View Full Version : Electrikery help needed.

Loose rivets
9th Nov 2013, 18:54
During my 30 hour journey back to Texas, I got a call from my son while in an hotel room in LHR. He said the power to my home had been cut off.

AEP is a huge company. They can put a dozen trucks into a road to get people back in their homes, but I have to have a ticket from the City inspector. Finally got it after two days of quotes and work done. $2,100 for something I could have done for $300, but am not allowed to. Too late for Friday, so here I am without power still. How am I PPRuNing? I've ported some power from next door.

Wires everywhere. Can't cook with skinny wires of course, but at least I can see where I'm going without a candle. First night, totally wrecked with tiredness after a good flight (again) with BA but horror at Dallas. Hours of jumping through hoops with your baggage that then has to be re checked. I so hate travel. Anyway, first night with two candles and sod-all food etc.

Now thinks I, if I port the electrikery into the new system, it will be ported around the house by the house wiring. Seems logical. But remember, American wiring is split 115-0-115. But even so, one bus live should send the stuff to half the plugs, right? Well, given that the breakers are all ON. But it doesn't. Modern breakers can't be different, surely?

I cut a 12 gauge cable and ported 115v into one of my outlets on the patio. That way I shouldn't need a cable coming in the window. But nothing on any plug except those that are on that ring. Check and recheck the breakers are on etc., but nothing but power on one ring. Just don't understand.

I'm still sha:mad:d and wonder if I'm doing anything daft - given that a cable with a male plug at each end is a tad dodgy. But it has at least got me on t'net, and powering up the fridge. One blessing is the weather has been wonderful, but as always in southern Texas, it can change 50f in a day. (thinks, if it gets hot again, I'll move into the fridge.)

Anyone know why I can't get power out of all breakers on one bus-bar? It would mean lights everywhere and a spot of telly.

Lon More
9th Nov 2013, 19:05
obviously the wrong bus bar

9th Nov 2013, 19:11
You may have GFCI's (Ground Fault Current Interrupters) that appear to be on but aren't. Some of the Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCB) I have here can get in that state.

God alone knows how much I prefer ruddy old fashioned fuses!!

But make sure that you have isolated the incoming feed to the house before providing any local powering. It is apparently fairly common in the US for householders to power up their house from a local generator, not realising that the feed lines to the house power up - and so do the 2100 or 6200 volts feed to the distribution transformer.

9th Nov 2013, 19:23
1 Disconnect house from i/c power supply (here we have one fuse each phase - houses here are three phase), anyway make sure you are completely disconnected.

2 Knock all your contact breakers off

3) knock all your ELB (earth leakage breakers) off

4) Plug your own 115v into kitchen, appliances there should come on. Small victory. Cook lunch, whatever.

5) turn all ELB's on one at a time, if any come out again don't go further and sit in kitchen.

6) turn one contract breaker on, see if any lights come on. If they do leave on, if they don't turn contact breaker off again. Then try next contact breaker and so on....

7) You should end up with 50% of the house working.....

8) Wait till Monday.

Been there, done that. Had insects in junction boxes that got fried and tripped the ELB, had water in a curve of the duct near a junction box that blew back and forth in a 150kph wind and tripped the ELB, had high moisture due south wind in the indoor swimming pool which blew the ELB. Most cases solved by sitting and waiting. (Insects fried completely, water dried, wind changed direction and so on).

9th Nov 2013, 21:17
Using an outlet outside the house or in the garage, kitchen or bathroom will be a Ground Fault Interrupting Circuit if the home has been built since about the mid seventies when that code was adopted.

You will have to find an alternate outlet within the house to install your suicide cord and be sure to open the main so that you will not back feed.

About the only items that will be operating on the 230vrms circuit would be electric heat, electric hot water tank or air conditioner. None of those will operate on 115vrms.

