Open neutral, or something else? - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 2019-11-06, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: S.W. Ontario
Posts: 1,064
Open neutral, or something else?

For the last couple of months or so I have been struggling with what I presumed was an open neutral because the 4 outside lights in front of the house and the two ceiling lights, with 2 bulbs each, in the hallway did not work. It all started, or so it seems, after my ISP installed fibre internet and home phone. One of the installers mentioned that he had been "zapped" by a live cable hanging down beside the breaker panel when they were installing the fibre box on the same plywood board. Living in this house for 35 years and adding circuits, changing breakers, etc. I had never seen this cable before. The zap had kicked out a breaker which I couldn't reset. I found that on the loose cable the black had shorted to the ground, but the black and white had never been stripped, just cut off, like originally the electrician had intended to install a receptacle, but forgot. There is already a receptacle just below the panel anyway. After separating the fused black and neutral and marring them off I was able to reset the breaker. I still don't know the purpose of that cable and will eventually put it in a box to make things safe and to code.

So back to the "missing neutral" mystery. The other day I was trying to resurrect the outside lights by temporarily jumping the neutral to a known good one using a nearby outside receptacle with no luck. Even jumping the neutral to ground at the fixture didn't work. I finally discovered that all 4 outside bulbs were blown, so that solved that mystery. I'd been lazy replacing the outside bulbs because the screws on the fixtures would seize and require a lot of work, so I can see how one or two or three lights could have burned out until the final one did. But I could never anticipate all the hallway lights burning out at once. We would have noticed one or two bulbs burning out first.

Today I was trying to hook up a temporary neutral to the hallway lights before crawling up in the attic to make a permanent connection. But no known good nearby neutral worked. Just out of curiosity I changed one of the hallway ceiling fixture bulbs for a known good one, and VIOLA! I saw the light! All four ceiling light bulbs had been blown at the same time. Mystery solved. It was not an open neutral, just 4 blown bulbs. Now I'm wondering how the bulbs could have been blown. Could the short caused bt the fibre installers have caused a surge that did it? Could it have sent 240 volts through the circuit? Whatever it was, I'm glad the problem is solved.

So the moral of this long story is that you should never always assume the logistical answer. Sometimes the simple one, no matter how preposterous, like 8 bulbs blowing at once, is it.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 2019-11-06, 10:19 PM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Mississauga
Posts: 7,997
Why would someone installing Internet be doing anything with the power?

Incidentally, as someone who has many years experience as a tech, I have experiences where I get blamed for something I had nothing to do with. Judging from your description, you already had problems that should be fixed by an electrician.

I haven't lost my mind. It's around here...somewhere...
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 2019-11-06, 11:59 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
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Judging from your description, you already had problems that should be fixed by an electrician.
I agree. There were a number of red flags in the post. The wiring needs to be inspected and corrected by a qualified electrician before someone else gets "zapped" or something worse happens.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 2019-11-07, 10:21 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: S.W. Ontario
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I have been doing electrical work for 50 years and know what I'm doing. I learned as an electrician's helper at a summer job, practically an apprenticeship, and have kept up with the code. No problems in that regard. Maybe that's why I was overthinking this thing, speculating an open neutral, whereas someone else would have just started changing light bulbs. But to me, up to 8 bulbs blowing simultaneously seemed unlikely.

As to what the fibre installers were doing around the breaker panel, they were looking for a place to plug in the GigaHub they mounted on the same board as the breaker panel. There is a receptacle just below the panel. The stray unterminated cable had been hanging in the corner, hidden all those years. The 2 young guys were probable just poking around, waiting for the next step when they came across it. Like I said, it was probably something that had been forgotten by the electrician that built the house. I'm just going to put it in a box to make it safe forv anyone in the future.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 2019-11-08, 02:55 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Toronto, Rogers, 9865 & 8300-eHDD, Sharp LC75N8000U, Denon AVR4310Ci; Sony KDL40W3000, 9865
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I've moved the LED discussions to the LED discussion thread:

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