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Location: California | United States

I'm certain I'll need a licensed electrician for this but wanted to get thoughts on what could be going on.

I recently noticed that power remains on in my house even when the main breaker is shut off. The switch itself also doesn't "snap" to an off position -- it just slides from On to Off.

Any idea what could be going on here? Is it a faulty breaker? Or something more serious?


For added clarification, here's a picture:

alt text

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

There should be a snap to it; the contacts are spring-loaded so that they make or break contact quickly, reducing any arcing that might occur as they approach or separate. Arcing can still happen, but there's less opportunity for it than if the contacts were moving at the speed that you're moving the switch.

Like any mechanical device, they can wear out over time. And this is something that I'd definitely have a licensed electrician look at; you may even need to have the electric utility involved too since they may want to disconnect your house completely before working on the switch.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about them.

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(sigh) That's what I figured. Thanks for the confirmation. =) – Mike B Nov 8 '10 at 17:12
IF your electric meter also has a breaker (like my house does), you can turn off the breaker there and replace the breaker in your main panel yourself. – longneck Nov 8 '10 at 17:48
@longneck: Not sure if it's the same everywhere, but where I'm from the electric company puts a tag on the meter that has to be broken to open the meter, which if broken they will charge you a ridiculous fee "to put it back on". To have the power turned off at the meter requires a call to the electric company (In my area at least). – Tester101 Nov 8 '10 at 20:20
Here is an update to longneck's example as the link has died (same meter box, only at Sears.com): sears.com/… – shufler Nov 25 '11 at 14:32
And now that @shufler's link has also died, there's builderdepot.com/… and hardwareandtools.com/… – Bob Mar 19 '15 at 15:29

Some older houses have a disconnect block rather than a breaker - they look somewhat similar, but the disconnect is actually a set of 100 Amp (or whatever) inline fuses in a carrier that you have to physically pull out to disconnect the power. If you're at all unsure, calling an electrician is the right thing to do.

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