Calling all electricians

I have a circuit on my fuse box that doesn’t seem to be outputting power. The fuse itself is good, although I replaced it just in case. With the fuse removed from the socket, how can I safely tell if there’s juice coming through it?

StG

Old-home owner

Old home-owner

Buy a cheap multimeter and check the voltage there.

The OP said “safely”. To test a fuse socket with a multimeter, wouldn’t you have to insert one electrode carefully down into it and touch the bottom contact without touching the walls of the socket? Sounds like a dangerous game of Operation.

The fuse socket is about 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide. If the OP’s hands are so shaky that he can’t insert a multimeter probe in there without touching the sides, he shouldn’t be around a fuse box at all.

Safely? Call an electrician. Blindly sticking meter probes into a fuse socket won’t tell you if power is actually passing throug the fuse socket. You’d need to open up the fuse box to check for power at the “output” side of the fuse socket.

For the OP - what makes you think the circuit isn’t working right? Is the circuit completely dead? Any chance that the first thing on the circuit is a GFCI outlet that tripped?

What kind of fuses, round or cylinder? Are you sure the fuses are good? Can you safely access, feel comfortable, and are competent enough to test the wires with a meter? Methinks not or you would have told us you did so already. Call a pro before you hurt yourself.

So. The fuses are round, not barrel fuses. I put the fuse itself on a tester and it ran current through, but I also changed it for a fresh one from HD. I know there’s a problem because none of the lights, outlets, etc. on the circuit are working. No GFCI outlets on this circuit.

I do need to upgrade my electrical system (I’m currently running maybe 60 amps) and at that time swap the fuse box installed in 1961 for a breaker box. I’ve been waiting for the farm to be paid off (January) because that’ll be an expensive project and I like to have the money saved up for any home improvements.

I’m comfortable with a multimeter checking outlets and so on. However, I don’t know a great deal about electrical work beyond replacing an outlet.

I’m a she.

StG

Were they working before, or is this a “new to you” old house and the circuit hasn’t worked since you moved in? IOW, is this a recent issue?

If the fuse tests good, then your problem is either in the fuse socket (the panel is failing) or the wiring has opened up somewhere. Could be at the fuse socket, or at the neutral bus, or the problem is in the wiring after it leaves the fuse box. This is where electricians really earn their pay - figuring out where something has gone wrong.

If it’s a non-essential circuit and you’re planning to upgrade to breakers and a new service entrance soon, I’d be tempted to leave the fuse out and just be patient for s couple of months.

This is a new issue. And I’m dealing without the things in the circuit, but my shed is on that circuit, and my horse fence charger is in the shed. Normally it wouldn’t matter much if it’s off - it’s been off for months. But now they know it’s off, which is a bad thing.

StG

This nails it. People often assume that ANY wiring fault will cause a fuse to blow, but this is not true. For example, the “hot” conductor (actually the ungrounded current-carrying conductor) could have come off of the terminal at the first outlet and now you have no power at any of the outlets. (This is something I would check for myself…after removing the fuse to ensure the circuit is not energized.)

Personally, I would call in an electrician and go ahead and get it diagnosed and fixed. It could actually lead to a dangerous situation.

This part ^…

…makes the above advice dead on. The issue is either something in the box itself or between the box and the first outlet or switch on the circuit. I don’t suppose anything changed recently that might affect the circuit - any behind the wall work, for example?

This.

You can test for continuity at each of the outlets with the power off. This may help determine where the fault lies and help you direct your electrician to the likely source of the issue

In any case, I was faced with a similar problem some years ago and the final solution was to rip out the old box and install a new one with GFCI breakers. Hired an electrician to attach the box ( used to work around high voltage equipment so I would not touch this part). The rest was pretty straightforward. I believe Home Depot had an excellent how to book on installing this stuff, no doubt YouTube abounds with how to vids.

Work slow, stop when you get to something you don’t understand or are afraid of messing with.

At the very least, do some research on how this is done so you can resist getting ripped off by your electrical contractor

Panel brand? How many fuses in panel?

If it’s a screw in fuse then maybe noncontact when you screw it in. Rejection base not seated, loose connection points in panel ect. In this case check voltage ground or neutral to wire terminal for that circuit in panel. If no voltage problem is in panel, if voltage problem is beyond.

If problem is beyond then, in my area I would suspect a backstabed recptical failure down the line given the the common practices of the time in my area.

Farms are the worst to troubleshoot around here.

I would go with getting a pro out to check things out.

The things to be checked out
Is the power coming to the inlet side of the fuse.
Power at the outlet side of the fuse.
As someone suggested are the outlets daisy chained through out the system with a loose connection at one outlet. Outlets should never be daisy chained so if this is the condition all the outlets should be properly rewired.
The outlet being used may be at fault.
At any of the junction boxed there may be a faulty splice.
The wires may have received some damage over time and may be open between two splice points.

And you may have power at the outlet but the neutral may be open, so the neutral may need checking through out the system.

I’ve never heard of this, I was pretty sure this was the common convention for wiring multiple outlets?

You might daisy chain two outlets in one box. But you should not use an outlet as a splice point and run down stream outlets through it. The outlet should have pig tails and the pig tails spliced into the up stream and down stream lines. Running a line of outlets daisy chain is looking for a failure and also possably a hot connection.

Both fairly common methods. There’s so many ways for this to be done. Backstabbed, backwired, sidewired, all with or without making pigtails. Then pigtails with wagos, wire nuts, or ferrules.

While wirenut pigtails attached to screw connectors is widely considered the superior method in these woods, there no code prohibition that I’m aware of that would prevent a wrapping of Backstabbed daisy chain of 99 cent recepticles all the way around the house.

So did this just suddenly happen? How did you notice it?

Did you replace a blown fuse, and then it didn’t work even with a good, new fuse? Or did you just notice that it wasn’t working, but checked the fuse and it was still good?

One possibility: with some brands of fuse boxes, the center contact is a small piece of metal that the contact in the base of the fuse pushes into. It’s possible for the contact inside the fuse socket to get pushed down, so it doesn’t make reliable contact when the fuse is screwed in. (The same problem can happen on edison-base light bulb sockets.)

This can be fixed by prying up that contact inside the fuse base enough to make solid contact. BUT be very sure you have de-powered the entire fuse box before doing this! Usually this is detected when you remove an old fuse that blows, and the new good one doesn’t fix the problem.

P.S. Not to be simplistic, but are you sure you are screwing the new fuse in tightly enough to make good contact?
I’ve had this happen, when the old fuse box had worn down contacts – I had to really screw the new fuse in tightly, which can be hard to do since it’s such tight space in there. And the box is usually in a hard-to-access space.

Several basic tests. A 50 year old panel should still be grounded, maybe just not as well as current methods.

  1. Have your read voltage from the center recessed fuse contact to the door of your panel? This says power is at the fuse. How about from the shell to the panel. This says a common neutral may have opened.
  2. turn a known good light on in the circuit or a fan or your fencer. Set your meter to voltage and with the fuse out, read for voltage from the back contact square to the screw shell. This tells you that at least some voltage is present and you have a very high resistance in the path. Burned off wire or pulled off that effectively opened the circuit. Someplace between the test light and the fuse panel. Depending on meter you could possibly read voltage running through the charred insulation.
  3. Can you run a 3 prong extension cord from a working grounded outlet to someplace near a non-working one? With the fuse in, check for voltage from the small stab (hot) of the non working one to the neutral and or ground of the working one. I am assuming you are in North America so have your meter on for 220-240 volts. *(Just in case of error and you are across both sides of the panel. You shouldn’t expect more that 120 if you hit it right ) Voltage here signifies an open return neutral. Voltage from the working outlet hot side back through the non-working (don’t use ground this time) shows a hot feed problem.

*How the power grid and your house tie together is not an important issue just now. Suffice it to say that 220/240 volts when you may be looking for 110/120 is quite possible and should actually be guarded for.