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Electrical issue

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FREEDGUY View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 6:21pm
Dad has a 100 amp breaker box in the old bankbarn that only houses 7 20 amp breakers. 3 weeks ago dad noticed that a recept that runs a battery maintainer for his generator wasn't working. After further investigation, 1/2 of the barn lights weren't working. I stopped out to the farm yesterday and did some investigating and found that on each of the 2 legs coming into the main had 120 'ish volts as long as all of the breakers were off. turning on individual breakers did this- lowest right breaker had 120 volts until a light switch/tool was turned on,then 1 leg of the main was lost and then the breaker developed 220 volts Confused . The next breaker up had NO voltage but the one above that one showed 120 'ish volts until a "load" of some type was introduced, then a main leg dropped out and the small breaker went to 220 ?? I hate to guess how many light bulbs I'm going to have to change 40 feet up in the beams of the hay mow section of the barn Cry .
 Any thing that dad can look into as far as repairing whatever might be wrong, or should I advise him to call in a professional ? I have a feeling that recent lightening strike might have something to do with the problem ?? Thanks
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jaybmiller Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 8:17pm
I'm still trying to figure this out after 4 or 5 drawings...only thing  I can come up with is a 'busted' 100AMP main breaker
 The way panels are made is that every other breaker position is tied to one of the incoming lines. In your case ,if the lower right breaker is #1, then #s 1,3,5 and 7 will be on the left main feed, #s2,4,6 will be on the right main feed

Actually I can't see HOW you can get 220 on the load side of ANY breaker. L1 to N is 120v, L2 to N is 120v, L1 to L2 is 240 volt. Even IF you lost the neutral connection, you can't get 240 on  ANY breaker.

I wish I could SEE it in person......

What you could do is disconnect all the load wires at the circuit breakers ( only 7 of them...)

Then turn the breakers on. You should have 120 on all of them, with respect to ground/neutral. Across ( between) #1 and 2 you'll have 240, between 3 and 4 ,240, 5 and 6 ,240. Once that's confirm attach load wire to #1 breaker. turn on whatever it controls. do the same for #2,3,4,5,6 and 7.

still thinking as I type... Only way I can see you getting 240 on a breaker is if the main feed line NOT connected to that breaker is shorted to Neutral...

Are there ANY GCFI recptacles ? They can go 'funny' but that shouldn't cross 120 to neutral...

When the cause is located PLEASE report back....it's got me confused
Jay
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cabinhollow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 8:25pm
For how little a new box cost, I would just put a new one in.
No need to call a professional, even with triple checking your work, it should take less than one hour.
Kill the powder and unhook one set of wires at a time and move them to the new box.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JC(WI) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 8:26pm
Check the main line with a load... Check ALL grounds going all the way to the transformer on the pole...
 Could be a bad connection in the line, or in the old fuse box.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Orangeinwisco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 8:55pm
Sounds like a ground burnt off and is touching a line. A meter reads difference, not necessarily voltage. Phase 1 to ground is 120, phase 1 to phase 2 is 240, but phase 1 to phase 1( two breakers on same phase) will be 0v even with power there. So, with a light on, it completes a circuit,phase to phase(240 v or 0v) depending on breaker position.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 9:23pm
the BOX is setup with 240 volts coming in.. Every OTHER breaker in the column runs off the other leg.. Example,,, row 1 left and right are 120 v Leg 1... row 2 or (breaker 3-4) are 120 volts LEG 2......... you get 240 when you combine breakers 1 and 3 together..
 
I have had that problem when half the breakers don't work ( every other one in a colum).. that means ONE LEG of the 240 v coming in is weak or broken.. Common problems are a loose wire on the screw terminal where the 240 volts comes into the box, or a BURNT leg of the breaker where it plugs into the box terminals... It can also be the TERMINAL STRIP behind the breaker that it snaps into...
 
You need to TIGHEN the screw on the big wires coming INTO the box... Then you need to pull the 100 amp MAIN breaker and look at the back side and see if the breaker is bad, or the terminals it connects to are bad.. If its the BREAKER, you can buy new.. If it has ARCED against the terminals and burn, then you may need a new box. 
 
