Results 1 to 19 of 19
  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    No. San Diego Co., CA
    Posts
    562

    Default Mysterious electrical problems

    Gentlemen
    One of the properties I manage (and inspected four years ago), built in 2004 has developed many of the electrical problems associated with or attributable to Chinese drywall, i.e. Repeated and early multiple bulb burn-out, wired in smoke alarms activation, failure of various appliances, including refrigerator and a/c coils, microwave display panel, cable box and also depleted signal strength after several days etc. The cable company replaced some co-ax and connections which were of an older type and all was well with reception but gradually degraded again.

    However, this is a Ca. tract built home with no other (known) homeowners in the neigborhood reporting similar symptoms. No sulpher smell is present and no obvious blackened copper wiring/conductors or refrigerator coils. I'm checkiing the attic today for signs of Chinese drywall install but though the house was built when Chinese drywall was frequently installed in Southern States, it was not commonly used in CA and I have not heard of it in my area of San Diego.

    Any other ideas? Many thanks.

    Similar Threads:
    Inspection Referral SOC

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
    Posts
    2,446

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    The attic is the best place to check the drywall.

    Electrical burn outs, etc, could come from voltage spikes from utility company. There can also be loose neutral connections. I had a problem with bulbs burning out quickly in a condo I own and had the utility company check it out. Turns out there was a problem with the transformer and wires feeding the meter.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    No. San Diego Co., CA
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    The attic is the best place to check the drywall.

    Electrical burn outs, etc, could come from voltage spikes from utility company. There can also be loose neutral connections. I had a problem with bulbs burning out quickly in a condo I own and had the utility company check it out. Turns out there was a problem with the transformer and wires feeding the meter.
    Thanks Jack
    Voltage spikes was the first thing I thought of when the problems were relayed to me. Then the tenant told me about two out of three new bulbs didn't illuminate (immediate burn-ou) in the same light fitting and the on-going TV signal degradation. I'm heading there today with an electrician to (hopefully) rule out problems post meter.


  4. #4
    Craig Desrosiers's Avatar
    Craig Desrosiers Guest

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    As an electrician with over 20 years of troubleshooting and repair experience, the usual culprit for the symptoms you are describing is, indeed, a loose or damaged neutral line combined with a compromised grounding system. Usually the problem is a small nick in the insulation on the neutral conductor in aluminum direct burial service entrance cable used in residential underground services. Many times this nick was made accidentally during installation or during digging projects on the property. This nick slowly allows the elements and water to deteriorate the aluminum conductor inside. This process can take years, getting progressively worse and causing permanent and cumulative damage to electronics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    The attic is the best place to check the drywall.

    Electrical burn outs, etc, could come from voltage spikes from utility company. There can also be loose neutral connections. I had a problem with bulbs burning out quickly in a condo I own and had the utility company check it out. Turns out there was a problem with the transformer and wires feeding the meter.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Posts
    123

    Smile Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    I have once run into a similar ptoblem that was caused by poor grounding. There was a "Dirty Ground" (electrical noise on the ground circuit) which caused a floating reference point.

    The problem went away when we poured about a quart of salt water over the geounding rod. The fix was to dive a new rod and repkace the EGC.

    Last edited by Donald Farrell; 04-21-2013 at 09:23 AM. Reason: typos

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,251

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Farrell View Post
    I have once run into a similar ptoblem that was caused by poor grounding. There was a "Dirty Ground" (electrical noise on the ground circuit) which caused a floating reference point.

    The problem went away when we poured about a quart of salt water over the geounding rod. The fix was to dive a new rod and repkace the EGC.
    If the ground rod had been driven to its proper and required minimum depth of below permanent moisture level, you would not have had those problems.

    The conditions described in the original post do not sound like they are related to a bad neutral connection and/or a bad neutral conductor.

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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Posts
    123

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    If the ground rod had been driven to its proper and required minimum depth of below permanent moisture level, you would not have had those problems.

    The conditions described in the original post do not sound like they are related to a bad neutral connection and/or a bad neutral conductor.
    Jerry,

    First, I did not participate in the initial installation. We were called several years later.

