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#57979 - 10/24/05 09:19 PM Lights Out!!!  
kyelectric  Offline
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 64
Question about how some of you guys would handle a problem with a house that has receptacles and lights mounted all around the house on the bottom of the overhang. The lights are spotlights but beside every light there is a receptacle, even all the way at the top of the "A" frame. The circuit does not work anymore so all of the receptacles and lights do not work. I took apart every receptacle and spotlight to see if I could see any loose wiring. I did not find any problems nor did I ever find a hot wire with my light pen. I checked in breaker panel and all of the breakers were on and all of the hots leaving the breakers were at 120vac. I checked in the panel for loose wires and found none. I checked any GFI's I could find and reset them still no lights. The switch that turns on the lights doesn't even have power coming down to the box. I tried jumping the 120 from the next switch but still no lights and It even pulled the voltage down to 5 vac when I checked the black wire I jumpered from to a neutral. Then when I pulled the jumper off and checked the same black wire to neutral there was 120vac. The homeowner said he has a problem with squirrels in the attic. I climbed up there and found the romex that was dead but I traced it to a corner where I could not go any farther. What would you guys do.

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#57980 - 10/25/05 10:03 AM Re: Lights Out!!!  
lamplighter  Offline
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 101
Checking each receptacle is not going to do any good. You need to find the home run.
The problem, since the whole circuit is out, would be in the home run or the panel or where the circuit has been spliced into another circuit.
You say that the switch has no power conming from the panel? I would say this is your problem.
Find out why. (not to state the obvious)
If you have a circuit tracer, inject a signal on the line side of the switch and follow it to either the panel or the break.
If you find nothing on the line, do the same with the Neutral. you might have lost the Neutral connection between there and the panel.
An easy way to check this would be to run a continuity test between the neutral at the home run and what you know to be a good ground.
Usually, when the problem is constant and this large, it's not to hard to find.
Good luck

#57981 - 10/25/05 12:15 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
kyelectric  Offline
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 64
The problem is I can't find the homerun. The switch has no power on either side but that doesn't mean that the electical worker before didn't make the spice that feeds the switch in one of the outlet boxes. Thats why I checked all of the boxes on the circuit. He might have run the hot to the light first and then went out to the switch. I believe that the wires were eaten in two by a squirrel or rat I just can't see them because they run down to a part of the attic that I cannot get into. I'll try the continuity test the next time I go. Is there a particular circuit tracer that you recommend and what advantages do they have over a continuity test?

#57982 - 10/25/05 12:20 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
iwire  Offline
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
North Attleboro, MA USA
One of the first things I do is check for continuity between neutral and ground, if the cable is still complete back to the panel you will have continuity between them.

This is also how to tell which cable in a box is heading toward the panel.

Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician

#57983 - 10/25/05 04:02 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
lamplighter  Offline
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 101
As far as a continuity tester, I have no favorite, I use what ever meter I have laying in the bottom of my tool bin in the truck. Just test the leads against each other first to make sure it's reading continuity and then test between Neutral and ground in whatever box you think may have been the home run when the lights worked. Start at the switch box if there's a neutral in there. if not, try the closest box to the switch in the rest of the system.
If you get continuity, chances are pretty good that the feed is still ok.
At that point, a signal injector is not a bad idea. I have an Ideal that seems to work nicely. Can't remember the model number off the top of my head.
From there on out, you're pretty much on your own as we can't see what you're looking at.
One thing I would do is to plug an extension cord into a nearby receptacle that's working, string it over to the switch box and use it as a constant while you are testing. (not a constant hot but, something that you know is wired correctly)
Test from the switch hot to the ground, neutral, and hot of the cord to make sure things are what they seem.
I've seen many switches where some guy had the bright idea of switching the neutral.
Also, I would use a standard solenoid style wiggy for testing instead of a digital or tick tracer.
I never trust batteries when it could mean a shock off of something I thought was dead.
Good luck.

#57984 - 10/25/05 06:25 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
HLCbuild  Offline
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 209
Herndon,Va USA
Since you said the switch doesn't have a hot feed and all the circuits leaving the panel are hot and this seems to be an unusal set-up (receptacles beside floods on eaves) I'd also try turning on all the switches in the house to see if someone accidentially wired this dead switch off a switched leg or thru another switch on purpose. Pay close attention if there are any switches near the windows of the master bedroom.

#57985 - 10/25/05 08:08 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
electure  Offline

Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 4,260
Fullerton, CA USA
Another thing you might look for is a photocontrol someplace.
They make some mighty tiny ones.

The receptacles could have been put in for seasonal (Christmas) lights....maybe

#57986 - 10/25/05 08:45 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Electure, Ooooo, I have come across that before! They partially painted over it, and they only worked by a switch the whole time a couple owned the house. (About ten years) Then I get the call that they only work intermitantly. The paint had flaked off!

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#57987 - 10/26/05 08:09 AM Re: Lights Out!!!  
Texas_Ranger  Offline
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,400
Vienna, Austria
You say when you jumpered a hot to the switch it pulled the line down to 5V? That almost sounds ilke a short to me, only the impedance is too high to trip the breaker! Add the squirrels in the attic and the equation of chewed wires shorting is complete!

#57988 - 10/26/05 12:52 PM Re: Lights Out!!!  
kyelectric  Offline
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 64
Texas Ranger,
Yeah, the 5 volts being pulled down sounds like a high resistance area that is causing a large voltage drop and only leaving me with 5 volts at the switch. Almost like the wires are almost in two pieces but still barely touching creating a high resistance with no current flow and that would be why none of the lights are coming on. I'm just looking for a way to figure out where the damaged wires are because I know I can't just run new 120 up to the switch, for one thing it doesn't help and also, I would be creating a potential fire hazard. The two ideas that you guys have given me I will try when I go back out there this weekend. I will verify continuity between the neutral and ground wires. Also, I will check for other light switches and GFI's to see if someone wired my dead light switch up switched. Other that that I may buy a circuit tracer or something to see if that helps. Keep the ideas coming I know I'm pulling from a databank that has years of experience!

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