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Old 11-24-10, 08:51 AM   #1
SonataInFSharp
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What Couldíve Happened? (Home Electrical)

Clues:

1) When I was in the shower, the bathroom lights flashed brightly, exactly as though a camera took a picture and the flash went off.

2) When I went into the living room a little later, I noticed some lights werenít on, so I checked the outlets, and some of the living room outlets were out: one was a two-plug outlet; the other was two of the four-plug outlet weren't working.

3) I went downstairs and a 20amp breaker was flipped, so I reset it and all was fine.

4) If it matters, when we had the house inspected before we bought it, some of the outlets were grounded and sound werenít, all on the same run of electrical wire.

Questions:

1) If a breaker to the living room tripped, why would the lights in the bathroom surge (and not blow out, for that matter)?

2) How can a breaker trip if nothing is plugged in, turned on, etc at that time? I ask because I am wondering if I need to investigate further.

3) Why would a four-plug outlet have two plugs on one breaker and two on another breaker?

4) Should I be concerned about this, or just let it go as I was able to flip the breaker, nothing started on fire, etc?

5) I have an outlet tester to check which outlets are grounded and which arenít and I canít find it. Where did it go?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-24-10, 09:14 AM   #2
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I blame this all on Pgoat. I think that his epic thread on A/C plugs somehow loosed a gremlin into your home's wiring via the miracle of the internets.
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Old 11-24-10, 10:30 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SonataInFSharp View Post
Clues:

1) When I was in the shower, the bathroom lights flashed brightly, exactly as though a camera took a picture and the flash went off.

2) When I went into the living room a little later, I noticed some lights weren’t on, so I checked the outlets, and some of the living room outlets were out: one was a two-plug outlet; the other was two of the four-plug outlet weren't working.

3) I went downstairs and a 20amp breaker was flipped, so I reset it and all was fine.

4) If it matters, when we had the house inspected before we bought it, some of the outlets were grounded and sound weren’t, all on the same run of electrical wire.

Questions:

1) If a breaker to the living room tripped, why would the lights in the bathroom surge (and not blow out, for that matter)?

2) How can a breaker trip if nothing is plugged in, turned on, etc at that time? I ask because I am wondering if I need to investigate further.

3) Why would a four-plug outlet have two plugs on one breaker and two on another breaker?

4) Should I be concerned about this, or just let it go as I was able to flip the breaker, nothing started on fire, etc?

5) I have an outlet tester to check which outlets are grounded and which aren’t and I can’t find it. Where did it go?

Thanks in advance!
Regarding 1), 2) and 4), it sounds like you may have had a momentary power surge. I wouldn't worry about the breaker popping once. I'd be really worried if they did it again.

Regarding 3) It's normal ( and indeed, required in some jurisdictions ) for the outlets in a single outlet box to be connected to different circuits. This helps balance out the loads on all the circuits when people decide to plug in a whole bunch of crap to the same box. It's a sign that at least part of your house was wired properly. :-)

