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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    14

    Question Circuit come back to life?

    I've got a circuit in my house (built early 1990s) that feeds two receptacles in my garage and 2 on the exterior of my house. None of these receptacles are GFCI, at least that I can tell (no reset buttons). All I keep plugged into these outlets with any regularity is a small deep freeze and a small beer fridge (both in the garage). Last week I noticed the circuit wasn't working, so I tried flipping the breaker a few times, which didn't help. I tried all the other breakers in the house, just to be sure, since I know at least one is mislabeled, and that didn't help. I even flipped the main disconnect outside the house to see if that helped, but to no avail.

    I plugged the freezer and fridge into another circuit via extension cord and decided to address the problem the following weekend. And when I went to look into it again...voila! It's working now. I hadn't done anything to fix it, with the exception of trying it once or twice during the week in a bit of blind hopefulness.

    Any explanations why this would happen? Could this be a sign of deeper problems?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,789

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    This is a common complaint for receptacles installed using the stab connections instead of attaching the wires to the screws.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    698

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    Jack, right on.
    Maurice

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,545

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    Tripped breakers are usually easy to spot at the panel. I had an experience with a backstab coming out recently, so that's always a possibility, especially if the breaker wasn't thrown.
    My house slightly older than yours has GFI's in the panel, not at the outlets. The gfi breakers are easy to spot in the panel. Sometime freezers & refigerators tend to throw gfi's. I don't know why, but it's happened to me a few times.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,789

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    GFI's will not reset themselves.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    251

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    The problem may not be at the breaker at all. It could be a loose conductor on one of the outlets. I bet if you were to check the resistance in the circuit it's fairly high. Loose wires are bad. They can arc if they become grounded and can cause the wires and circuit to overheat. I'd start at the outlet the appliances that are not working first and work your way upstream... if you know how the circuit is run.

    If you're really unlucky, someone violated code and has a juntion box behind a finished wall or ceiling and a wire nut is loose... which is exactly why a junctions must remain accessible.
    1925 Two-Story Stucco Beaux Arts Neoclassical

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,401

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    I read your posting twice and I think that the problem is not in the breaker too.
    Start by checking the connections in the receptacles (outlet plugs). Turn breaker off first.
    You can't have good beer go warm on you when you need it...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    I agree with several of the other comments. It is not a GFI or breaker problem, it is a connection problem. It is a loose connection at the breaker, neutral or back of one of the outlets. Start by turning off the breaker feeding this circuit and identify every outlet that is on that circuit. With the breaker off, check the back of every outlet. I agree with those comments about the stab in connections being not a good idea. Use the screws. Better yet get the better outlet that have a back clamp that tightens with the screw for the wires. (yeah they cost more but they are the best) Last, turn off the main breaker and check the tightness of the connections on the feeder breaker for that circuit and the neutral bar connection for that circuit. A test for the circuit is to plug the loads into your extension cord and then plug a 1500 watt heater into this circuit along with an old fashion motor driven clock for 24 hours. If the circuit loses the connection for a short time the clock will lose time and indicate that you still have a problem. It could be that you missed an outlet. I've also had my share of bad wires due to manufacturing defects, but then I've had a lot of electrical experience.

    The main thing is DO NOT ASSUME THAT THE PROBLEM FIXED ITSELF. IT WILL COME BACK!! YOU DON'T WANT YOUR BEER TO GET WARM!!!!!
    Wally

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    698

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    Good advice house. I try to map out the receptacles on the circuit and try to immagine how I would have run the wire. Then I pick a receptacle midway in the circuit for my first look.

    If it's good I jump back toward the main panel to another half way point. Did this for years then found out they call it the digital method!

    Or, turn on all the lights and load up the receptacles, as you mentioned, and go around with a receptacles checker and wiggle it. If it sparks or feels hot or lights come on..you've found it!

    But, if you find one "back-stabbed" receptacle or switch, chances are they're all back-stabbed and you might as well buy a bunch of new ones (preferably the tamper resistant recetacles) and replace all of them.

    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, http://thesemi-retiredelectrician.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Circuit come back to life?

    Thanks all for your help. As expected, the problem did return, but luckily I caught it before the beer got warm (*whew*). This weekend I'll be checking the receptacles.

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