Was there a rogue amateur electrician on the loose?

    Comment


      #3
      If you hadn't mentioned lights, I might have conjectured that the wiring had been in this condition for perhaps years and years. It is certainly possible that a receptacle could have no power and not be noticed, or if noticed the tenant would simply plug into a different receptacle and not care about it. But you would have to wonder about living without lights, and not making a big deal out of it.

      I would want to ask the landlady whether she recently had a tenant move out. If so, was it under amicable circumstances? To me, this very much sounds like "malicious mischief," something an unhappy tenant might do on their way out of the rental.
      Charles E. Beck, P.E., Seattle
      Comments based on 2017 NEC unless otherwise noted.

      Comment


        #4
        Current tenant has been there 3 months.

        If this was done intentionally by a previous tenant, the current one wouldn't have been able to watch TV. The issue was in the outlet behind it.

        Comment


          #5
          Possibly one section of the wiring was accidentally wired as a ring circuit (with two paths for the hot back to the same breaker). This was noticed at some point and the redundant connection was taped off.
          Then the remaining path failed (bad backstab, for example) and you found the abandoned redundant path before you found the failed connection in the other path.
          Complicated, but does explain what was seen without involving sabotage or poltergeists.

          Comment


            #6
            I went to a call a couple of years ago for no power in both upstairs baths. I was getting power on ALL the hots but no neutral current. I started at the panel and had both hot and neutral as I traced the neutral of the NM cable where the black/hot came from. I went to what I thought was the first outlet, no neutral there. I pulled every receptacle and switch out of the boxes and could find nothing, even pulled lights down. After an hour or so I decided to make certain which was the first outlet. I found it and it wasn't where I originally thought but had been in that box but didn't notice anything. I decided to take all the joints apart and start from there. When I took the wirenut off the several neutral wires I was amazed. Every wire had the exposed copper cut off and just the wires with insulation was nutted together.

            The owners were just staying there temporarily as they hadn't completely moved from another state. The house was new and they both claimed that the rooms had been working but when they returned after being away, nothing worked in either bath. After speaking with them they mentioned a guy who had worked for the builder and had been there doing "punch list" items. At some point the builder fired him. My thought is the guy came back and sabotaged the wiring to get back at the builder. That's the only thing I can think of if the rooms had worked before. I even thought maybe someone over-tightened the wirenut and broke all the copper ends but when I checked the box there was no pieces in the wirenut or in the box. I can't see an electrician making the mistake of wirenutting wires without stripping them, so I vote "mischief"!
            [COLOR=navy]If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time![/COLOR]

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by GoldDigger View Post
              Possibly one section of the wiring was accidentally wired as a ring circuit (with two paths for the hot back to the same breaker). This was noticed at some point and the redundant connection was taped off.
              Then the remaining path failed (bad backstab, for example) and you found the abandoned redundant path before you found the failed connection in the other path.
              Complicated, but does explain what was seen without involving sabotage or poltergeists.
              I like that theory, GD beat me to it.
              __________________________________________________ ____________________________
              Many people are shocked when they discover I am not a good electrician...

              I'm in California, ergo I am still stuck on the 2014 NEC... We'll get around to the 2017 code in around 2021.

              Comment


                #8
                Here is what I think. I believe it was a loop circuit hence the wires in the 2 gang not being connected. Somewhere you lost power on the live circuit so when you hooked up the other wires it fed the circuit again from the other direction.
                They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
                She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
                I can't help it if I'm lucky

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Dennis Alwon View Post
                  Here is what I think. I believe it was a loop circuit hence the wires in the 2 gang not being connected. Somewhere you lost power on the live circuit so when you hooked up the other wires it fed the circuit again from the other direction.
                  Dang it I just saw that Golddigger had the same theory. I was so excited to answer I didn't read the responses
                  They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
                  She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
                  I can't help it if I'm lucky

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Dennis Alwon View Post
                    Here is what I think. I believe it was a loop circuit hence the wires in the 2 gang not being connected. Somewhere you lost power on the live circuit so when you hooked up the other wires it fed the circuit again from the other direction.
                    So now somewhere wherever the other line is located, if it was backstabbed Or bad wirenut, whatever.. and came out, there is a hot end just waiting...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Dennis Alwon View Post

                      Dang it I just saw that Golddigger had the same theory. I was so excited to answer I didn't read the responses

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by GoldDigger View Post
                        Possibly one section of the wiring was accidentally wired as a ring circuit (with two paths for the hot back to the same breaker). This was noticed at some point and the redundant connection was taped off.
                        Then the remaining path failed (bad backstab, for example) and you found the abandoned redundant path before you found the failed connection in the other path.
                        Complicated, but does explain what was seen without involving sabotage or poltergeists.
                        Or worse yet interconnection occurred at some point between two (or more) separate branch circuits, someone maybe figured that out at some time and disconnected the wire that was mentioned as not connected - meaning there still was a connection failure somewhere else.

                        I said two (or more) branch circuits because on a remodel project I did somewhat recently I did run into three branch circuits that were interconnected within the house. Had me puzzled for a while when first trying to sort things out, and of course one was on opposite side of the 240 volts and would throw the breaker as soon as it was turned on (was even a FPE and it still tripped)

                        I live for today, I'm just a day behind.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          2nd (3rd,4th?) the loop theory

                          which probably means two ocpd's for one circuit....

                          you folks now how that ends up....

                          ~RJ~

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by charlie b View Post
                            If you hadn't mentioned lights, I might have conjectured that the wiring had been in this condition for perhaps years and years. It is certainly possible that a receptacle could have no power and not be noticed, or if noticed the tenant would simply plug into a different receptacle and not care about it. But you would have to wonder about living without lights, and not making a big deal out of it..
                            You would think that until you work on a lot of different types of rental properties. In some cases a tenant complains and the landlord has things fixed promptly. There are other groups of people living in rental properties that almost never complain about anything. Light goes out in a bedroom they just move a lamp near the door and keep on keeping on. By the time the tenant moves out you may go in and half the lights don't work and have not been working for some time.

                            The 95% of people that you can't trust give the other 5% a bad name.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by 480sparky View Post
                              Went to a rental for a customer/landlady today. Power was out to a recep in the living room, three receps in the kitchen and the lights in the kitchen, living room, basement stairs and side door. (House built in the 50's) First thing I check is power at the branch circuit starting at the terminals on the breakers. All 1-pole breakers have 120 volts. So it must be a open connection somewhere.

                              I first open the 2-gang switch at the top of the stairs. Nothing amiss there. Moving through the kitchen, no loose splices in the three receps that I can see. As I start into the living room, I dread the thought of going up into the attic to find a buried j-box. Nothing unusual at the dead outlet.

                              OK, so maybe this outlet over here... which IS live, might have the problem in it. I pull it out to find 3 NMs in the box. Two are connected to the device, and one is taped and nutted off. Hmm. Why would that one cable be capped off?

                              I hook 'em back up, turn on the breaker and.......... BAM! Everything works again.

                              I'm stumped. How could these things have worked since my last call to that house (3 years ago.... and it was a POCO transformer issue; one leg was dead), then suddenly it quit only be need to be reconnected? Was this some sort of test of my ability to locate and correct an 'issue'? It obviously wasn't just a broken wire. Both the black and white were cut off (no exposed copper), taped, then wire-nutted. I've never seen anyone dead-end wires like that before... tape before wire-nut.
                              I like GoldDigger idea.

                              I have something similar to track down. I have 2 circuits. 1 is a 20 amp and 1 is a 15 amp both off of the same phase (120/240 residential). While trying to find the correct breaker to kill a circuit the circuit stayed "live" all the time. Had power on the load side of a breaker even when the breaker was off. Thought I had a bad breaker. Finally realized the hot wires from each circuit are tied together "somewhere" I disconnected the hot off the 20 amp breaker for now. I figured they would be calling about a circuit tripping but no news yet. I am going back next week to se if I can track it down. Having 1 circuit #12 and 1 #14 should help.

                              Comment

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