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Old May 9, 2019, 06:08 PM   #1
kmw1954
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Reloading room shutdown.

I have my reloading room set up in an empty upstairs bedroom as we are now empty nesters. Recently I just finished rebuilding my benchtop and getting everything back in order and all was going nicely.

Then the other night I was at the bench and I slide a new gooseneck LED light to reach something and I heard that familiar electrical zzzzziiitttttttts, light flickered and then all went dark.

When downstairs to reset the breaker only to find none tripped. Still dark.

This is an old 1 1/2 story house that was build sometime shortly after the end of WWII and like most of the others here were originally just summer cottages. Sure it's been updated over the years and even the attic was expanded and a dormer added at some point.

Well pulling outlets, receptacles and switches I am realizing that whoever did this was an idiot and not a professional. It is completely FUBAR'ed and there are more sizes, colors and types of wire up there than there are runs. Now I have also found stray voltage ranging from 40-50vac with the power off.

Not sure how I am going to proceed here but my reloading is finished until I can fix this. Morale support will be warmly welcomed while I'm shut down. Anyone with help or advice please feel free to PM me!
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Old May 9, 2019, 06:30 PM   #2
PolarFBear
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Shocking - absolutely shocking. Check every outlet for a ground. Probably have a "swapped" white for black as well. Don't know your skills or equipment. Measuring 40-50 volts suggests no novice. But if you are I have found the little yellow plug with three lights to be really helpful. Also the pencil sized "current" detector. Saved me several times. Total outlay for the two, under $20. Also check that the whole house ground is anchored deep enough. I once found one only six inches into the earth - should be three to four FEET. Grasp the problem at hand but don't get to charged up.
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Old May 9, 2019, 06:33 PM   #3
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One circuit at a time !!!

Quote:
Not sure how I am going to proceed here but my reloading is finished until I can fix this. Morale support will be warmly welcomed while I'm shut down. Anyone with help or advice please feel free to PM me!
Break it down to one circuit at a time and don't look at the problem as a whole. The problem is fixable but it may take some time. What I am getting from you, is that there is a real danger. Not being familiar with your building, I'd say that it didn't get this bad, overnight. if you are doing the work yourself, you will need some testers. Those voltage drops concern me. ….

Be Safe !!!
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Old May 9, 2019, 06:35 PM   #4
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No advice to offer but I can offer sympathy. Back in 1995 I moved into my late mother's house after she died. The house was built in 1950. It was a budget house, built for a WW2 returning veteran.

A couple/few years after I moved in, I began to experience random brownouts, mostly affecting only certain circuits in the house. I had an electrician look at it. He opened up the fuse panel (note: "fuse" panel, not "breaker" panel), poked around a bit, and said he didn't see anything wrong. Problems continued. Brought in another electrician, who also opened up the fuse panel and poked around. His diagnosis: The main disconnect was a big Bakelite square that you had to physically pull out of the panel. Inside the Bakelite box were two cartridge-type fuses. The Bakelite thingie had two copper (or brass) blades on the back that slid into and engaged copper (or brass) spring contacts to close the circuit. His theory was that, over the span of almost 50 years, the contacts in the panel had lost their springiness, so when the weather was warm and there was load on the panel, the contacts would start to open up, resulting in brownouts.

It obviously wasn't a safe condition, but there was no repair possible. I had the fuse panel replaced with a modern breaker panel. No more problems (knock on wood).

Is the entire house out of power now, or just the spare bedroom?
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Old May 9, 2019, 06:38 PM   #5
Tony Z
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Be careful the circuit (circuits) are not backfired.
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Old May 9, 2019, 07:11 PM   #6
buck460XVR
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Z View Post
Be careful the circuit (circuits) are not backfired.
I'm guessing Tony means "Backwired" and not "Backfired". Even then, unless the bad receptacle/bad job of backwiring, was the first in line(and ahead of the light branch), it wouldn't kill the whole room, just that receptacle and those beyond.

I'm surprised with the age of the house, that you actually have breakers and not fuses or fustats. You sure you don't have another panel somewhere? One reason I always recommend against putting light and receptacle branches on the same circuit is putting yourself in the dark when you trip a breaker at the receptacle. A post WWII house is not that old and should have good wires and wiring, unlike a pre-electricity/turn of the century house that had everything retrofitted.

The blowing of the circuit when moving a lamp tends to make one think it is a problem within the receptacle that the light was plugged into. Could be a loose connection in a wirenut that has been arcing in the past and finally fried the connection. While within the box with the receptacle, could be separate from the receptacle. Still the movement of the receptacle may have caused movement in the wire connection. Stray voltage is sometimes associated with arcing connections. Many DIYers use the wire nuts to twist the connection together instead of twisting the connection first and then covering it with the wirenut and don;t alwways get a good tight connection. The proper way to do receptacles is with jumpers, so even if one has a bad receptacle or a loose connection at the receptacle, it doesn't affect the whole circuit. You are also not running all the power thru each and every outlet in the branch all the time.

Do you know what breaker controls the room for sure? If so, do you have stray voltage when that breaker is off? Just because the lights are off in the room does not mean the power is completely off. If you know what breaker controls that room, do you know exactly what else the breaker controls? Is everything on that circuit dead or only part?
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Old May 9, 2019, 07:50 PM   #7
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Another possibility is a faulty breaker. It might have tripped internally but not show tripped at the handle. I had to replace the double breaker for my emergency generator circuit in January because the breaker was faulty. Plugged in the generator, and only one leg was getting power to the house. The other leg was dead, but nothing was tripped.

What make is the breaker panel? If it's a Federal-Pacific, it's cause for concern. They seem to have a reputation for defective breakers.

Is the wiring Romex, or metal-armored cable ("BX")?
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Old May 9, 2019, 09:13 PM   #8
kmw1954
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Thanks guys for the encouragement and support, hope the moderators will tolerate this being a bit OFF Topic but it does effect my whole room where I reload.

I do have experience with industrial electrics and 480v 3phz, residential not so much. With this I have no clue where anything is going. Haven't found anything that looks like a junction box.

What I know. There is a breaker in the panel marked upstairs. Form what O know the wiring is going from the panel straight up the wall into one room. That room has 2 outlets and a ceiling fixture. Power from the outlet closest to the panel that looks as if it is being used as a junction box with 2 wires coming in and 4 going out. 2 go up to the ceiling and then down to the other side of the room. 2 wires I believe are going out to a receptacle in the family room, which has power. That box also has 2 wires going out, to where I have no idea yet. The rest of the whole upstairs is dead.

At this point I'm at a loss as I don't know where this voltage is coming from or how this is all run. There is no rhyme or reason to this wiring. No color code, hodgepodge of different sizes of wire, even different wire types. Kind of looks like whoever did it was using leftovers or whatever they could get their hands on.. Don't know if this is good or bad but it is all pulled thru conduit.

I have not tried testing with the breaker off for that stray voltage but will do in the morning.
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Old May 9, 2019, 10:48 PM   #9
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Color code for residential 120-volt wiring is easy: Black is positive, white is neutral, and green (if you have it) is ground. If you don't have a green ground wire, your receptacles should be 2-pring, not 3-prong.

If the wiring is in BX, the metal sheath acts as a ground path, so you can use 3-prong receptacles and connect the grounding terminal to the metal box. However, it's not a great idea. The BX they used in the 1950s (which wasn't really BX, I believe, but that's what everyone calls it) may or may not be affected by age and corrosion insofar as integrity of the grounding path is concerned. Nevertheless, it's better than no ground at all.

If you see a red wire -- red is the third current-carrying conductor in 14/3 or 12/3 cable. It's a second "hot" -- typically used in wiring 3-way switch circuits.
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Old May 9, 2019, 11:02 PM   #10
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I can't offer advice.
You're just going to have to trace everything and get your best idea of what's going on (how it's wired, and what's wrong), before diving in.

But I will say that I feel your pain. My last house was the model home for the neighborhood. Many shortcuts taken. Much pain in the butt.

My current house was carefully chosen (10+ month search) with one of the considerations being that my wife and I never wanted to own a home that had been the model, again.
Well, as you might be guessing, we found out two years after moving into this house that it was the model (which is also why it has the largest lot).
Not only were shortcuts taken when it was built (from structure, to wiring, to plumbing, to insulation), but it was remodeled several times and "upgraded" by the previous owner many times.

I now have four circuit breakers that are, somehow, and somewhere, tied together ... and all include 3-way lighting circuits. I know (or suspect) where three of the (assumed) handy boxes or junction boxes from remodels or "upgrades" are located. But they're all buried in walls. I managed to find a specific combination of switch positions that makes ALL of the 3-way lighting circuits limited to a single switch, but eliminates stray voltage and other undesirable symptoms. (Though still requires all of the circuit breakers to be off to work on any of the circuits.)
I really need to dig in and fix it. ...But I'm waiting for the next remodel to tear the walls open.

