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#20593 - 01/16/03 03:50 PM bad breaker?
Sandro Offline
Registered: 12/30/01
Posts: 444
Loc: Stoney Creek, ON, Canada
I had a service call today. Here is what happened. The ladies washer stopped working. I put a meter on the receptacle and got 118 volts, line to neutral. And line to ground, same thing. So the power was there right? Plug in washer, nothing! However when I plug the washer in any other receptacle, it worked! I was thinking, bad neutral?

This is a dedicated separate line. Down to the panel, check power at washer breaker with meter...same reading 118 Volts.

Anyways, to make a long story short. It was a faulty breaker. It was letting the voltage through but not the amps. My meter would read it, yet nothing plugged in would work.

Does this make sense? I have never come across this before.
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#20594 - 01/16/03 05:49 PM Re: bad breaker?
jdevlin Offline
Registered: 08/07/02
Posts: 402
Loc: welland ontario canada
Makes sense to me. If you had measured the voltage with a load it would have been zero or at least lower. Ohms law applies. Zero amps = zero voltage drop.
#20595 - 01/16/03 06:14 PM Re: bad breaker?
iwire Offline
Registered: 01/05/03
Posts: 4391
Loc: North Attleboro, MA USA
Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
#20596 - 01/17/03 03:26 PM Re: bad breaker?
kale Offline
Registered: 11/08/02
Posts: 174
I just saw a demo this week of an Ideal circuit analyzer that puts a 15-20 amp load on the circuit being tested. Should eliminate the "phantom voltage" problem. I believe it was model 61-156. Try this link:
#20597 - 01/17/03 04:17 PM Re: bad breaker?
spyder Offline
Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 210
Loc: Massachusetts
Did replacing the breaker fix the problem? I have come across recptacles that were simply worn out from years of plugging and unplugging. In other words, the test leads of my wiggy would read voltage but the blades of the plug would not make adequate contact.
#20598 - 01/17/03 04:23 PM Re: bad breaker?
maintenanceguy Offline
Registered: 12/02/01
Posts: 300
Loc: Southern NJ, USA
I have always wished that my meter had a button I could press to put a small load on the circuit to get rid of those phantom readings. Just a resistor across the meter would do it but I've never bothered to actually make anything that would work.
#20599 - 01/17/03 05:39 PM Re: bad breaker?
txsparky Offline
Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 552
Loc: Magnolia,.Texas U.S.A.
Any idea of the cost of the this tester?I like the looks and concept of it.
#20600 - 01/17/03 06:24 PM Re: bad breaker?
electric-ed Offline
Registered: 07/08/02
Posts: 175
Loc: Canada
When I explain to my students why I believe analog meters are superior to digital, they laugh at me.
I'll bet that I will make less mistakes trouble-shooting with an analog meter.

Any takers?

#20601 - 01/18/03 05:22 AM Re: bad breaker?
Sandro Offline
Registered: 12/30/01
Posts: 444
Loc: Stoney Creek, ON, Canada

When trouble shooting, I removed the receptacle and replaced with a new one to no avail. Indeed, it was a faulty breaker. It was replaced and all works well now.

I really enjoy trouble shooting, and I thought I had seen it all but never came across 'phantom voltage'. Now I have to remember that when trouble shooting, I need to apply loads to my testings.
#20602 - 01/18/03 12:43 PM Re: bad breaker?
ameterguy Offline
Registered: 05/17/02
Posts: 30
Loc: Mass
We use a tester, that we can plug into a meter socket that applies 25amps of load to a phase and neutral. The unit uses a toggle switch to allow us to test both phases one at a time. The unit is basically has two hair dryers in it and two panel voltmers meters to indicate the affect of applying the load & pick up points to allow you to use a handheld voltmeter to check the voltage. The units we use are made by Arnett Industries:

I think the above unit is great for utility work, where we test at the meter socket, but for checking outlets, why not use a 1200 watt hair dryer. You could plug it in to the outlet in question, or make an adaptor with insulated alligator clips for checking breakers or connections.

[This message has been edited by ameterguy (edited 01-18-2003).]
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