And as for 5), it's at the very back of that uppermost shelf you can't reach. It's ALWAYS there.
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Old 11-24-10, 10:43 AM   #4
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Re: the outlet tester; it twisted itself into another dimension and is with all the other tools,gadgets and miscellania that you can't find. It/they will reappear once you buy or acquire a replacement for it/them. Don't fight the system of tools, gadgets and miscellania, live with it and go with the flow.
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Old 11-24-10, 11:32 AM   #5
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Re: the outlet tester; it twisted itself into another dimension and is with all the other tools,gadgets and miscellania that you can't find. It/they will reappear once you buy or acquire a replacement for it/them. Don't fight the system of tools, gadgets and miscellania, live with it and go with the flow.
Yeah, that happened to my wife and I just today, long story short, yesterday we were looking for my Green Brooks Pro thats been in the Brooks box stored in our bedroom closet but we couldn't find it, we both called it "gone" as she had cleaned up a few days ago and actually thought she may have tossed it out by mistake, anyways I wake up this A.M and decide to look again and what do I find? the Pro sitting there on the shelf where its been for the past....FOREVER! as if its been there all the time! When both my wife and I know for a fact that it wasn't! Creepy!
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Old 11-24-10, 04:49 PM   #6
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At least you didn't have to buy a second one for it to return. Not that having two Brooks would be a bad thing.
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Old 11-24-10, 06:19 PM   #7
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I'm renowned for my electrical advice. I'll walk you through the steps of debugging and fixing your wiring, but first make sure you have a pail of water handy. Let me know when you're ready.
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Old 11-24-10, 08:36 PM   #8
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It was God reminding you not to ever post penisland links ever again.
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Old 11-27-10, 01:27 PM   #9
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Call in a qualified electrician it sounds like you have whats called a lost neutral, this can cause all sorts of problems in the house including perminate damage to any thing with a circuit board or computer chips.
Worst case this is a fire hazard.
I've been an electrician for 12 years now and have come across this problem many times.
Please take my advice and do not wait long.
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Old 11-27-10, 01:39 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by SonataInFSharp View Post
5) I have an outlet tester to check which outlets are grounded and which aren’t and I can’t find it. Where did it go?

Thanks in advance!
I have a feeling it's right next to my freewheel remover.
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Old 11-27-10, 05:12 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=SonataInFSharp;11835459]Clues:

1) When I was in the shower, the bathroom lights flashed brightly, exactly as though a camera took a picture and the flash went off.

2) How can a breaker trip if nothing is plugged in, turned on, etc at that time? I ask because I am wondering if I need to investigate further.
/QUOTE]

Something was turned on, as you stated the bathroom light flashed, thus there was a load on the breaker.

Some questions. Is the breaker that tripped protecting the circuit that with the bathroom light ?. Is the bathroom light that flashed still functioning ?, or is the bulb burned out ?, though you do state "lights", plural. One problem that can happen, is on a cicruit loaded to max., if a lamp fails with a bright burnout - what we call a Jimi, or Janice - I.E. gets real bright for a brief moment then burns out, the circuit can trip.

In truth this doesn't sound like the issue and I'm going with Gerrylightning's "Lost Neutral" idea, as that can indeed cause the problem you describe, though I think the issue is "floating" neutral ?, I.E. the circuit has lost the neutral and the result is an imbalance on a phase, with a resulting power surge. Google "Lost Neutral".

And get an electrician in to look at the wiring and terminations.

SB
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Old 11-28-10, 12:03 PM   #12
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[QUOTE=Lightingguy;11849478]
Quote:
Originally Posted by SonataInFSharp View Post
Clues:

1) When I was in the shower, the bathroom lights flashed brightly, exactly as though a camera took a picture and the flash went off.

2) How can a breaker trip if nothing is plugged in, turned on, etc at that time? I ask because I am wondering if I need to investigate further.
/QUOTE]

Something was turned on, as you stated the bathroom light flashed, thus there was a load on the breaker.

Some questions. Is the breaker that tripped protecting the circuit that with the bathroom light ?. Is the bathroom light that flashed still functioning ?, or is the bulb burned out ?, though you do state "lights", plural. One problem that can happen, is on a cicruit loaded to max., if a lamp fails with a bright burnout - what we call a Jimi, or Janice - I.E. gets real bright for a brief moment then burns out, the circuit can trip.

In truth this doesn't sound like the issue and I'm going with Gerrylightning's "Lost Neutral" idea, as that can indeed cause the problem you describe, though I think the issue is "floating" neutral ?, I.E. the circuit has lost the neutral and the result is an imbalance on a phase, with a resulting power surge. Google "Lost Neutral".

And get an electrician in to look at the wiring and terminations.

SB
Yes, lost or floating it could be described either way. The the hot conductor tries to find another path to ground and causes an imbalance in the phase conductors, I.E you may have 180 volts on one hot but only 40-60 volts on the other conductor, hence the lights going bright and dim.
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