Yoo-hoo Electricians…

What the hell is going on with my power…I am in the dark here.

3 flat building late 1800’s construction but no knob and wire. 4 circuit boxes 3 apartments 1 public. No breakers tripped but lost partial power in apartments 1, 3 and public areas. Some outlets work in all areas. For instance in apartment 3 the refrigerator outlet is live and 1 of three out lets in the master bedroom (2 rooms away) is live. Rehab in apartment 2 is the suspect as total new electrical has been installed in the last 3 months.

Now I am not going to fix this myself…but would like to understand how and what is the core issue here.

I believe a neutral to ground fault may be the cause because no breakers tripped, while I also suspect mis-wiring must also be part of the issue for all the different areas to be effected.

Am I on the right track here?

How would one chase down the problem?

Was a ground fault interrupt installed in the renovation such as a bathroom or kitchen receptacle? If you tripped it then you have wiring in common with all 3 units.

A thought just occurred to me. Your building has (2) 110 volt lines coming into it. Is it possible one of these lines is down from the transformer? You would have to pull your breaker panels off to see how they are wired but that would account for losing half of your service. on a straight panel (one line of breakers) you actually have 2 lines of power (1 line on each side of the breakers). They are staggered so that every other breaker is on 1 circuit of 110. That way you can combine 2 of them with a double breaker and get 220 service. If every other circuit is dead then that is your problem.

Additional input. If you only have 1 set of (2) lines coming in from the transformer then you would see every other breaker dead in all 4 boxes.

Easy check to see if you’ve lost one of your lines from the transformer is to measure the voltage at an electrical dryer outlet. Make sure you have your volt meter on AC (unlike me, doh). If you measure against the common ground you get 110 and if you measure against the 2 live wires you get 220. I couldn’t get my probes deep enough into the socket so I partially inserted the dryer plug so it made solid contact and measured the exposed blades of the plug.

The GFI…thank you for clarifying what the acronym was. I was reading it on some DIY sites and did not now what they were talking about.

I will look into that.

2 – 110 lines…is that how they do it? It is possible that there is an issue there.

I just looked out the window…all the lines seem to be up.:smiley:

I was thinking something much harder to track down…like bad wiring patched in over the years with something coming loose at 1 of the connection spots.

Yep, that’s how it’s done. We had a major power outage this year and an acquaintance of mine lost 1 of his circuities. I don’t know how transformers are wired but it has to consist of a bunch of a step down transformers. You’d have one for each line.

2 story houses often have circuits that span multiple floors because they are wired in the most convenient manner. Your multiple units should be completely separate from each other but if they shared the same (2) 110 volt lines coming into the building that would explain why all the units have problems.

So it would just effect this building and not the neighbors?

Forgot to add a possible important fact…power has mysteriously intermittently come back on for a few minutes at a time.

I’d be lying if I said I knew how the transformers were set up but based on what this guy told me, yes. He was the only person with any power and it was only 1 circuit.

The reason I bring it up is that it is easy to check so you can eliminate it quickly. That’s the goal of diagnostics, Check what you easily check to eliminate it from a list of possible problems.

Like has been mentioned it sounds like you lost a phase somewhere. If they went through the effort of putting in 4 breaker boxes I’d expect each floor is wired completely independent of the others. If you have problems on multiple floors I’d be looking for a problem before those panels.

That is the worst possible situation. That indicates that something somewhere is acting as a switch. And that something is almost certainly not a real switch, but rather a loose connection or damaged wire.

In other words, a fire trying to start.

Get a pro on this ASAP, like within a couple hours. Calling the electric utility emergency number to have them come out to test ther feed & shut down the building service if the problem is in the building is not out of line.

An 1800s construction building will burn like you’ve never seen.

It could be a lose feed somewhere and has a fire potential if there is arcing. Get immediate attention. I’d advise shutting off the main breaker to prevent a fire until you know what is wrong.

Typically it’s a center tapped transformer with the center tap grounded. This creates 110 volts between either line and neutral, or 220 volts between the two lines. Outlets and lights should be roughly evenly split between the two lines. In some places you can sometimes get two phases out of a three phase system, but that’s fairly rare (unless you live in New York City, in which case it’s fairly common).

It sounds like you’ve got an intermittent connection on one of the lines. It could be the main breaker in the panel itself, or it could be anywhere upstream from that. I had exactly that problem in my house and found that it was a bad connection in the base of the electrical meter. I then found out the hard way that while the power company owns the meter, I own the base, and getting it fixed was on my nickel.

I also have to echo what LSLGuy and others have said. This is a fire waiting to happen. Electricity forced through a smaller area of contact equals HEAT and lots of it. You need to get this fixed like NOW.

Where were you last year? :slight_smile:

I spent the better part of a day trying to figure out what in the hell was wrong with my electricity, and this was it. I had exactly the same symptoms that the OP describes.

Working for a living and sleeping soundly at 3am.:slight_smile:

I did NOT see this post when I was posting this morning. I cannot over emphasized what other posters have already said and have this checked out IMMEDIATELY. I’ve arced 110 volt AC with a screw driver and it vaporized the tip. This is a guaranteed fire if it is anywhere near combustible material.

Well, it’s now been 15 hours since the first advice to the OP to not let the intermittent connection burn his building down. And no sign of him here.

One hopes he & the others got out of the building in time.

It’s got me worried. Hopefully it’s a transformer issue that’s keeping us in the dark.

I took no response as what you get if you turn of the power and can’t post.