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Rich
Rich, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience:  Over 35 years residential, commercial, industrial wiring, install, troubleshoot, service, maintain
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I turned on the bathroom light switch, and lost power in my

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I turned on the bathroom light switch, and lost power in my 3-bathroom (also kitchen sink receptacle & light, unused laundry receptacle & light, and hall/dinette lighting) circuit, without tripping the breaker. Home is 25 years old. There's no new loads, and no recent switch/outlet/wire changes.
I checked the bathroom light switch that seemed to trigger the outage. Wire nuts in its box looked clean and tight. It's a 3-gang replacement switch; it looked okay, and the stab-in connections seemed tight. I replaced it anyway with a fresh switch, to no effect.
I'm thinking I should be looking for a loose wire connection somewhere along that circuit. Do you have any pointers?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 3 years ago.

Kevin :

Hi, and welcome to JA!!

Kevin :

The first thing I would try is to go through the breaker box, and turn each breaker off, then back on. Sometimes one can trip and it's really hard to tell.

Customer:

I think that's been done. But...

Customer:

New info: I was not present at intitial power loss. The guy who was present now says he had had the kitchen microwave in use when he threw the bath light switch; they're on the same dead circuit. He also tried the microwave on the (different) range/stove circuit, and it shut off and TRIPPED THAT BREAKER. When he went to check & reset it, he observed very little visual difference between "ON' and "tripped out." Now, I'm not entirely sure whether it tripped out yesterday in the initial outage.

Kevin :

Well, do you have any GFI outlets, either in the affected bathrooms, the kitchen, or somewhere else near by?

Customer:

Bathrooms, yes.

Kevin :

and those outlets are not working?

Customer:

Correct. All bathrooms, lights and outlets.

Expert:  Rich replied 3 years ago.

Hello .,,. you should reset any effected GFI outlets and the breakers .. and maybe try the micro in a non-gfi outlet ,, possibly with an extension cord .,.

you say there are no gfi outlets .. are the breakers gfi type ??

we need to see if it is the circuit or the microwave that is the fault .. plug a table lamp into that micro outlet and see how it behaves

If you have a multi meter we can do some testing

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry for the delay... I'm using my Mom's dial-up PC (down the street), and I keep getting more info back at my house.

No GFIs (3 bath outlets, and one exterior switched outlet on the affected circuit) had been tripped... I think. Or my buddy reset 'em, but he doesn't think so.

Restting the breaker at the box doesn't help. They're not GFI breakers.

Although the kitchen wall (microwave) outlet is still dead, the microwave also tripped the stove's circuit breaker when he tried that outlet. That breaker did reset OK at the box.

Further checking in the basement indicates the laundry circuit is dead, and the ejector circuit is dead, too. I don't think either tripped a breaker, but restting doesn't help, either.

 

I've got basic testing equipment (meter, receptacle tester, et c.) but there will be some delay while going from house to computer.

 

 

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I just took the microwave down to my Mom's house... it works fine, without tripping any breakers.

 

Expert:  Rich replied 3 years ago.

OK .. without the microwave plugged in .,.. can you reset the breaker an get power to all those things

I would say that the micro is the problem ..

any thoughts .. concerns ?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The microwave is not plugged in anywhere now (although it works fine in another house). It's about a year old, has no fritzy history, and it's not huge (about 1000 watts), so I don't think it contributed to any overload of the circuit (which probably never tripped, anyway).

As far as I know now, the microwave was on (and functioning normally) for the initial outage while my buddy walked 15 feet to the powder room. When he flipped the light switch, the 4-bulb lighting strip flashed brightly, then went dark.

I think I've got at least 3 separate cicuits (bath/kitchen; laundry; ejector pump) which seem dead, and resetting their breakers (which do not trip out) does not change anything. I still need to figure out exactly what's dead (it's a bachelor-hell house, with lights and outlets that may not have been used in years). There seem to be a few more dead outlets that aren't immediately near the bathroom cicuit, so there might be yet another lighting cicuit that's dead. I can say for sure that I haven't lost bedroom lighting(timer VCRs and one window A/C unit), or half the kitchen and dinette (lighting is split, and wall outlets are split almost opposite of the ceiling lights).

A quick look inside the breaker box did not show any obvious problems like loose/corroded/melted wiring or a fuzzy/droopy bus.

 

I know that my info is incomplete so far, and I appreciate your pointers. Just trying to describe it is helping to organize my thinking about it. I might call in a pro to finally diagnose & repair it, but I want to get a clearer idea of what's wrong first.

Without smelling smoke.

Expert:  Rich replied 3 years ago.

OK ,, you had posted that the micro tripped another circuit ,, so it is confusing to the real problem

try and reset the main breaker .. and if you have a multi meter to test the voltage that would help

if all the wiring devices are connected with the stab-in slots in the back ,, then that may be contributing to your problem .. they are unreliable and should be rewired to the screw terminal connections

If you can reset the breakers and get power ,, then wiggle some of the outlets , you may find a loose connection

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yeah, I know the microwave is okay at another house, but it does trip out a second circuit at my house... the microwave might be a false trail though...

I ran a meter around the breaker box. I've only got 25 volts at half the breakers (but 120 at the others), and I've only got 25 volts at half the 100 amp breaker (and 120 at the other half). Weirdly, the low-voltage breakers seem to alternate along the two rows of breakers. One normal, then the one immediately next to it low, the next normal...

 

I did find one loose white/neutral wire at the bus, but the screw looked like it had never been tightened. I screwed that down.

And I found the stab-in connections on the basement's A.C. smoke detector loose as they could be.

Expert:  Rich replied 3 years ago.

OK .. I would start by resetting the main breaker v.

then if no change turn off all the individual breakers and measures the voltage at the main again ..

If no change then call the power company to check the power coming into your house .. tell them you think you have only half energized

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

- Delayed response... it's been about100 degrees here, and the roomate has breathing problems; because I still had refrigeration and minimal A/C, I decided to hold off on throwing the main breaker, or having the utility crew digging up the back yard.

Early Friday morning, I tried the main breaker, and all the small breakers. No change - only half the box was energized. I planned to call ComEd on Monday.

Friday mid-morning, it rained heavy for about an hour. Shortly after that, I went home and found one of the good circuits dead. I threw a few of the lesser breakers, and when I came upstairs to see if I hit the correct one, everything was back on!

A few hours later, the affected half of the box went out again, this time showing no voltage.

We had more heavy rain overnight... so I tried all the breakers again. Half of the breakers were still zero voltage, so I called ComEd. They.re pretty busy after the storms, so it still may take awlie before I get a final solution. I'll post that when I get it.

 

P.S. I want to keep this thread open just a while longer, so I'm not clicking "Accept" yet. But this has helped, and I am. Thanks.

Expert:  Rich replied 3 years ago.

OK.. all of your descriptions point to a fault in the main power ,, at the main breaker ,, at the meter socket ,, or at the pole in the street

 

checking the panel main breaker with a multi meter would tell you if it were in the breaker or before the breaker

 

test for voltage from adjacent5 breakers ,, which you did ,, and got one hot and the next not ..

then check at the wires on the suply side of the main breaker ,, those wires should give you 120 each between the wire and neutal .. and 240 volts between the two supply wires ..

 

If that is not what you have then the fault is outside the main panel .. the power company should check that

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

More annoying info: while waiting for the utility crew yesterday, the dead circuits came back without lifting a finger for about two hours in the afternoon. I'm still waiting for a Com Ed truck, but it's raining again. I'll bet the power will be fine when he does show up to check it. He he.

 

I think you're correct about the break being outside the home, because when I get the subnormal or zero voltage, I get it at one of the heavy twin cables leading into the twin main breakers.

Expert:  Rich replied 3 years ago.
Yes if you find poor voltage at the wires on the main breaker ,, then that indicates the fault is outside the house
Rich, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience: Over 35 years residential, commercial, industrial wiring, install, troubleshoot, service, maintain
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