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Forum topic by Safetyboy posted 11-03-2009 03:25 AM 2635 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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119 posts in 4814 days

11-03-2009 03:25 AM

Not exactly “Safefy in the Shop”, more like “Safety in the Home”, but here goes:

We’re having some strange electrical things going on in our house. Power will shut off at random times on some of the circuits. When this happens, the breakers are not tripping at any point. After a random amount of time (30 minutes to 6 hours), the circuit will become live again. This happens on seemingly unrelated circuits – sometimes it’s the outlets in the kitchen, other times it’s the lights in the bedrooms. When I plug my GB circuit tester into an outlet with a problem, it’s reading “open hot”. When power is on, however, the same outlet reads “correct”.

I can’t figure out what might be wrong – I could understand if a loose connection on one circuit was causing it to drop in and out, but how could that cause a problem on outlets on an entirely different breaker? This only started happening 2 weeks ago or so.

Any suggestions would be appreciated… the electrician wants $75 an hour to look for the problem, and the miser in me hates to pay him to “dig around” for the problem, when I could do the digging myself…


-- -- Kevin in Mentor, Ohio

44 replies so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20637 posts in 4731 days

#1 posted 11-03-2009 03:31 AM

You probably have a lose connection on the incoming power, in the meter base, the main lugs of the panel or in the main breaker.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View dfarr's profile


19 posts in 4487 days

#2 posted 11-03-2009 03:40 AM

It sounds like you may be losing a phase of your incoming service. It could be in your panel where your service conductors terminate or possibly your main breaker. If your service comes in overhead you could have a bad connection at the weatherhead. Wherever it is chances are it is heating up and has the potential to start a fire. If you know someone with an IR camera it might be the quickest way to find it. I would go ahead and pay the $75. That’s pretty cheap compared to the cost of a potential fire.

View fredf's profile


495 posts in 4765 days

#3 posted 11-03-2009 03:57 AM

strange for sure. are you loosing the outlets in the kitchen BUT NOT the lights in the kitchen one time and lights in the kitchen BUT NOT the outlets in the kitchen another time? or could you be loosing both and not noticing one or the other??

if you are loosing several circuits at one time, you probably have lost one side of the line some where. the power comes into the house on TWO hot wires, the voltage between these wires is 240v. each wire to ground is 120v. if one of them opens some where you will loose power to half your circuits, (generally every other row of breakers) 220 volt appliances wont work either, tho if you turn on your electric stove or other large 240v appliance the missing lights might come on, at least dimly

We had a problem at one point where we lost one side of the line due to a loose connection in the meter socket. pay the electrician. if you have a loose connection the next step is a FIRE!!!!!! we had to get the meter socket replaced as it was rather burned up

Please post the solution when you figure it out.

-- Fred, Springfield, Ma

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119 posts in 4814 days

#4 posted 11-03-2009 04:08 AM

Fred: Now, that’s the first thing I’ve heard that begins to make sense to me… I don’t know for sure if the lights always go off when the kitchen outlets do… but I do know that when the kitchen outlets go down, the electric stove (220 outlet) goes down at the same time.

I think I will call in a different electrician though, because the guy who was here today didn’t seem to have half as much idea what was going on as you have…

-- -- Kevin in Mentor, Ohio

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 4310 days

#5 posted 11-03-2009 04:52 AM

The first place I’d look is the panel. Checking for rust first off. If I see rust, then water is getting into the panel from the weather head, meter socket, so on. If you have a rusty inside to your panel, time to find where the water is getting in, fix that then replace the panel. Rust could be causing high resistance connections.

The other thing I would check is the connection at the top of panel where the wires connect to the bus (I’m assuming a top fed panel, on the bottom for a bottom fed panel.) I would bet that one of the “hot” wires is loose. This sounds more like what your describing. Sound’s like your loosing one side of the transformer so everything connected to that side to neutral will go dead, “open hot” and you will loose all 240V appliances, stove, furnace, H20 heater, ... too.

Now I say this like you know exactly what the dangers are inside of an electrical panel. The smart thing for most people is to call you local electrician! The last thing you want is to start mucking around with the incoming leads and have it come loose and start swinging around! You can also pull the meter to kill the panel, fix the problem, stick the meter back in and then call the power company and tell them that you had to pull the meter to fix a problem with the panel. Shhhh I’ve done this before. Check you local code enforcement first. Sometimes the utility want reconnect the meter (put the seal back on) without a licensed electrician on hand.


-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View mgoins's profile


5 posts in 4182 days

#6 posted 11-03-2009 04:55 AM

Good evening, Kevin. Have been a short-term lurker to the site the last few weeks – saw this post & decided to join to post an answer. Not sure the geography / wildlife situation where you live, but this may help.

Was talking to my father-in-law on Friday – who was having similar problems at his home here in town. Scattered electrical problems thru-out his house w/no breaker kicks. He got nervous of a fire & basically shut off everything but lighting; and called in an electrician.

Electricians noticed voltage fluctuations on several circuits & recommended calling in the power company. Power company techs found that squirrels had chewed into the wire out at the pole. Damaged wire was repaired & the issues were resolved.

—Marvin in Kingsport, TN

-- Marvin - from the hills of East Tennessee

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 4792 days

#7 posted 11-03-2009 06:44 AM

You can most likely find out which of the two incoming lines has a problem by noting which circuits are going off and on. The two bars inside the panel zigzag down the middle. If all of the circuits that are giving you problems are connected (via the breakers) to only one of the bars in the panel, you will have isolated the side that needs attention. You could also have a problem with both hot lines in the panel. A qualified electrician should be able to solve the problem quickly.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20637 posts in 4731 days

#8 posted 11-03-2009 06:59 AM

You nailed it John!! “qualified” Lots of people can run wire, but very few are good at fixing it when it’s broke ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View cpt_hammer's profile


133 posts in 4868 days

#9 posted 11-03-2009 02:52 PM

Five surgeons were taking a coffee break and were discussing their work.

The first said, “I think accountants are the easiest to operate on. You open them up and everything inside is numbered.”

The second said, “I think librarians are the easiest to operate on. You open them up and everything inside is in alphabetical order.”

The third said, “I like to operate on electricians. You open them up and everything inside is color-coded.”

The fourth one said, “I like to operate on lawyers. They’re heartless spineless, gutless, and their heads and their tails are interchangeable.”

The fifth surgeon says “I like engineers . They always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end.”

View cbMerlin's profile


100 posts in 4476 days

#10 posted 11-03-2009 03:01 PM

I had, sort of, a similar issue. My local power company offered, free of charge, to come out, pull the meter, check & tighten the main lugs. He also checked to see the number of homes pulling from the same “sub??”, sorry I don’t recall what he called it. Additionally, I was considering either a new panel for higher amp service and more circuits or installing a sub-panel. He was able to pull some sort of report that told my historical power useage. Turned out a sub panel was fine, saved me a lot of cash! I’d start with your power company, they may be able to do a lot to help with little or no cost involved.

-- Sawdust looks better in the garage than cars, explain that to your wife!

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 4222 days

#11 posted 11-03-2009 03:09 PM

Sounds like a loose or almost broken connection. Does your power come in at a weather head?
If so, I would check there. If you put too large of a load on a bad connection it will open, like the stove.
It may work and appear ok with a test meter or with a few lights.
Some of the circuits may appear to be ok ( a light may work) when a water heater or other 220 volt devise is on allowing it to back feed through the circuit.

Heat builds up from a poor connection.

Sounds like an Electrician is needed.

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View hootr's profile


183 posts in 4402 days

#12 posted 11-03-2009 03:20 PM

PLEASE get an electrition in there asap!!!
before a fire inspetor has to tell you what caused the fire

-- Ron, Missouri

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5274 days

#13 posted 11-03-2009 03:52 PM

Been there….done that, and it was caused by losing a phase as dfarr and topomaxsurvivor said. In my case, the incomeing service was underground, and the bad connection was at the vault near the street. As already stated, call the power company first because the problem is very possibly on their side of the meter, and they’ll fix it no charge.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View RJ2's profile


153 posts in 4841 days

#14 posted 11-03-2009 04:11 PM

If you have been seeing an increase in light bulbs going out , it is usually a loose ground at the street . That is assuming you have checked your panel, and tightened the lugs. Once a year if your entrance cable is aluminum.
If they are loose when you take the cover off , turn off the lights and you can see the stray voltage.


View fredf's profile


495 posts in 4765 days

#15 posted 11-03-2009 09:26 PM

DaveR thats what I was going to recommend if only one circuit failed at a time. —but I suspect it is both and SB is on his way to getting it fixed.

SB I agree if the electrician didn’t have a clue, find one that does—it isn’t exactly rocket science . . . and nothing to fool with if you aren’t familiar with it….

-- Fred, Springfield, Ma

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