    Next, I all I am saying is that "weird stuff" is just that, weird stuff! How hard is it to pour some salt water to see if it helps. It's just a "What if" situation, not a Federal Mandate.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Posts
    123

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Meier View Post
    A ground rod or any other electrode for that matter, should have nothing to do with the normal functioning of a properly installed system. Pouring salt water or installing a new ground rod to fix the problem means that there was another problem.

    Bob,

    In the situation I am talking about, replacing the rod and conductor was the difinitive fix. It is very possible that the initial installation of the rod was at faulty, as Jerry stated, I can't answer that.

    We did check the resistance of the soil in several areas before we sunk the new rod and we did use a new EGC from the rod to the panel.

    The salt water test was the idea of the lead electrican in our little group.

    Don


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Tulsa, OK
    Posts
    544

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Robert nailed it. The ground rod has nothing to do with the electrical problems you encountered. Pouring salt water on it only masked the real problem. I suspect a bad neutral connection at the utility end since the salt water seemed to relieve the problem.

    I would like to know what kind of light bulbs they use (incandescent or CFL?0? How long were the lights on each day? Some lamps wont screw into the sockets because of a miss shapened shoulder on the lamp so they would not light at all. But I think a pour or failed neutral connection is the best place to look.

    "Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret. " Robert E. Lee

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,251

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Farrell View Post
    Jerry,

    First, I did not participate in the initial installation. We were called several years later.

    Next, I all I am saying is that "weird stuff" is just that, weird stuff! How hard is it to pour some salt water to see if it helps. It's just a "What if" situation, not a Federal Mandate.
    Donald,

    I understand that, and ... all I was saying is that you verified that the ground rod was not ... er ... was most likely not ... installed to the proper and required minimum depth - I am trying to think of the last time - (the first time even?) - I knew of a ground rod installed to the proper and minimum required depth to below permanent moisture level.

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

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,340

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    ... the tenant told me about two out of three new bulbs didn't illuminate (immediate burn-out)

    There is a huge upswing in poorly made junk light bulbs right now, so I would discount that as anything relevant.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    No. San Diego Co., CA
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Thank you to all who have responded. No problems whatsoever were discovered today with regard to any electrical fault or deficiency, except for someone, for some reason, installing a new 60 amp breaker (max) for the A/C, leaving the perfectly good 50 amp in place. Probably done when they replaced/repaired the condenser 18 mos ago. No evidence, whatsover of Chinese Drywall. The incandescent lightbulbs (two of three didn't work in the same light fitting) were simply not screwed in far enough to seat - funky threads (Roland - right on the money), but others both CFL's and incandescents have burned out frequently.

    So we are left with the distinct probability of a faulty nuetral, service ground or transformer problem . Either way it's now down to the Utility company. This is an underground service. Thanks Craig - My electrician came to the same conclusion. The neutral is sealed so we have to get the utility company out to test and maybe leave temporary monitoring equipment in the panel. Though, if it is the utility's fault they are not likely to admit a problem because of liability for past damage but the problem will just 'disappear'. We shall see...


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    So we are left with the distinct probability of a faulty neutral, service ground or transformer problem . Either way it's now down to the Utility company. This is an underground service. Thanks Craig - My electrician came to the same conclusion. The neutral is sealed so we have to get the utility company out to test and maybe leave temporary monitoring equipment in the panel. Though, if it is the utility's fault they are not likely to admit a problem because of liability for past damage but the problem will just 'disappear'. We shall see...
    From my experience (NJ,NY,PA) if the issue belongs to the utility, they will tell you what they found in detail. If you are concerned that they will not tell you, make a "friend" in their engineering dept. as your contact.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Redondo Beach, CA
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Several years ago I had an electrician upgrade a service on a rental unit. He moved the overhead feed over to the new riser and reconnected it. After several years the tenants were complaining about flickering and dim lights. I checked the voltage and it varied depending on what was turned on, so it was clearly a neutral problem. I checked and tightened all connections in the panels, but the problem remained. The utility came out and checked it but found no problem. Tenant noticed arcing on the overhead feed at night when anything significant was turned on or off and managed to get a video of it. I called the utility out again, this time while I was there. They found an incompatible clamp on the (aluminum) neutral wire with lots of powdery corrosion. He reterminated all three wires and the problem was resolved.

    So. Cal. Edison Planners here say they allow electricians to disconnect and reconnect a service on a service upgrade, but the electricians may not use the right connectors, leading to possible future problems.

    If you have access to a Thermal Imager, scan the wires and connections to look for hot spots, which can indicate a poor connection that needs to be fixed.


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Posts
    885

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    There is a huge upswing in poorly made junk light bulbs right now, so I would discount that as anything relevant.
    True - A few months ago the client was going around with me on the inspection and asked about one light bulb not working in a foyer 4-bulb fixture. He said he had changed the bulb and it still didn't work. "Could there be a problem with the wiring in the fixture?" "Could be.", I replied "but lets see the bulb". Sure enough the brand new bulb bought from a big box had no filament. It was burned out or broken just never put in the bulb. He switch with another working bulb in the fixture and sure enough it worked. That's why I state checking possible burned out bulbs with a KNOWN working one.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,251

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    So we are left with the distinct probability of a faulty nuetral, service ground or transformer problem . Either way it's now down to the Utility company. This is an underground service. Thanks Craig - My electrician came to the same conclusion. The neutral is sealed so we have to get the utility company out to test and maybe leave temporary monitoring equipment in the panel. Though, if it is the utility's fault they are not likely to admit a problem because of liability for past damage but the problem will just 'disappear'. We shall see...
    Ian,

    Do you have a voltmeter you can use? A digital SureTest which reads voltage works quite good for this as it plugs in and there is no fiddling with leads, etc.

    Plug the voltage meter into one receptacle outlet, then take a hair dryer (better yet is a heat gun as it draws more current), or you could use a toaster, and plug it into other receptacle outlets (you want as much current draw as possible without tripping the breaker).

    Watch the voltage reading on the meter - if the voltage makes wild swings then the neutral is bad. There will always be 240 volts between the phase conductors, but the voltage between one phase conductor and neutral will depend on the current drawn, as you move from receptacle to receptacle you will likely be moving from one phase conductor to the other, and the voltage will swing all over the place. It is not unusual to find 80 volts and 160 volts (80+160=240) - this is not good - or even 60 volts and 180 volts (still =240) - this is even worse - , or even 140 volts and 100 volts (still =240) - this is not as noticeable, however, 140 volts will still burn lights out quicker, just not as quickly as 180 volts will, and the 100 volts will make them dimmer.

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

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    552

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    There is a huge upswing in poorly made junk light bulbs right now, so I would discount that as anything relevant.
    I got bit today with a large CLF. Bought it, installed it in the garage----looks great. equivalent to 150 w bulb. The only issue is that you need to tap it with a stick to get it to start. The socket is brand new and I sprayed the socket and lamp threads with electronic cleaner. Got it in the orange box if you want to stay clear for a while. Back to the store again. This was a replacement for a bulb that failed after 1 months service! I date them and if they don't last at least 5 years----they go back-----if I happen to have the receipt...Fine! If not Fine too!!!


  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    No. San Diego Co., CA
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    [QUOTE=Jerry Peck;225160]Ian,

    Do you have a voltmeter you can use? A digital SureTest which reads voltage works quite good for this as it plugs in and there is no fiddling with leads, etc.

    Thanks Jerry
    We did have a voltmeter. Though we didn't perform the testing as you described - we did notice a very slight discrepancy between the two phases - one read 120 volts on the money and the other leg, 119. Not really an eyebrow raiser. Your test is a great idea and may well have showed something more to confirm problems with the service. On the other hand, I don't think this issue occurs all the time, only under certain (yet to be determined) circumstances. The property is way across town and I don't have the time to go back over. In any event, the utility company is coming out today. However, they said they would not be able to discuss any findings with me as I am not the account payer - unless the tenant gives permission. I'm sure they would but just a little difficult to co-ordinate with.


  19. #19
    Mbrooke's Avatar
    Mbrooke Guest

    Default Re: Mysterious electrical problems

    Not much to add but agreeing with a lot above: either a classic loose neutral or a utility over voltage issue.

    If it is a loose neutral this issue needs to be adressed fast in that its a fire hazard both for the appliances plugged in and the cox/phone cables that are now handling neutral current.

    Most likely its an easy fix either a weak crimp at the weather head or a loose lug in the meter/panel.


Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •