Electrical Panel Problem

I’m having problems with my electricity going off and on at will. Here are some of the symtoms:

1.) Power going off and on.
2.)All breakers on one side of panel having problems. Other side is fine.
3.)The 50amp breaker was making sizzle sound, so I replaced it only to have another breaker on same side start sizzling.
4.)No breakers are tripping when power goes out.


1.)Is it my main breaker?
2.)Is it a loose power wire on one side?
3.)Is it a loose neutral wire?
4.)Should I have the POCO shut off power before checking for loose wires?
Things I have done so far to try and fix the problem:

1.)Had the POCO check outside for problems. (No problem found)
2.)Replaced all breakers on the problem side.
3.) Checked wall outlets for bad connections.

What should my readings be when checking the voltage on the main breaker?

Thank You in advance to all who answers my thread! I’m a single mom with not a lot of money to hire someone to do this for me!

Loose main lug connection? That sizzling noise sounds like this is the problem. This is not something you want to attempt to correct yourself, as it can’t be shut off by you. Call your local power company or a local electrician.

Huh? Remove the meter from the can.

Could be a number of problems still. So far I’m leaning towards corrosion on the buss bar. Who is the manufacturer on the panel. Are the breakers you are using compatible with the panel? Because they fit does not mean they are made for that panel.

When you say all the breakers on one side are you talking left and right? That would be a very rare configuration for breakers. The legs on the bus bar alternate down the left and right side.

I’m hesitant to off much advise here. While you may be a poor single mom you are playing with things well beyond your skill or knowledge lvl and should be calling an electrician to do that work and trouble shooting. That panel is always has power in it sufficient to kill you without a doubt.

That’s high on my list of things that are a bad idea for homeowners. It may not be legal for them to do so. It’s extremely expensive if they manage to break it. Not much prevents someone from hitting those lugs while removing the meter or while it’s off.

breaker panel legs usually alternate legs to give 220V as boytyperanma mentioned.

if the breakers fit bad, third party breakers or bad installer, and they were hammered to fit (which could be on one physical side even if legs alternated) then you could have damaged the bus bars and this leave a loose fit to cause arcing.

a skilled electrician could inspect and tighten the wires with the main breaker off (there are still lethal points on the incoming cable though it is localized). utility will pull the meter to be safest.

there are lots of details and non-intuitive things in electrical systems. an unskilled person can create more problems than they fix. bad electrical systems can result in death and loss of a lot of property. not something to guess about or stumble through.

do not disconnect your own meter, your utility will gladly do it on appointment for free. if you do it yourself you could face expensive charges from your utility. also a removed meter in a live socket is deadly.

A very poor idea, if ever I heard one.

Square D QO Model, old house - old box. Panel #QOC-20M
Replace with Square D QO breakers from Lowes.
Specific breakers on left side- no breakers on right side
Have taken all electrical engineering classes for a AAS, but have no troubleshooting experience yet. I have no intentions of touching the meter, or any power lines going into my box. Very aware of what can happen, just want to pinpoint the problem so when I do get a licensed electrician I will not get ripped off.

I also would like to buy the parts needed before the electrician is called. So far I have had no luck finding an electrician either.
NOTE: No corrosion on the bus bar or screws to breakers that I replaced. I also measured the voltages on all breakers and got a reading of 118V. Did not measure the 50amp that goes to the stove though. I want to measure the main but not sure how, or if I need to.

that box alternates legs down each side. QO is a quality product, my preferred.

if the bus bars are damaged (they should be silver looking with no dents) then replacement part is a new box.

if you measured 118V on alternating legs then you don’t need to measure the main because you have indirectly. if you want to measure it put your meter on 250V range and measure at two adjacent beakers. measuring on the two 50A breaker terminals is the same.

Is the front panel to the box securely attached? It shouldn’t pull on the breakers if its loose, but not much explains a problem on one side and not the other. Also, are the problem breakers alternating position, like 1st,3rd,5th breaker on one side? Have you removed the front panel? Could wiring be shorting against the panel, or other wires? Did you measure any voltage on the panel itself? Why do you think an electrician will rip you off? Watch what they do. What do you think they will tell you? You don’t need to measure the main. You already did by measuring each side on the breakers. Just get an electrician. Call the union local, they’ll put you in touch with someone.

Does 118V sound normal for the alternating breakers?
The bus bar looks real good, no burns, no rust.etc…

I would have the box replaced, but I’m not sure about some of the old wiring that’s connected to the stove. They have the old cotton wire, with the metal thats wrapped around the cotton as ground. Would all that have to be replaced for a new box?

yes 118V on alternating breakers is fine.

a skilled person could replace a box if needed using the existing wiring. yes some wiring types could be damaged reworking if they are old. slow and careful will likely be OK if wiring is old and it can then be reused.

the cover for the breaker panel should go on fully (there is a bit of stationary breaker that should just protrude beyond (by about 1/16 inch) the cover) without force or moving the breakers.

Sorry, I should not have assumed I would get ripped off by an electrician. I just have been given really high quotes in the past by different professionals, say mechanics, which is why I prefer to be a DIY, because I can’t afford anything else.

I think $40/hr is about right for an electrician if I buy all the parts.

I think a ground might be touching the panel door. There are wires everywhere touching the sides of the box. All the wires sit on top of the main, that is where the ground and neutral wire terminals are.

#1&3 breaker(50amp) #9 breaker(20amp) #13&15(30amp,2-pole) These are the breakers that control the problem areas.

it is ok for grounding wires to touch the box and other wires with good insulation can touch also. you want no wires to touch the cover. the only thing the cover should touch tightly is the sides of the box.

Strange things that’s been happening:

1.) When power goes off and I plug in the stove the power comes back on.
2.) plug in microwave- power went off
3.) Started in one room and moved to several rooms.

Frankly, call an electrician. You’ve got weird shit happening and you may be in harm’s way.

You sound knowledgeable enough that you won’t get ripped off. Ask someone for a reference on a good electrician. Please.

When I moved into my current house (very old, poorly wired), fuses were blowing constantly. I called an electrician. He came in eyeballed the box, said ‘Lets take a look at the main fuse’. He grabbed the wire handle, pulled, and the whole front of the box, including fuses, bus bars, and all the wiring came off with it. I said, ‘You’re going to put that back right?’

It was an old Franklin box, discontinued due to those pesky fires that kept happening. Replaced it with SquareD, and rewired everything. But I had an electrician install the new box. A different electrician.

I recommend a union electrician who’s looking for freelance work if you need to save money. I prefer to do everything myself whether I can afford it or not. But I also prefer not dying. Also, I’ve befriended a couple of electricians since then. Any time I do major electrical work, I ask them to come over and check it out. That qualifies for code here-abouts. Make sure you are not violating local codes, or your homeowners/fire insurance may not cover the damages, or pay your funeral costs.

You are losing one of your lines somewhere.

Most residential systems these days are a split single phase coming from a center tapped transformer. The center tap is earth grounded. From ground to either line gives you 120 volts, and from line to line gives you 240 volts.

In the breaker panel, the lines alternate, so if you put in all single breakers, breaker 1 connects to line 1, breaker 2 connects to line 2, breaker 3 connects to line 1, breaker 4 connects to line 2, and so on, alternating as you go down the panel. When you’ve got a 2 pole breaker for a 240 volt device it takes up two slots so that it can control both line 1 and line 2.

You’ll note that all of your problem breakers are odd numbers. All of the odd numbers will be connected to one line and all of the even breakers will be connected to the other line.

The first thing to do is measure the voltage between the neutral and both lines coming in from the utility meter. They should come in through the top of the panel and connect to some large screws that you can easily get a meter on. If the voltage on one of these lines is dropping when you have a problem then the problem is external to your house. It could be in the connection at the power meter though. I had a bad connection there in my house a few years back, and found out that the power company owns the meter but I own the base it sits in, and therefore I had to pay for the repair.

If the mains voltage is ok while you are having the problem, then the bad connection is inside the panel somewhere. You may need to replace the entire panel, which could be expensive. Depending on the local laws where you live, this may or may not be a DIY job, but if you can do this yourself you will need to pull the meter so that you aren’t doing this hot. Around here, you can call the power company and tell them that you are pulling the meter and then you have to call them when you are done so that they can come out and put a little security tag on the meter (which you have to cut to remove the meter so they know you aren’t tampering with it).

This is the sort of thing that can easily burn your house down so don’t muck about with it. Get it taken care of ASAP.

Another thought. Do all of the neutrals connect to a single bus bar (either on top of the panel or off to the side) or does the left side of the panel have one neutral bus bar and the right side have another? If so then you could have a bad connection between that neutral bus bad and the main neutral connection for the panel.

In my many years as an electrician (admittedly long in the past), problems such as this came down to a deteriorated main lug connection, either through corrosion, vibration, or careless installation (i.e., not torqueing the lugs properly). This resulted in intermittent power problems. An amateur should not be trying to troubleshoot it, however, as noted above.