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Diagnose this electrical problem?
Old 11-10-2019, 05:21 PM   #1
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Diagnose this electrical problem?

To paint our new fence, we hired the same company that installed the fence. They sent a couple of guys with a paint sprayer, which they hooked up to our outdoor outlets.

After quite a few hours, guy knocks on our door and asks if he can hook up his extension cord to an indoor outlet. "When I unplugged the machine [to put more paint in, I assume] I guess I tripped one of your breakers, you'd better check."

I checked both breaker boxes. Nothing had tripped.

I reset all our GFI/GCFI outlets. All are working.

All our external outlets are now dead, including the one our carbon water filter uses.

Is there anything else to be done before I call an electrician on Monday?

Incidentally, the painter said that with his cord plugged into our indoor outlet, the machine's motor runs too slow. He tried to imply there is something wrong with our electricity. I don't know exactly which outlet goes to which circuit, but I'd swear there is nothing else plugged into the circuit that the machine was using. Other things (lamps, a fan) plugged into the same outlet, work OK.

Thanks,

Amethyst
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:25 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
I checked both breaker boxes. Nothing had tripped.
Aged circuit breakers may trip, but their lever do not move all the way to the "Off" position. In other words, the lever position is misleading.

You should reset them all, by moving them to the "Off" position, then back to "On". In doing so, you will see that the one that tripped will feel loose.

Those weak breakers should be replaced eventually. Not doing so is not dangerous, however, they will trip at lower and lower currents and become a nuisance.

Quote:
Incidentally, the painter said that with his cord plugged into our indoor outlet, the machine's motor runs too slow. He tried to imply there is something wrong with our electricity. I don't know exactly which outlet goes to which circuit, but I'd swear there is nothing else plugged into the circuit that the machine was using. Other things (lamps, a fan) plugged into the same outlet, work OK.
Your indoor circuit may be too long, meaning too far from the distribution box, and has too much voltage drop for the high current drawn by the paint sprayer.

Without a voltmeter, you can check this easily enough by plugging a lamp onto the same receptacle as the paint sprayer. Turn the sprayer on, you will see the lamp dim.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:29 PM   #3
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Did you actually cycle the appropriate breaker open and shut or just look at it and see that it wasn't tripped? I would try that first, because sometimes the breaker can be open but not obvious, especially in low light.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:43 PM   #4
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Aged circuit breakers may trip, but their lever do not move all the way to the "Off" position. In other words, the lever position is misleading.

You should reset them all, by moving them to the "Off" position, then back to "On". In doing so, you will see that the one that tripped will feel loose.



Yes!


This is exactly what happened to me recently. I bet this is the problem.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:48 PM   #5
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1) If wired per code, those outside outlets are on a GFCI breaker or a GFCI outlet. Are you sure you checked ALL of the GFCI outlets? We have an outlet on the deck that is wired through a GFCI outlet near the furnace in the basement. It took me a long time to figure that one out when the deck outlet went dead.

2) Motor runs too slow = too-long, light gauge extension cord. Nothing to do with you.
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:53 PM   #6
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There are only 2 breaker boxes in the house, and none in the garage (there is one GCFI there). Interesting. All the breakers are labeled, and it's all for inside equipment and HVAC. None of the breakers are labeled for "outside" "external" or, for that matter "pool."

We've never owned a pool before. Is there likely to be an outside breaker box for the pool equipment and external outlets? I now recall looking for such a box when we moved in, and then forgetting about it in the press of other things.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:03 PM   #7
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If there is a GFCI outlet in the garage that would be my first candidate for supporting the outside outlets. Check it with a light bulb, drill motor, or whatever to make sure it is supplying power.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:05 PM   #8
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I noticed it was not as heavy an extension cord as I would have used. So yeah, thanks for confirming that...I have a heavy-gauge one for our electric chainsaw, but after what these clowns did to my paint brushes that they borrowed, I'm not lending them my good cord.

We don't have a basement, and I checked every outlet that has a button on it, including the garage. (I've gotten very familiar with all our inside outlets, because I have been gradually painting the entire house interior. The old paint wasn't in that bad a shape, but the owners had very different color tastes from ours).

If there is an outlet near the furnace/air conditioner, it would be in the (unfinished) attic, where we would be extremely reluctant to go. May have to pay somebody to go up there after all.

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1) If wired per code, those outside outlets are on a GFCI breaker or a GFCI outlet. Are you sure you checked ALL of the GFCI outlets? We have an outlet on the deck that is wired through a GFCI outlet near the furnace in the basement. It took me a long time to figure that one out when the deck outlet went dead.

2) Motor runs too slow = too-long, light gauge extension cord. Nothing to do with you.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:14 PM   #9
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When you say you checked the GFCI outlets did you just check the buttons or did you actually plug something into them? If the latter I am probably out of ideas.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:26 PM   #10
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Both. Snapped the buttons, and plugged in a little portable fan. It works in all our interior GFCIs.

There is just one place I didn't check - the main breaker under the electric meter - do you think I should go outside tomorrow and check that? I'm kind of afraid of turning off main breakers!

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When you say you checked the GFCI outlets did you just check the buttons or did you actually plug something into them? If the latter I am probably out of ideas.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:28 PM   #11
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No, no need to test the big honcho breaker. If that one tripped, you would not have any live circuit in the house.

