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I tested my outlet and only had 85 volts on the black side and 24 volts on the white side why? There are several outlets on the same circuit that don't work with the same readings.I checked power in the panel bos it reads 120 volts at the black wire and the white wire reads none .

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the breaker does not trip as well i replaced it to be sure it was not the problem and moved it to an empty slot in the box as well. –  kirt Dec 23 '11 at 2:17
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1 Answer

You have a bad connection somewhere in the circuit. You'll have to pull apart the various junctions (outlets, switches, and fixtures) on this circuit to isolate the issue.

With the power turned off, disconnect the circuit somewhere that you suspect the issue to be located (unhook the load wires that go to the next junction). Outlets on the load side of that junction won't have any voltage when you turn the power back on. If the junction your testing had a low voltage issue, then you know that the issue isn't with any outlets that have no power with the load side disconnected. And if the junction your testing had the proper voltage, then the problem won't be with any junctions that still have power with the load side disconnected. Use this process of elimination to quickly narrow down which junctions could have a faulty connection.

You're simply trying to narrow down the problem in this chain, so here's an example:

breaker ---1---2---3---4X---5---6---7---

In the above, the numbers are your junctions on the circuit, and the X is your fault. Then:

  • 3 won't have any voltage issues and if you disconnect it, 1 and 2 will still be live so they're eliminated and you'll know the problem is with junctions 3 through 7.
  • 5 will have issues and if you disconnect it, 6 and 7 will lose power, so now you know that 6 and 7 are eliminated and the issue is with junctions 3 through 5.
  • assume 4 doesn't have issues, and when you disconnect it, you see 5 lose power. Now you know that 3 is not an issue and your left with the wire between 4 and 5 or in one of those junction boxes.

The trick is that your junctions won't be numbered, so you just have to keep track of what works and what doesn't with each test. A sensitive non-contact voltage tester or stud finder with voltage sensitivity can help with tracing the circuit to find the most likely places for the bad connection.

As Tester101 would say, if you're at all uncertain, this is a good point for an electrician to help. One bad connection could indicate a lot of other issues from poor workmanship, and these issues are potential fire or electrocution hazards.

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You can use a wire tracer to trace the circuit from end to end, just make sure you turn off the power before you hook it up. –  Tester101 Dec 23 '11 at 15:21
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Oh, and remember. Loose connections = lots of Heat, lots of heat = fire. –  Tester101 Dec 23 '11 at 15:23
    
A high school electronics teacher once showed me that you can use a radio that is slightly detuned to find loose connections. Hold the radio close to an outlet, if you get lots of static, there is a good chance that there is a bad connection there. Tune to a good station and then slightly go out of tune so you hear a bit of static before starting. –  Steven Dec 23 '11 at 18:57
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