For now, we live with three light switches taped down, and one with a note taped above it, reading, "Do not use if dining room light is on."

The plan is to have two (or three) sub panels installed, and then rewire everything possible myself. But, that seems to be years down the road, at this point.
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Old May 9, 2019, 11:58 PM   #11
kmw1954
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Well I have one more ceiling fan to pull down and hopefully that will tell me something that I can use to proceed.

My brother has an electrician friend that I'm waiting to hear from.
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Old May 10, 2019, 04:50 AM   #12
Tony Z
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Backwired (dayam this auto correct/chane)! I'm not referring to receptacles wired on the back, but rather a circuit back fed from other devices or circuits. Unless you know what you are doing, it is better to have a qualified or licensed (depending on local regs) electrician.

If adding lights, I would consider LEDs over any other: now affordable, very bright, giving you ability to see where that bullet or primer fell!
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Old May 10, 2019, 07:12 AM   #13
Chuck Norris
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I would bet on a loose neutral wire some where in the circuit,back then most of the power ran through the light boxes. Look for white wires that are brown or black on the ends from over heating,loose connection. I would check the panel for a loose neutral first.
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Old May 10, 2019, 08:10 AM   #14
kmw1954
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Morning folks and again thank you!

I understood the backfeed from the beginning and have seen if before, especially with water and stream..

Wiring is going to be a chore to hunt down. Again in one box they used two different sized wire, in another for a ceiling light the wire going to the switch is not the same wire that is at the switch.
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Old May 10, 2019, 09:13 AM   #15
Chuck Norris
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If you have a good ground,you can touch it to the neutrals and if things start working,you lost a neutral some where. I always start at the panel and tighten all the wires esp. the neutrals. Been doing elec. work for 30+ years,mostly residential. The flaky voltage is what tells me it is a bad connection on the neutrals
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Old May 10, 2019, 11:36 AM   #16
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmw1954
Wiring is going to be a chore to hunt down. Again in one box they used two different sized wire, in another for a ceiling light the wire going to the switch is not the same wire that is at the switch.
3-way switched? Is one of the wires red and the other black?
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Old May 10, 2019, 01:27 PM   #17
M88
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmw1954
When downstairs to reset the breaker only to find none tripped. Still dark.
More than one electrician over the years has told me it's just a good idea to REPLACE all your breakers every 20-30 years or so. Here is a good example why you should. While rebuilding my shop I had unknowingly nicked a 12-2 wire with a utility knife. Didn't even see it, just a little slit into outside and evidently also cut into the black (hot) wire inside. Why I didn't feel a zap when that happened I have no idea, it was a metal utility knife. Anyway years later I had a leak in one of the basement stone walls (it's a 110 year old house) which got that 12-2 wire I had nicked... wet. The water seeped into that cut in the wire, and got to the nicked black wire also, but instead of shorting out immediately as it should have, it just started pulling loads of current, to the point where it got hot enough to start to burn. FORTUNATELY I was down in my shop at the time, noticed the smoking wire and immediately turned off that breaker. Point is... the breaker had FAILED to trip, it was a bad breaker. It was letting enough current through to start the wire burning. My electrician buddy told me yes breakers CAN fail, like anything else. So... even if all your breakers look good and have not tripped, don't assume the breakers are working properly.
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Old May 10, 2019, 01:49 PM   #18
kmw1954
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So. Checked voltage again with the breaker off and all is good. Pulled down the last ceiling fan and got more clues as to what they did. Then went into the attic and broke into the ceiling where the light fixture and wall switch is. There about 16" into the ceiling over the other room is a 4X4 box which has 5 different conduit runs coming into it. So I guess now I have to cut a hole in the ceiling to get to this box. Making progress!

For general information at the very beginning I took my Fluke Meter to the open panel and checked voltages to each breaker.
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Old May 10, 2019, 05:30 PM   #19
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Hey, not shocking to be sure, I've heard of lots of nightmares with dyi wiring jobs, but at least your housemdidnt catch fire any really spoil your loading room!
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Old May 10, 2019, 05:31 PM   #20
Mike38
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Could be an open neutral somewhere? Open neutral = not a continuous uninterrupted white wire returning to the load center (breaker panel). This can be, but not always, a very dangerous situation. Possible someone is switching the neutral instead of the hot wire. Never, never ever, fuse or interrupt with a switch the neutral side of a circuit. Also possible loose wire nut on the neutral in a junction box somewhere.

I worked in a house that had switched neutrals as originally built (I guess they did that many years ago) then had been partially rewired the correct way with switched hot wires. It was a time consuming mess.

Good luck, and if in doubt, call an electrical contractor.
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Old May 10, 2019, 05:56 PM   #21
kmw1954
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Still going. After getting up were I can see above the ceiling I found another junction box about 10 feet away with another 4 branches going from it and one BX going to a light switch! AAAhhhh Monsters. This has forced me to pull out my old electrical book and brush up.

Something that also is upsetting is I was going to go apply for a part time job at one of the outdoor ranges this week. They are looking for help in the store, Range Safety, and working the Trap houses.

The fortunate part is that for now I still have a pretty good stock of loaded ammo unless we start shooting more, which I'm hoping. But I have to get this electric straight first.
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Old May 11, 2019, 01:29 AM   #22
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A friend of mine is an electrician and the stuff he sees in old houses is scary. He takes pics of some of it and it's both scary and funny to see. Bypassing fuses, jumping breakers, too small wire gauge, it's unending.

In my own experience with bad wiring. We bought a house when I was 9 and moved in. For a few months, nothing went wrong. Around Thanksgiving, I was downstairs setting up my model trains and I started smelling something burning. Plastic burning. I thought it was something I was doing (Soldering) at first, but it soon became obvious it wasn't my soldering iron making that smell. So I looked around where the breaker box was and it was coming from that area, but at first, I couldn't figure out what it was. I touched the main breaker panel and it was the usual 80 degrees or so, but when I touched one of the two smaller boxes that were mounted on each side of the main box and one was almost too hot to touch, so I opened it up and saw the problem, it was wired with lamp cord! That box supplied the entire upstairs of the house, and it was wired with brown 16 gauge lamp cord. I got my dad and he called his buddy the old electrician who came out a half hour later and rewired the whole upstairs by bedtime that night. He kept shaking his head and said over and over, "This guy had no idea what he was doing!". He said it was a total "amateur job" probably done by the previous owner. Apparently, my sister putting her big hair dryer up there and using it was too much for the lamp cord to tolerate. After the rewire, The lights were brighter and they didn't dim down when you turned on the TV or stereo. The electrician guy checked out all the other wiring and said it was fine. We found out from the next door neighbor that the previous owner of the house had done all of the wiring and plumbing upstairs which was converted from a huge attic. A plumber checked out all the copper pipes upstairs and all was well, so we expected we would have nothing to worry about, but one night the next spring we had a huge windstorm and suddenly the furnace caught fire. I was in the basement when it happened, playing pool with my best friend and when we opened it up to hit it with the fire extinguisher, there was a book of papers burning. It was the manual and wiring diagram for the furnace. The previous owner had put it inside "so it wouldn't be lost". We had no heat after the fire, so out came the same guy who rewired the upstairs, who muttered, "What kind of idiot was the guy who used to own this place?" over and over as he fixed the burned up furnace wiring. How I found out that the previous owner had put the papers inside for safekeeping was kind of funny too. He was over at the next door neighbors drinking (What else?), and was muttering about my dog's barking. He said something like, "Tom, I wouldn't tolerate that stupid little &%(#*! yapping like that!". I was over there for some reason, and I said to him, "At least my dog isn't stupid enough to wire the upstairs of my house with lamp cord, or to put the papers for the furnace inside the furnace, so it can burn up the wiring!". Needless to say he wasn't a fan of me after that. I was called, "That little punk next door!" by him until I was much past the point of being called little at all. Years later, I would run into him at a NY's party and didn't remember me. Until I said something about the lamp cord wiring job. He remembered me fine then.
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Old May 11, 2019, 08:36 AM   #23
Mal H
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Sorry, kmw, but we have to shut this down. We let it run for a while, but in fairness to others who have their threads closed for being off topic, we have to close this one. The thread is about trouble shooting your electrical problem, not about reloading.

Anyone with any additional help for kmw1954 can PM him with it.

[Edit - 5/13/2019]
Thread reopened so kmw1954 can update it.
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Old May 13, 2019, 12:19 AM   #24
kmw1954
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Fist I want to thank Mal and the staff for being understanding and cutting me way more slack than I deserve, these guys are great. Thank you so much Staff!

Next I want to thank all that offered help, advice and morale support during this time it's helped greatly too.

Today I was finally able to just about get everything restored and my reloading room is back up and running. Other than some very questionable wire connections I really didn't find anything that looked broken. I wish I had the funds right now to gut it and start over but at least now I have a good idea where this stands and what is needed in the future.

Once again I thank all you, members and staff!
Kevin

Now let's close this so we don't get out of hand.
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