You should be VERY familiar with electricity if you are tightening the terminals or pulling the main breaker out...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 9:28pm
When you said you apply a LOAD and the voltage goes out  (ZERO ) , that is because the wire is LOOSE or the contact on the back of the main breaker is BURNT.. It might only pass 5 amps ( instead of 100). and when you apply a LOAD, the voltage drops to about zero.
 
The above is not uncommon if aluminum wire was run to the box. The difference between the aluminum wire and copper lug causes corrosion after 20 years... If you have copper wire it is less common........ but the MAIN SCREWS holding the wires into the terminals need to be tightened.. you might actually LOOSEN a turn, then retighten to break up any corrosion on the aluminum..
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jim.ME Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 9:31pm
Lightning strikes can do strange things. You don't say if this is a stand alone service, fed directly form its own meter, or a sub panel fed from another panel in another building. It sounds like you were testing the legs above the main breaker in this panel. If one leg drops out, I would say you need to go back to the source and check it. If that is a meter that would mean contacting the power company for assistance, around here. If it is another panel in another building see if the results are the same if not I would suspect an issue with the cable connecting them. If the results are the same it may be the breaker feeding the cable.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 9:33pm
Don't know how your BREAKER box is built.. If you have a MAIN above all the rest and you burn the terminals off behind the 100 amp breaker, then you can not reuse that area... I have bought a NEW 100 amp breaker and install it in the 1-3 breaker location and connect the MAIN wires to this breaker which will feed everything else.... that way you don't need a NEW BOX. .............. If your main breaker is not separate, but part of the 20 individual breakers, then you can move it to a new location ( like 2-4) if the terminals are BURNT at 1-3 area.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 9:37pm
JIm is alos right........ If you check the BOX and BREAKER in the barn, and don't have a problem, then the cable FEEDING the barn or the Breaker on the OTHER END of the cable would be the problem.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DaveKamp Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 10:15pm
The OP description is exactly what happens when a 120/240v single-phase panel has an insufficient neutral connection.

Typically, the connection problem will either be at the neutral busbar lug in the panel (where all the white wires tie in), or if it's fed by an overhead wire of tri-plex, will be at the connetion point at the support (bare) wire at the building, or at the feeder pole end.

IF the site suffered a substantial lightning strike, and your feeders are all overhead wires, the most likely point will be at the main pole connection point (up top) where all the neutrals are frequently tied together.  When you get up there and look at the connection hardware, you'll probably find one jumper's clip burned mostly off.

If they're underground feeders, you might find same on an overhead pole (if you're fed in by overhead) or at the utility transformer's end... but you'll see the same scenario occur on any OTHER panels on the property.

If it's an underground feeder to that building, chances are most likely that the connection point in your panel is zortched good, too... that's a sign that ground potential rise from a local strike caused high current flow from ground to neutral at that building's panel-  check your ground stake and wire too (although NEC single-point-ground rules say you 'shouldn't' have a separate ground spike at the building, those codes weren't in effect at the time of most farm buildings, and frankly, the lack of a local ground point is insane when you've got lots of sharp edges on the buildings to incite atmospheric discharges that would otherwise run right through, and inflict harm on the power feeders, rather than equalize through the soil as mother nature does.

The fact that you can see 120, simply means that there's no imbalance.  When you load one breaker, it imbalances the panel, and your apparent voltage jumps because the return current path (neutral) is incomplete, or resistive.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote john(MI) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2019 at 11:03pm
Sounds like an open common(white) to me.  I would tighten all of the screws on the white wire buss bar and the ground bus bar, and all of the wires on the breaker.  Everyone should do this every couple years.  I have found some very loose screws at the breakers.