And come to think of it, something that trips that 200A breaker will cause a very spectacular spark.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:34 PM   #12
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Yeah. Turning off main breaker is not necessary and then you get to reset all the clocks.

I still think there is a GFCI breaker (unlikely) or outlet somewhere that is tripped and is the one controlling the outside outlets. But if you have checked them all ...
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:34 PM   #13
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A GFCI outlet will not reset IF the AC power is not at the outlet. It will only reset if power is available. That power comes from a breaker. So, if you can trip, then reset the GFCI outlet, it's got power. If nothing turns on plugged into that outlet, then the outlet is bad. Only one of the outlets on the GFCI needs to be this type. Additional outlets can be added in series. My kitchen, for example, is that way; one is a GFCI, the others are not. But if the GFCI outlet is tripped with a test, all the kitchen outlets go dead.

Already mentioned by others that breakers in your panel usually needs to be switched all the way off, then back on, when they trip. If the breaker tripped and was reset, but still no power to the GFCI outlet, which won't be able to be reset if there is no power, then you have a bad breaker and will need to replace it. If you do not have experience doing that, then find someone who has the knowledge how to replace a breaker in the panel. It's much too dangerous to try and wing it from a youtube video or anyone explaining over the internet. Maybe a family member, friend or neighbor has the skill to replace a breaker that won't reset right.

Good luck!
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:42 PM   #14
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We've never owned a pool before. Is there likely to be an outside breaker box for the pool equipment and external outlets? I now recall looking for such a box when we moved in, and then forgetting about it in the press of other things.

If you have a pool, there should be a breaker box at the pool equipment. By law, it must be within visual range of the pool, but outside reach of touching the water and switching a breaker. (That's so no one tries to turn on a breaker while in the pool, but also anyone switching the breaker can see that the pool is not occupied) BUT there should ALSO be a breaker in your main box labeled that it goes to the pool's breaker box. Sometimes these pool boxes are labeled 'sub panel' for the breaker in the main box that goes to the pool, or other outside box. Verify the pool equipment has power and if it's got a breaker panel on it.
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Old 11-10-2019, 06:50 PM   #15
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If you have a pool, there should be a breaker box at the pool equipment. By law, it must be within visual range of the pool, but outside reach of touching the water and switching a breaker. (That's so no one tries to turn on a breaker while in the pool, but also anyone switching the breaker can see that the pool is not occupied) BUT there should ALSO be a breaker in your main box labeled that it goes to the pool's breaker box. Sometimes these pool boxes are labeled 'sub panel' for the breaker in the main box that goes to the pool, or other outside box. Verify the pool equipment has power and if it's got a breaker panel on it.
Yes.

At my home, there's a double-pole (220V) pool breaker in the main box, and it feeds an underground line going to the pool.

Then, at the subpanel at the pool, there is a 220V breaker for the pump, and a 110V breaker for the light.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:10 PM   #16
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Both. Snapped the buttons, and plugged in a little portable fan. It works in all our interior GFCIs.

There is just one place I didn't check - the main breaker under the electric meter - do you think I should go outside tomorrow and check that? I'm kind of afraid of turning off main breakers!
Are you sure you don't have a small breaker in the main box for your external circuit? If so, it may have tripped. I know I have one that feeds my external power and barn. If not, it sounds like it's time to call a pro.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:33 PM   #17
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I know we all try to be frugal, except for Robbie, but I think this is a good time to call in a professional. Beyond having the specific issue addressed, he/she can do a walk through with you and make sure everything is okay and that you understand your system.

My guess is that if you’ve cycled all your breakers and GFI’s, that the plug got fried, and that plug feeds other plugs. Either that or it’s the box in the attic. Personally, it would be comforting to me to have it checked out. Somethings wrong. Also, I’m not convinced the extension cord is the problem. Just an opinion, but I don’t think you’d get that outcome from the wrong gage extension cord. Rather, heat and circuit breaking would seem more likely.

Hoping for the best. Be safe.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:38 PM   #18
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I know we all try to be frugal, except for Robbie, but I think this is a good time to call in a professional...
None of us is coaching the OP on how to open up the breaker panel and probe around. We only ask if she has done all the usual things that a homeowner can do, and should do herself.

After all that simple checking and it still does not work, of course she will have to call an electrician. It could be a loose connection somewhere. Intermittent contact points can overheat and cause a fire. The root cause has to be determined.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:41 PM   #19
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If you have a pool, there should be a breaker box at the pool equipment. By law, it must be within visual range of the pool, but outside reach of touching the water and switching a breaker. (That's so no one tries to turn on a breaker while in the pool, but also anyone switching the breaker can see that the pool is not occupied) BUT there should ALSO be a breaker in your main box labeled that it goes to the pool's breaker box. Sometimes these pool boxes are labeled 'sub panel' for the breaker in the main box that goes to the pool, or other outside box. Verify the pool equipment has power and if it's got a breaker panel on it.
Nope, not everywhere.
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Old 11-10-2019, 07:49 PM   #20
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Nope, not everywhere.

Code requirements from the National Electrical Code (NEC) do so stipulate, among other rules regarding pools and outdoor outlets. Local rules may vary, although they generally follow the NEC fairly closely.
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