Was the power interrupted by storm damage? Quite unusual to disconnect power and require an upgrade after service is already established.


cockney steve
9th Nov 2013, 21:55
perhaps the problem is that you're trying to "backfeed" from the outlet through the outlet's circuit -breaker, onto the main distribution busbar......should you fail to disconnect (switch OFF) the incoming mains, your neighbour's house would then try to feed one phase of the local distribution sub-station (Iam making the wild assumption that US power distribution is broadly similar to UK - albeit we have 230V Phase to Neut for domestic)If you can get the trip for that socket, trip to hold in, the other trips would have current-flow in the correct-sense from your own distribution -board.......bear in mind that your neighbour's feed to your "suicide-lead" will have a finite capacity which will probably be considerably less than a whole house loading...therefore only connect essentials such as freezerand fridge....a few lights are OK but avoid anything with heat or motors (cookers, heaters, air-con, kettles are the hungry ones for power)

you "could" kludge a socket direct from the busbar and neutral and plug the suicide-lead in to that (possibly safer to put a plug on the kludge and a socket on the lead :suspect: ) but if you aren't allowed to do any wiring repairs yourself.......you're on very dodgy ground.....even your lead is very naughty!

9th Nov 2013, 23:43
Since no one-one here actually knows the circuits in the house,just live with the 1 x outlet for now.You might live longer and save a large bill if something gets damaged by the adhoc connections.

10th Nov 2013, 01:32
There are a few things you need to consider. First, of course, is to turn off the main disconnect at the meter. The electric company gets very upset if someone is backfeeding while they are working on the lines. Most local companies ground any line they are working on to keep workers safe. If they do that your branch breaker should trip (backfeeding into a short).

Next, remember that your 115v house feed is backing through a small breaker (maybe 20a). So if you try to draw any more than that the branch breaker will trip.

Some 220v appliances also have a neutral connection. If you have any of those, some voltage will appear on the other branch of your house feed due to auto-transformer effects. Generally that voltage will be very low and any motor driven appliance (a refrigerator, say) may burn out because of the low voltage.

The usual way, if you are prepared, is to plug a 220v. generator into a dryer or oven outlet with the main disconnect turned off.

10th Nov 2013, 03:45

First of all disconnect the main fuse

This will prevent bad things happening when power is eventually or accidently restored as well as protect outside power workers.

Then find an ordinary (i.e. not arc fault or ground fault) breaker to plug/wire in suicide cord. My strong preference would be to directly wire through a slightly less amperage breaker than the neighbor's supply breaker.

Be extremely careful to run hot wire to hot bus (use tester)

Don't forget that anything your neighbor is running on that breaker reduces what you can run before tripping his breaker.

You may be better off moving perishables to neighbor's refrigerator. Then you can shut off fridge which generates heavy loads on start up. Fridges normally are on own circuit.

Get propane camp stove.

Loose rivets
10th Nov 2013, 05:50
Ta for suggestions. Yep, mains really isolated, cos that's what they did when someone found some heated plastic on the main wires behind the meter.

American meters are in a glass bottle that plugs on spade connectors into a dedicated box. The two main wires were cut at the 'Weather head' and this was the trouble. They'd done that in a fit of over exuberance on seeing the plastic. BUT NOT BOTHERED TO TELL ANYONE. I have berated AEP four an hour or so about duty of care - especially for two old-timers who'd traveled for hours to find their home useless. Bastards! Just so much bull, this business of needing the City enforcement involved. $225 just for the paperwork for that.

The remedial work would have been $1,900 ish. but for $2,100 I could have a new distribution box in the garage. The new one is a 200 amp 'Square D', obviously made in China. Sharp edges on the steel door and bendy. Crap. I have been played just as a used car salesman would play a punter, or more like a financial adviser selling a biased deal. Ply the client with a duff deal and then the one they really want to sell sounds much better. I knew, but was too tired to really play hardball. (put that in the expressions thread.)

I've powered the whole house up by tying the two 'sides' buses together and leaving off the Furnace, water heater, oven etc., etc. There is a huge switch at the top of the box to isolate me from the outside world. Yes, it's off - just in case AEP feel guilty and come on a Sunday.

As someone mentioned, porting in from the patio might find a GFI breaker with electronics for the ground fault isolation. I desperately wanted to get the wires out of the crack in the window, (despite being taped) as mozzies come in the tiniest hole. Sod's law had this protected CB as the one inbound, and seemingly that breaker did not want to play. Going in on the irrigation socket overcame this.

