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  1. #1
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    Default Exposed service drop

    Found this yesterday

    Is there any way for that bare aluminum conductor to be completely broken (two ends hanging separately on the utility company side of the connection) and still detect neutral at the receptacles?

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    badair http://www.adairinspection.com Garland, TX 75042 TREC # 4563
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    I inspected a house where the service neutral had been cut on purpose and the receptacles still tested ok. If there is an intact grounding conductor and electrode at the house and also at the transformer, then there is a path back to the transformer through the earth. Not a good path, but a path.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    Yes.

    Checking circuits for grounding only checks back as far as the service equipment where the neutral is bonded to ground.

    From there back to the transformer, you are checking nothing.

    Also, the grounding electrode system at the service equipment, and at the pole/transformer, are both grounded into the same earth, and the neutral is bonded to that ground, thus, you are conducting the neutral (grounded) current back to the transformer through earth.

    Not the low resistance path it is seeking, but a path back nonetheless.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    Jerry and John,
    Thanks for that answer. I had my first severed one last week. One question:

    Are you saying that the only value of the neutral back to the transformer is "least resistance" and that it could be eliminated? Not that it would or should, but COULD, with no potentially adverse effects on the system as a whole?

    What would be your suggested wording on a report? Okay, that was two questions.

    The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
    - Paul Fix

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    No, it can't be eliminated. The "low resistance" path it provides is much much lower than the earth path we described. It would create a very dangerous condition to eliminate it - the low resistance path back to the source (transformer) allows sufficient current flow during a ground fault to trip a breaker.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  6. #6
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    Garland, TX
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    John and Jerry,

    Thank you for the explanations.

    badair http://www.adairinspection.com Garland, TX 75042 TREC # 4563
    Commercial-Residential-Construction-EIFS-Infrared Thermography
    life is the random lottery of events followed by numerous narrow escapes

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    What Barry said.

    The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
    - Paul Fix

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    Think of it this way.

    When you have a dropped or loose neutral, the voltages on the two phase conductors to the neutral connection in the panel now varies depending on the load on each phase conductor (because the neutral is not creating the grounded center point).

    That means that when the 120 volt toaster kicks on, the voltage on that side of the neutral will drop (higher current through the resistance of the neutral drops more voltage there), leaving higher voltage on the other phase conductor.

    Let's say that the voltage drops 50 volts (not at all uncommon with a neutral problem - I've seen it many times), that means one side of the panel now has 70 volts on its 120 volt circuits ... not too bad you say? BUT ... the other side of the panel now has 170 volts on its 120 volt circuits, and that is not a good thing for equipment designed to operate at 120 volts (neither is 70 volts, but that's a different effect than that much over-voltage).

    Now, if (*IF*) there were *only* 240 volt circuits, no problem.

    Plus, with that current flowing back to the transformer through the ground, you could wind up with all kinds of stray voltage problems, energizing TV antenna masts, playground sets made of metal, metal fences, etc.

    Consider that there is a chain link fence running alongside the property line, the transformer is in that back corner, the electrical service is at that rear corner of the house, the fence turns back to the house from the side fence.

    Loose or have a bad neutral and the neutral current is going to take all available paths back to its source (not just the path of least resistance, *all* paths). Now consider that the chain link fence may actually be the 'path of least resistance', the current will go through the ground back to the transformer, but a lot may also go back through the fence, the path of least resistance.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Exposed service drop

    That example you gave nearly matched the house where I was. Good explanation!

    The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
    - Paul Fix

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