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  1. #1
    Joe Pinto's Avatar
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    Default no voltage between wires...

    Hi all....I'm new to this site and am an electrician in the NY area. A friend called me tonight with this situation, (one I usually hate to come across):

    He went to his friends house...2 family, 2nd floor apt. Half the apartment not working.
    Opens an outlet, notices 1 BX cable with cloth conductor insulation and 1 BX cable with newer THHN insulation.

    Removes the wires from the outlet and, on the older BX conductors, gets 116v hot to ground / 116 volts neutral to ground....
    but no voltage in between the hot and neutral. The outlet had a plug-strip plugged into it, so I can only guess it did work fine up until now.
    He says no work has been done recently in the house, and the other circuits in the house are working fine....

    I haven't set foot in the house yet, and plan on going tomorrow to trace the problem...

    My question is:
    What could cause this? Open neutral? Cross phase?? I highly doubt this is a ConEd problem, but you never know....

    I plan to start at the panel and ID the circuit and everything on it and go from there....

    Just one of those calls thats usually baffling....

    Thanks for any suggestions/help....

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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Pinto View Post
    Hi all....I'm new to this site and am an electrician in the NY area. A friend called me tonight with this situation, (one I usually hate to come across):

    He went to his friends house...2 family, 2nd floor apt. Half the apartment not working.
    Opens an outlet, notices 1 BX cable with cloth conductor insulation and 1 BX cable with newer THHN insulation.

    Removes the wires from the outlet and, on the older BX conductors, gets 116v hot to ground / 116 volts neutral to ground....
    but no voltage in between the hot and neutral. The outlet had a plug-strip plugged into it, so I can only guess it did work fine up until now.
    He says no work has been done recently in the house, and the other circuits in the house are working fine....

    I haven't set foot in the house yet, and plan on going tomorrow to trace the problem...

    My question is:
    What could cause this? Open neutral? Cross phase?? I highly doubt this is a ConEd problem, but you never know....

    I plan to start at the panel and ID the circuit and everything on it and go from there....

    Just one of those calls thats usually baffling....

    Thanks for any suggestions/help....
    Could be an open neutral but to be honest I find it hard to believe you are not the friend and are in need of an Electrician.
    Am I right?


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Okay, just a personal opinion here.

    In this instance, why would you call an inspector to resolve a wiring problem?

    You should ask your friend to call a licensed electrician, you can even recommend one, but this is outside the scope of what an inspector should be doing.

    By the way, by NY Area are you referring to the City? If so, welcome. I survived life in The Bronx until I was 19. After that my wife and I moved to New Rochelle in lower Westchester.

    I hope you enjoy this forum it is very informative.


  4. #4
    Joe Pinto's Avatar
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    I'm sorry Bob, but you are wrong....

    I am an electrician, 23 years in the trade, and as stated, this is just one of those problems I hate to come across....spent quite some time on the phone with my friend (who is not an electrician), but he gave me as detailed an explanation as he could....

    Sometimes it's as easy as an open neutral, and sometimes the wiring needs to be replaced...I just figured I'd ask in an online forum and see what kind of suggestions are out there....

    Thank you for yours....



  5. #5
    Joe Pinto's Avatar
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Don,
    Yes, the NYC area, actually Westchester myself, but this current problem is in the Bronx (shhhhhh....)
    I googled my own question and came upon this forum with a similar question and numerous replies, so I figured why not....

    If it's outside the scope of this forum I apologize for any inconvenience.....


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Pinto View Post
    I'm sorry Bob, but you are wrong....

    I am an electrician, 23 years in the trade, and as stated, this is just one of those problems I hate to come across....spent quite some time on the phone with my friend (who is not an electrician), but he gave me as detailed an explanation as he could....

    Sometimes it's as easy as an open neutral, and sometimes the wiring needs to be replaced...I just figured I'd ask in an online forum and see what kind of suggestions are out there....

    Thank you for yours....
    OK ,understood guy but as an Electrician you know that the issue can only be determined on site so was surprised to see this if you are one.

    Come back and let us know but I bet it is an open neutral.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Sounds like hot ground reversed

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Joe,

    Not sure why Bob is intent on beating up on you instead of addressing your question, but we do (unfortunately) have a few here how do that now and then.

    An open neutral typically results in odd voltages between phases depending on the load on the phase conductors because there is no center grounded point to keep the voltage constant.

    Your description indicates to me (and to Rick above) that some how there is a reverse polarity problem.

    If all has been well, and now it is not (and it may not have been well, just that things worked and something is no longer working), then some conductors may have shorted together (hot-neutral) in such a way as to not trip a breaker/blow a fuse.

    It is also possible that the hot conductor is broken and is touching the BX armor, which is completing the circuit but is now energizing the ground through the metal armor.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Joe,

    Not sure why Bob is intent on beating up on you instead of addressing your question, but we do (unfortunately) have a few here how do that now and then.

    An open neutral typically results in odd voltages between phases depending on the load on the phase conductors because there is no center grounded point to keep the voltage constant.

    Your description indicates to me (and to Rick above) that some how there is a reverse polarity problem.

    If all has been well, and now it is not (and it may not have been well, just that things worked and something is no longer working), then some conductors may have shorted together (hot-neutral) in such a way as to not trip a breaker/blow a fuse.

    It is also possible that the hot conductor is broken and is touching the BX armor, which is completing the circuit but is now energizing the ground through the metal armor.
    Perhaps because this is a Home Inspector forum Jerry.
    I predicted to myself you would jump in with a derogatory comment towards myself.(not that you have ever insulted anyone)

    I doubt anyone needs ask why.

    If you wish to pretend you are a superman that can correct issues by forum posts better than an Electrician can then be my guest.LOL

    There is more than one answer here but at least you have a good place to research and post all your stored files (now puff your chest).


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    "Half the house" makes me think it may be a fused neutral with a blown fuse. The old farmhouse I grew up in had what my dad called "backfeed fuses". When one of those went, all kinds of strange things would happen.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Elliott View Post
    There is more than one answer here

    Yes, and *none of those answers* contains anything relevant to who he is or what he does, or even whether or not you believe him.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Yes, and *none of those answers* contains anything relevant to who he is or what he does, or even whether or not you believe him.
    Then perhaps instead of using every opportunity to bad rap other IN members as you are known to do you could simply send him to Mike Holts forum rather than trying to be a MR Knowitall.

    I imagine if a Architect came here asking for assistance in the design of a High Rise you would feel the same way over my comment.
    Stick to the original question and stop setting up "drama" all the time will you please.
    I would appreciate that and I am sure many others would also.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Elliott View Post
    Stick to the original question and stop setting up "drama" all the time will you please.
    You should take your own advice.

    *You* are the one who did not stick to the original question.

    *You* are the one who started all the drama about being an HI or not being an HI.

    *You* need to follow your own advice - it is good advice.

    (I complimented Bob on his advice, now he will likely come back complaining about it.)

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    You should take your own advice.

    *You* are the one who did not stick to the original question.

    *You* are the one who started all the drama about being an HI or not being an HI.

    *You* need to follow your own advice - it is good advice.

    (I complimented Bob on his advice, now he will likely come back complaining about it.)
    So then.....
    Tell me what the one definitive answer is to the posters question.
    You can't and neither can anyone else unless on site as is proven by here already being several guesses.

    The poster if an experienced Electrician should know this already and you should also know this but instead decided to chime away after my answer which was sound advice.
    When you show a consistent ability to stick to subject I will listen.

    You have good tech knowledge but poor people handling skills from what I can only judge by your posts.
    The problem is I would need to be there in person to know the true answer (much like the dilemma above).


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    I would go to the panel and confirm that the neutral is truly tied into the neutral bar. If the neutral was tied into a breaker (instead of the neutral bar), and both the improperly tied in neutral (or in this case the "white" wire) and the hot (black wire) were both tied into breakers on the same buss bar, you would get voltage from either to ground, but nothing across both.

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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Turetsky View Post
    I would go to the panel and confirm that the neutral is truly tied into the neutral bar. If the neutral was tied into a breaker (instead of the neutral bar), and both the improperly tied in neutral (or in this case the "white" wire) and the hot (black wire) were both tied into breakers on the same buss bar, you would get voltage from either to ground, but nothing across both.
    I agree.
    Simply attaching a basic 3 light tester or Sure Test would be a good start also.

    As a Home Inspector unless there is a obvious answer or panel problem I do not try and diagnose the issue but rather defer to an Electrician which goes back to my original thoughts.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    But... you say half the apartment is not working. When I encounter a space with half not working (energized), I immediately suspect either a bad buss bar, a bad main breaker (half dead), or a bad feed to the panel.

    Without being there, to start at the beginning and tracing the problem, it's up for grabs.

    There could also be more than 1 condition causing the problem.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Pinto View Post
    Hi all....I'm new to this site and am an electrician in the NY area.

    He went to his friends house...2 family, 2nd floor apt. Half the apartment not working.
    Opens an outlet, notices 1 BX cable with cloth conductor insulation and 1 BX cable with newer THHN insulation.

    Removes the wires from the outlet and, on the older BX conductors, gets 116v hot to ground / 116 volts neutral to ground....
    but no voltage in between the hot and neutral.
    Welcome Joe. We need input here from the trades now and then, keeps the perspective real. Ignore the flack, it is harmless banter mostly.

    Here's my opinion. The neutral to ground should read zero volts with no load, no? Neutral has 116 volts on it. Neutral is simply shorted to the hot and likely burned off so it no longer is grounded (open neutral as well.) Because it burnt, it doesn't present a dead short at the breaker.

    Would you recommend replacing all that old BX?

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Pinto View Post

    Half the apartment not working. He says no work has been done recently in the house, and the other circuits in the house are working fine....

    Opens an outlet, notices 1 BX cable with cloth conductor insulation and 1 BX cable with newer THHN insulation

    Removes the wires from the outlet and, on the older BX conductors, gets 116v hot to ground / 116 volts neutral to ground....but no voltage in between the hot and neutral.

    So, which is it? Half the apartment is out or one circuit?

    Honestly, I'm a bit flummoxed at why a professional electrician would come looking here for advice given the number of electrician specific forums out there.

    Anyway, it sounds like a cable fault, either from the old rubber insulation failing and the neutral conductor getting burned in two and the hot welding itself to one side of the break, or a well aimed nail or screw accomplishing the same thing. Either of these things should have tripped a breaker or blown a fuse.

    Or, the neutral got broken somehow, maybe at another receptacle or a splice, and the line side is back feeding through a load somewhere.

    Pretty much every day electrical work in the service business.

    On the other hand, if the guy has extra bright or dim lights in the house the advice should have been to unplug and shut off everything in the house and call an electrician immediately.

    Cross phase? You sure you're an electrician?

    If it worked before, and nobody touched anything, how would phases get crossed?

    There are some sharp folks here for sure and some good advice, but personally I have more trouble with the information presented than with the symptoms.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kriegh View Post
    So, which is it? Half the apartment is out or one circuit?

    Honestly, I'm a bit flummoxed at why a professional electrician would come looking here for advice given the number of electrician specific forums out there.

    Anyway, it sounds like a cable fault, either from the old rubber insulation failing and the neutral conductor getting burned in two and the hot welding itself to one side of the break, or a well aimed nail or screw accomplishing the same thing. Either of these things should have tripped a breaker or blown a fuse.

    Or, the neutral got broken somehow, maybe at another receptacle or a splice, and the line side is back feeding through a load somewhere.

    Pretty much every day electrical work in the service business.

    On the other hand, if the guy has extra bright or dim lights in the house the advice should have been to unplug and shut off everything in the house and call an electrician immediately.

    Cross phase? You sure you're an electrician?

    If it worked before, and nobody touched anything, how would phases get crossed?

    There are some sharp folks here for sure and some good advice, but personally I have more trouble with the information presented than with the symptoms.
    Careful ,you are getting Jerry mad at you.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Honestly, I'm a bit flummoxed ....

    That's actually a word .... who'd a thunk it ....

    Joe

    It does sound like your confidence is not great in finding the problem and/or your not fully understanding why he (your friend) is getting the test results he relayed to you over the phone.

    It is very likely an open neutral assuming your friends DMM tests are valid. Also remember it is not necessary for the open neutral to be energized by a hot conductor to give a reading of 116 volts. In fact it usually is not the case in the situation you are describing.


  22. #22
    Ken Bates's Avatar
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    I think Steve Turetsky presented/posited the most probable reason, especially from a statistical standpoint.

    Awesome inspections provided by a top level member of The American Society of Home Inspectors ASHI


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    While all this is fun it is simply conjecture and I leave this thread knowing the only answer can come from the poster once he gets on site.

    My original post stands firm.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Frazee View Post
    That's actually a word .... who'd a thunk it ....
    Folks do come here to learn. No point in limiting the scope...................

    And it fits. It's about as unusual as the OPs post.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    This may be a test to see how much a HI site understands about electricity and wiring. Just being skeptical about the OP.

    I have reservations about the description being friend of friend passing on information correctly.

    """gets 116v hot to ground / 116 volts neutral to ground....
    but no voltage in between the hot and neutral"""""

    Possible as simple as a bad outlet energizing the neutral.
    Possible nail through line.
    Possible motor shorting out.
    Half of apartment down could be a phase issue and/or back to outlet issue.
    Breaker/fuse not tripping another issue.
    How about mouse eating through the insulation and being fried to the lines acting as a bridge to neutral. Actually had this one happen and was scratching my head till I found the cause in a pump pressure switch.

    Maybe it is the power company sabotaging the service as only half the bill was paid???


  26. #26
    Norm Grande's Avatar
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    Smile Re: no voltage between wires...

    I, too, am an electrician. Good luck as you head over to troubleshoot. Let us know what you find.
    Norm


  27. #27
    Al Neuman's Avatar
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    Exclamation Re: no voltage between wires...

    The voltage readings are consistent with an open neutral with a load downstream on the circuit.
    The voltage is going through the load and is returning through the neutral. which has no place to go.


    Try turning off the breaker, and taking a resistance reading from the neutral to the ground.
    If the neutral to ground reads anything but continuity or close to it, then you have an open neutral condition.


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    Cool Re: no voltage between wires...

    I read your question enough times, to see that prehaps you should go to
    ElectricianTalk forum, for the best help available.


  29. #29
    Lou Romano's Avatar
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    I have met electricians with many years in the trade that have no troubleshooting skills at all because they have never done anything but new construction.

    No reason to beat him up!

    I bet he won't even come back to tell us what the problem ended up being now!


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Joe,

    Welcome to this forum. I am also a "Sparky" so just jump on in and enjoy yourself.

    As to a forum that deals specifically for electricians you might want to sung on with MikeHolt.com.

    However this is a very good forum for seeing the problems that inspectors see. In my experience, most inspectors flag an item and inform the customer to contact an electrician.

    The customer in all his/her infinite wisdom then goes ahead and ignores the inspector and finds the handiest moron to do the work.


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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Farrell View Post
    However this is a very good forum for seeing the problems that inspectors see. In my experience, most inspectors flag an item and inform the customer to contact an electrician.

    The customer in all his/her infinite wisdom then goes ahead and ignores the inspector and finds the handiest moron to do the work.
    Very accurately said.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    In my earlier post I said Hot and Ground reversed

    Being that I was the only one to say that and everyone else (people with much more experience than I have) said open neutral, it made me think:
    I can see where an open neutral will cause the symptoms described, and it would be very unlikely to be a hot neutral reversed.

    I appreciate you not bearing me up.
    But I also want to say that no one tried to explain to me why it was more likely to be a open neutral rather than the H/N reversed.

    For every person that says something that is incorrect or they do not understand, there are a 100 or more that did not say anything, but still do not understand.

    I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, and you guys are are full of it. (pun intended)

    Thanks

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    My SWAG is that there is a mis wired 3 or 4way switch. When the switches are in one configuration the hot is switched to the ground pin at the receptacle and all down stream receptacles are then seen as not working. Could be a shocking experience if anyone touches the ground, but how many appliances have a grounded plug?

    (Open neutral is still most likely.)

    Last edited by Vern Heiler; 11-01-2011 at 07:09 AM.
    The beatings will continue until morale has improved. mgt.

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    Default Re: no voltage between wires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    In my earlier post I said Hot and Ground reversed

    Being that I was the only one to say that and everyone else (people with much more experience than I have) said open neutral, it made me think:
    I can see where an open neutral will cause the symptoms described, and it would be very unlikely to be a hot neutral reversed.

    I appreciate you not bearing me up.
    But I also want to say that no one tried to explain to me why it was more likely to be a open neutral rather than the H/N reversed.

    For every person that says something that is incorrect or they do not understand, there are a 100 or more that did not say anything, but still do not understand.

    I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, and you guys are are full of it. (pun intended)

    Thanks
    Electricity is mysterious and magic stuff. The one thing people seem to loose sight of when problems erupt is that with all the crazy stuff electricity does, it doesn't "reconnect itself" to different terminations. Most often when these mysterious "all of a sudden it doesn't work" episodes crop up it turns out to be a loose screw on a receptacle or switch, bad connection at a wire nut, or, a bit rarer, a broken wire.

    Again, it it worked OK before, and nobody changed anything, then you don't go looking for things that could only happen from something getting changed. After you have had to trouble shoot a couple of open neutrals by yourself the symptoms jump right out at you and the "what could it possibly be" questions resolve into one or two possibilities pretty fast. Of course, you need to be aware that number three on the list is that somebody DID change something and your contact doesn't know about it or won't 'fess up. Home owners with tools are............well, you know.


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