Vibrations loosen the screws.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dave H Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 5:26am
Yessir, I would get it on with those white (common) connectors first.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 5:48pm
Originally posted by Jim.ME Jim.ME wrote:

Lightning strikes can do strange things. You don't say if this is a stand alone service, fed directly form its own meter, or a sub panel fed from another panel in another building. It sounds like you were testing the legs above the main breaker in this panel. If one leg drops out, I would say you need to go back to the source and check it. If that is a meter that would mean contacting the power company for assistance, around here. If it is another panel in another building see if the results are the same if not I would suspect an issue with the cable connecting them. If the results are the same it may be the breaker feeding the cable.
 
 Yes, I must admit that I may have left out what I felt at the time was unnecessary info Stern Smile . The box is fed from the grain bin "box" overhead from the bin to the barn. Originally the barn was fed from the house where the meter base is attatched. After we erected the bin, a designated line was run to the bin underground up to the bin panel from a disconnect box under the meter base on the house, and then from the bin box, the barn circuit was hooked up via a riser up the bin to an existing derelect corn crib(15' away) that was originally fed from the barn. All was well until 2-3 weeks ago as far as the barn power is concerned (7 years after the re-configuring of the power supply to the barn).
Perhaps I am not reading my meter correctly, I touched the red probe of my meter to a leg of the main and the black to the neutral/ground bar and got 120 'ish volts on either leg of the main(it's a tester that has 1 light for 120 + volts and 2 lights for 220/+ volts).
It was when an individual single pole breaker was put under a load= a light switch turned on= that a leg dropped out on the main and the 20 amp single pole jumped to 220 ?? 
Thanks for all and any info, just upsets me that I can't figure this out on my own Cry . Will definitely keep you guys "in-the-loop" though !!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 5:56pm
Originally posted by john(MI) john(MI) wrote:

Sounds like an open common(white) to me.  I would tighten all of the screws on the white wire buss bar and the ground bus bar, and all of the wires on the breaker.  Everyone should do this every couple years.  I have found some very loose screws at the breakers.

Vibrations loosen the screws.
 
Damn it John, I have a very difficult time reading your replies Wink, LOL!! Dad has gone through every screw/bolt in the "sending" box and the afflicted box and re-torqued everything, he said nothing was loose Confused
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 7:46pm
If you can turn off the power at the BIN end, then go to the barn and pull the main BREAKER out and inspect the breaker and lug strips..... you might have to connect a couple lights or light string to one LUG and GROUND (LOAD) , then go back to the BIN and turn the breaker back on to see if the cable TO THE BARN will carry a load...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 7:55pm
Originally posted by steve(ill) steve(ill) wrote:

If you can turn off the power at the BIN end, then go to the barn and pull the main BREAKER out and inspect the breaker and lug strips..... you might have to connect a couple lights or light string to one LUG and GROUND (LOAD) , then go back to the BIN and turn the breaker back on to see if the cable TO THE BARN will carry a load...
 
Excellent idea, yes, there is a 100 amp breaker that feeds the barn box in the bin box that is currently OFF due to fears of fire in the barn and that's where all of the orange and silver is housed. I personally can't get back to the farm until late week but will get updates. Thanks to you and everyone else for the input/info !!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jim.ME Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 7:57pm
I would go to the box (in the bin) feeding the barn and see if the results are the same there. Check those connections as well. If it acts like the barn box, go to the disconnect under the meter and check it out. Is it just a fused disconnect switch, or breaker disconnect switch?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:10pm
Originally posted by Jim.ME Jim.ME wrote:

I would go to the box (in the bin) feeding the barn and see if the results are the same there. Check those connections as well. If it acts like the barn box, go to the disconnect under the meter and check it out. Is it just a fused disconnect switch, or breaker disconnect switch?
That particular disconnect is a rather large "hard-to-open" box with a side lever. We have had the 28" fan and stirator running within the last few days as well as interior lights on to see to pull samples out of the man hole with no issues ?? Thanks 
These big items are 220/240(not sure of the correct term) and are on opposing sides of the panel box.


Edited by FREEDGUY - 12 Aug 2019 at 8:12pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote irlbeck A-C'S Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:21pm
The neutral connection to the box has been lost. The neutral actually returns current back to the source that the current comes from.
The best way I can describe what the neutral does is that it keeps the voltage on the two hot legs even. The voltage will stay even with a broken neutral as long as no load is applied to the circuit. As soon as load is applied the volts on one leg will go up while the other side will go down the same amount. Example,It could read 140v on one side and the other will be 100 volts (20 volt difference) or
240 on one and 0 on the other as you are describing.
Do a good visual check on the neutral connection in the box. Look for where the neutral lug attaches to the bar that it's mounted on. Then trace the neutral wire back to where it is feeding from. You'll be looking for a broke wire or a loose connection in that box.

Are you having any issues with things that may feed from a different panel? Bright or dim lights? Blowing bulbs. Burning up equipment or appliances?
If you can not visually find the issue,
another way to help troubleshoot would be to take a small wire from the neutral bar in a upline panel(that is not having issues) to the neutral bar in the panel that is having issues if the problem goes away the problem is in between the area that you jumped around.
For safety turn the power off to the boxes before installing the jumper.

The key finding a neutral issue with a meter is to check voltage from a hotleg that has load on it. Keep the volt meter lead on the hot wire and move the other lead around on the neutral in various locations looking for 120 volts.
If you are checking from hot to neutral and you read bad voltage such as 240 V You then move the neutral lead to a different spot and the volt reading is 120 then your problem is in between the two points you have checked.

Also the 240 volt equipment will run without the neutral. You'll notice the issue with the 120 volt stuff so your issue could be in the box or even upline of of the box for the fans you were using.
Check for loose or broken connectors on the riser too.







Edited by irlbeck A-C'S - 12 Aug 2019 at 8:42pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Orangeinwisco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:31pm
Big question is where did you check "voltage". Ground or nuetral?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:43pm
Originally posted by Orangeinwisco Orangeinwisco wrote:

Big question is where did you check "voltage". Ground or nuetral?
 
My black lead was touching the "bar" that holds both bare grounds AND the white neutral (never understood how that can possibly work LOL !!). 
Meant to say white neutral wires


Edited by FREEDGUY - 12 Aug 2019 at 8:44pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:47pm
On a three wire system, neutral and ground are the same... If you had 4 wires, they would be split.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:48pm
That brings up another question.. You have a GROUND ROD pounded into the ground at the METER BASE and connected to the neutral in that box... Is there any GROUND ROD at the BIN or the BARN ?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 8:51pm
Originally posted by steve(ill) steve(ill) wrote:

That brings up another question.. You have a GROUND ROD pounded into the ground at the METER BASE and connected to the neutral in that box... Is there any GROUND ROD at the BIN or the BARN ?
 
Yes,yes and now that you mention it(rod at the barn), no.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote steve(ill) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 9:01pm
"theoretically" there should be no second ground rod with the SUB box... "BUT" there is suppose to be 4 wires to the SUB so the ground and neutral are separate... but that never happens on the farm ........... I normally add a ground rod a the barn... see what others think. 
 
That might "help", but you still have a problem with the white/ neutral / ground wire, somewhere.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FREEDGUY Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 9:03pm
Thanks guys, will be in touch soon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JC(WI) Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2019 at 9:34pm
Could be a corroded underground wire.   Gophers chewing can cause weird things too...
 think you have corrosion at a connection that hasn't been checked yet.
  
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i'm staying out of this one, all i'd do is gits ZAPPED! whew
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DMiller Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2019 at 6:56am
Triplex is still a common feeder system cable, and the Neutral is also the Ground. Four Wire 2/0 will have three 2/0 cables(Hot/Hot/Neutral) and one 1/0(Ground) 90% of meter feeds are on Triplex(H/H/N). This problem as noted is NOT the circuit box but the Neutral feed cable. Either dropped connection at the pole or meter base box or has a bad ground at the ground rod, and YES the Barn should have its OWN Ground Rod driven at least 7' into the soil.

Edited by DMiller - 13 Aug 2019 at 6:57am
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