house from....heck

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by dieselderek, May 3, 2008.

  1. dieselderek

    Thread Starter New Member

    Apr 15, 2008
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    0
    Hey i live in a 1 story rambler style home. I am having alot of electrical issues with the home and i have 2 things i need your help with.

    1: i blow light bulbs (no matter what brand or type) regularly-meaning they only last about 2 months average. in the living room their was a dimmer switch and i blew bulbs every 3 weeks. I removed the dimmer switch for a flip switch and now get about 2 months out of this lighting circuit. the rest of the house has flip switch and blows bulbs constantly. what causes this?

    Now the biggest thing is the kitchen theirs 4 switches and 3 different sets of lights. also on the same breaker is the laundry room. I recently lost all lights in the kitchen and laundry room. flip the breaker and it trips immediately. can anyone tell me how to find my set of lights that have a problem? i want to disconnect one set of lights until i find my problem. also please help with by providing me with a wiring diagram as they are so helpful when diag-ing electrical issues. I dont have money for a electrician and I do have some electrical know how as i work on cars and I do wire up my tanning beds, welder outlets, and such around here.
     
  2. hgmjr

    Moderator

    Jan 28, 2005
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    Are you aware that you can buy light bulbs rated for 130Vac. I know the local Lowes Hardware store has them but you have to look carefully at the labeling on the package.

    What wattage bulbs are you using?

    I would recommend you take extra care to make sure that you do not touch any of the light bulbs when you install them. Even a little skin oil if deposited on the glass will over time acid-etch enough of the glass to allow outside air to gradually compromise the vacuum inside the bulb. The heat from the light accelerates the etching process.

    Years ago I started taking this simple precaution and I have found that my lights last much longer as a result. You can perform an experiment for yourself by marking the date of installation with a sharpie marker pen on the metal base and whether you touched it or not. Then when it blows check to see how many days it lasted.

    hgmjr
     
  3. hgmjr

    Moderator

    Jan 28, 2005
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  4. Audioguru

    New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
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    Nearly all of the lightbulbs in my home are low power but bright compact fluorescent. They last almost forever.

    If the breaker keeps tripping then either you have a short circuit in the wiring or you have a bad breaker.If you can't afford to pay an electrician to fix your serious electrical problems then you should live in a tent in the woods.
     
  5. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
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    I'm not an electrician.

    But, it sounds to me like you have a problem with your neutral line between your electrical panel and the power company's transformer, and/or a very unbalanced load on your electrical system - perhaps you have several window-mounted 115v air conditioners that are all running off the same side of your breaker panel, maybe with something like a 115v washer and/or dryer, wall heaters - something like that. You may simply be exceeding the rating of your electrical panel.

    Basically, from the power company you get three wires coming in; L1, L2 and neutral. Between L1 and L2 is 230VAC; and between neutral and either L1 or L2 is 115v. L1 powers one side of your service panel, L2 powers the other.

    If the neutral line has a high resistance connection, a heavy load on one side of the panel (let's say L1) will tend to pull the neutral line towards that potential, particularly during high surges. If the L2 side is lightly loaded, it will then have a porportionately higher voltage between neutral and L2, and across all of the appliances/bulbs/etc that are powered by L2.

    You should make an inventory of all of the power-using items in the household, and write down their location and power rating (P = EI, or Power in Watts = Volts x Amperes). Look at your service panel, and determine it's power rating. Your household power loads should be roughly equally divided on both sides of the panel, and should not exceed the maximum rating of the panel.

    If you have a 100 Ampere service, then you have 50A x 115v per side, or 5750 Watts. You will be surprised how quickly that gets used up.

    If you are exceeding the power rating of the panel, you either need to manage your power utilization better, or call in an electrician to upgrade your service panel.

    If your power is reasonably well-balanced, and you are not over the panel's power rating, you need to call in an electrican to fix the problem with the neutral line.
     
  6. mrmeval

    Distinguished Member

    Jun 30, 2006
    833
    2
    If it's blowing regular bulbs it *will* blow CCFLs and can do so faster. I was flipping a CCFL off and on about 1hz and it died with smoke. It lasted a day. They are not as good with power surges as incandescents.

    Sgt Wookie has the solution. You might ask the power company about it.They also can do some checking for free. If the problem is on their side they will fix it at no charge.
     
  7. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
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    I forgot to mention the ground.

    Somewhere in your yard (usually right near the meter, or outside where your electric service panel is) there should be an 8' long copper-clad rod pounded into the ground, with a 4 or larger gauge solid copper wire that goes into your house, inside the electrical service panel. Inside the panel, there is a ground bus, and a neutral bus. They should be electrically tied together with just one wire or bus bar. That is for safety; otherwise the voltages from the power company could "float" to very high (and dangerous) potentials. That is the ONLY place that ground should be attached to neutral.

    Around the rest of the house, you can measure the voltage between the neutral and ground. If there is more than a couple of volts difference, that circuit is heavily loaded or there is a high-resistance connection somewhere that needs attention.

    If you are using extension cords and multiple-tap outlet adapters, get rid of them. They are power thieves.

    I suggest that you do not open your breaker panel, as you can easily get killed.

    But if you feel you have to, then remove any jewelry (rings,watches), stand on a large piece of wood, wear dry leather gloves, and keep one hand in your back pocket. It's harder to work that way, but it makes it much harder to kill yourself, as you will remove the possibility of creating an electrical path through your torso.
     
  8. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Just curious, have you measure your AC line voltages? 120VAC is actually a max, 115VAC is more the norm.

    The other thing is buy yourself a 3 light AC outlet tester and ched all the sockets in your house. Light bulb circuits doen't actually use the ground wire, but it should be there. If you're fighting power surges I'm not sure how you would go about establishing it.

    What part of the world do you live in? Different countries have different standards, and it matters.
     
  9. subtech

    Senior Member

    Nov 21, 2006
    123
    4
    Actually, if you are in the U.S. , 120.0 v should be the norm, or "center of band".
    There is an allowable tolerance from center of band, and that is + or - 5%. At the 120 volt level that equates to not more than 126 volts and no less than 114 volts.
    Where I work, we strive to maintain a band of voltages of 116.5 to 123.5 for everyone on that circuit. Occasional small "excursions" outside of this window may be tolerated for short periods.
    Derrick, you need to get a good quality(accurate) voltmeter and check the voltage(s) at your service panel. If you are above 126.0, (which sounds like a definite possibility)or below 114.0 volts, a call to your power provider is recommended.
     
  10. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    If this house is old, but not too old, say around 50 years or so there is also the possibility that you have some substandard wiring in the form of aluminum. Measuring the voltage differential between ground and neutral (assuming you pass the 3 bulb test) should give a clue, at most it should be a couple of volts, and less than a volt is the norm.

    Aluminum wiring is now banned because it is a fire hazard, but it was popular for a while.
     
  11. Audioguru

    New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
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    I had a house with aluminum wiring. Nearly every receptacle had loose screws on the wires and the insulation was melted.
    One joint at a light had the biggest wire-nut I had ever seen and it fell off when I bumped it.
    I replaced every receptacle with ones with over-size screws and compatible with aluminum wire.
    The house still stands after 30 years. It didn't burn down. I saved it.
     
  12. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Just curious, what time frame was this house built in.
     
  13. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
    22,182
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    Audioguru,
    Did you use an anti-corrosion compound on the exposed aluminum wiring before you connected it to the new outlets?

    I'm afraid that over time when exposed to the atmosphere, the aluminum will return to it's natural state (ie: Bauxite, a fine white powdery substance that does not conduct electricity) and your problems will return with a vengance. I have seen tubes of goop for that purpose in hardware stores. Something else you might investigate is a product called Corrosion-X; it comes in spray cans. It was developed for the US Navy as a multipurpose lubricant and corrosion preventative for the preservation of aircraft and electronic gear while on ships, which is a terrifically corrosive environment due to the ever-present salt spray. It's not cheap, but it works.
     
  14. Audioguru

    New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
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    I can't remember when the house with aluminum wiring was built. I sold it long ago.
    I didn't use anti-corrosion stuff, I used receptacles and switches that have huge screw-heads and are compatible with aluminum wiring. The joint is tight (until the aluminum creeps) and is sealed (until the aluminum creeps).
     
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