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Old 11-02-2009, 05:31 PM
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Default For you electrically minded people out there

I am looking for advice. I have an electrical issue in my home that has developed and thought that I would run it past the eclectic group here.

I have one circuit in my house that is demonstrating the systems of brown outs. Just the one circuit.

Background: My home is a modest cape cod. The circuit in question is a circuit that controls the master bath and part of the upstairs. The circuit passes thru a GFCI receptacle. The circuit is heavily used primarily during the day. The breaker is about four years old a piggy back breaker (two breakers in one breaker space), it was replaced when the spa was installed - I have plenty of capacity but a small panel box. The symptoms included dimming of the lights, slowdown on the ventilation fan in the bathroom and voltage fluctuations at the other receptacles on the circuit. The loads on this circuit are much greater during the day (a salt water aquarium is on this circuit) but the fluctuations happen day or night. The largest load is the lighting - 500 watts - for the aquarium. Nothing has been changed or added to the circuit in years.

My first guess would be to replace the breaker - I know that they can grow weak over time. I suppose that there might be issues in the circuit if the receptacles or switches were backwired (stub wired) and the wires have loosened over time.

Any ideas?

Peter
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:01 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

Quote:
Originally Posted by plhalle View Post
I am looking for advice. I have an electrical issue in my home that has developed and thought that I would run it past the eclectic group here.

I have one circuit in my house that is demonstrating the systems of brown outs. Just the one circuit.

Background: My home is a modest cape cod. The circuit in question is a circuit that controls the master bath and part of the upstairs. The circuit passes thru a GFCI receptacle. The circuit is heavily used primarily during the day. The breaker is about four years old a piggy back breaker (two breakers in one breaker space), it was replaced when the spa was installed - I have plenty of capacity but a small panel box. The symptoms included dimming of the lights, slowdown on the ventilation fan in the bathroom and voltage fluctuations at the other receptacles on the circuit. The loads on this circuit are much greater during the day (a salt water aquarium is on this circuit) but the fluctuations happen day or night. The largest load is the lighting - 500 watts - for the aquarium. Nothing has been changed or added to the circuit in years.

My first guess would be to replace the breaker - I know that they can grow weak over time. I suppose that there might be issues in the circuit if the receptacles or switches were backwired (stub wired) and the wires have loosened over time.

Any ideas?

Peter
Peter,

I'm not an electrician, but my first reaction is that it may be some sort of grounding problem. I.e. the grounding has gotten messed up somehow.

Also, the first and cheapest option would probably be to replace the circuit breaker.

And, I'd be suspicious of the aquarium. If it was me, I'd temporarily run an extension cord from a socket on another circuit to the aquarium. Does the problem goes away?

Regards,

Dan.
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Last edited by DanClark; 11-02-2009 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:28 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

Dan,

Thanks for the suggestions.

Peter
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:07 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

Dan,

It appears that you were right on several counts. Yes it was the aquarium set up as well as possibly a grounding problem.

I unplugged the aquarium setup and tried turning on everything else that could be turned on on that circuit. No flickering lights, no voltage fluctuations. Then I cleaned the prongs of the cord and plugged it back in while leaving everything else on. No flickering or anything else.

I'll cross my fingers and hope for continued success.

I am kinda "shocked" that it appears to be that there was an issue with the ground. The setup has its own GRCI and additionally I have a grounding probe installed in the aquarium that is connected to the grounding screw. Its primary purpose is to shed errant electrical currents that may get introduced into the water by equipment failures - believe it or not, many people who have had issues with these stray currents affecting their fish.

Thanks again Dan.

Peter
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:16 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

Peter,

Any time. I'm happy pass along what little I know about electrical stuff.

Regards,

Dan.
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Last edited by DanClark; 11-02-2009 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:35 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

A bad ground will not give you these symptoms, but a loose wire will. A poor connection constitutes a high resistance path, and the more current flowing across that path will result in a voltage drop.

If you do have the backstab receptacles and you want some peace of mind, you might consider pulling out each outlet and reconnecting the wires to the screw terminals. This is especially important if the outlet itself is acting as the splice between incoming and outgoing power at each outlet. If the outlet is pigtailed to the circuit and not acting as the splice, then this is less critical.

Also, check to see that all screw lugs at the breaker and neutral buss are tight.
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Old 11-02-2009, 08:33 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

What Rick said.

I once had part of a circuit cut out on me because of some lazy electrician who used the 'backstab' approach for continuing the circuit through a receptacle.

The problem was in an unused receptacle behind a piece of furniture. It sure took me a while to find the source of that problem.

Charles
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Old 11-02-2009, 09:50 PM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

Rick and Charles,

I will check the panel box and check the breaker wire connections and also the neutral bar. Not today. The panel box is located on the outside of the house and things are a little wet.

Normally here the electricians would stub in and out of the receptacle. Most on that circuit are accessible. I have changed over many of mine to the side terminals and then wrapped the outlet with electrical tape.

I will update if I find anything substantial.

Thanks for the ideas.

Peter
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Old 11-03-2009, 11:37 AM
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Default Re: For you electrically minded people out there

I agree with Rick (loose connection) and since it's an entire circuit it's probably a loose lug in the service panel.
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