The wire and the input socket were there for the irrigation pump which is 1.5 Hp. Should work. Long wire from neighbor's house goes to his dedicated irrigation outlet which I advised him to fit years ago.

All seems okay for the moment, but I'm mindful of my neighbor's well-being. He's a fireman, and his department went to 3,600 fires last year. No, it's not a big department, but houses are largely wood and he never seems to rest.

The irony is, if I'd chainsawed the darn cable, it's likely they'd work through the night to get the homeowner up and running. It's what happened to that very neighbor. Get the official types involved, and no one can do anything until paper has been generated. Dim spineless sods, no one with the balls to override the crap and spend 20mins getting us powered up.

Loose rivets
10th Nov 2013, 06:00
This is what happens when they don't have paperwork getting in the way. Don't know why they're in the road, the wires come in from the fields at the bottom of the garden.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v703/walnaze/Picture013_zps63541d99.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/walnaze/media/Picture013_zps63541d99.jpg.html)

10th Nov 2013, 07:09
had high moisture due south wind in the indoor swimming pool
that's what it's called nowadays? :confused: the substance one swims in?

Don't get electrocuted, Loose. Candles are supposed to relax people's mind?

10th Nov 2013, 13:33
Melted plastic raises the possibility of a lightning strike.

The good news is that your insurance may cover the bill.

The bad news is that some wires, junction boxes, switches, and anything plugged in may have been fried:uhoh:

Check everything.

Hopefully your ground rod absorbed the majority of the strike -- oh yes, check your ground rod -- it may have lost diameter and/or length.

10th Nov 2013, 14:56
Cockney Steve

The US system uses a single phase transformer (pole pig, since they're usually a round cylinder like a dustbin attached to an electricity pole), with the primary usually, I believe connected phase to neutral. The secondary is a centre tapped 240volt winding, with centre tap earthed and providing a neutral. This gives 120-0-120, with a neutral at earth potential: it is usually earthed at the entrance to the house as well. Some things such as cookers often have a four wire feed - 240 volt, the neutral for low level stuff such as lights and clocks and a separate earth wire.

Totally different to the UK.

cockney steve
11th Nov 2013, 18:38
Totally different to the UK.not thatdifferent;)
A mate had a 2-phase welding set (don't ask, I don't know! )
Loads of people in the village used to periodically get a shrinking TV picture,coincidentally with him doing another heavy fabrication job.
Despite several investigations, the cause of the problem was never established.....but we knew:}

Basically, we do the same thing here, as in USA to balance a demand across the phases?

Several years ago I did an extensive bit of rewiring, including a kitchen and bathroom,including cooker and shower.......When I told the owner that it had to be certified to "part P", he replied that Regs weren't Law and as a Chartered Engineer, he was better-qualified to decide that I was "suitably Qualified", than any likely comllaining Jobsworth and, should they also come up with a Chartered Engineer...it would go nowhere , as that very exclusivegroup would definitely "close ranks":8

12th Nov 2013, 00:13
We have not heard from Rivets. Wonder if he got caught up in the paper work circle of DOOM. Most government offices were closed on the 11th for Veterans Day probably adding another day before getting electrical service.


Loose rivets
12th Nov 2013, 04:43
Ah, HA! I'm back.:8 Had to leave everything orf since we wanted the techie to see us sitting in the candlelit room. He pulled up at about 7:20 pm and the Rivetess shone her torch/flashlight at him. He was a nice lad, who told me he's not even allowed to do his own house due to one reg or another. Made me feel better. When I told him who'd fixed it, he told me just how much they'd charted AEP to repair a pipe they'd cut. Seems I got the Rolls Royce service department. Still, I'm sitting here in my den with a desk light on, and the AC having taken some of the fug out of the air. Wash me knickers tomorrow - if I can get into the laundry.

The main wires were crimped with a tool with metre-long handles. Wouldn't like to get caught in that. Talking of which:

oh yes, check your ground rod -- it may have lost diameter and/or length.

Not bloody lightly, I'm not letting him near that, he may crimp it.:ooh: