I have a circuit on a 15 amp breaker. It was working fine yesterday and then suddenly everything stopped working. The breaker was not tripped. My non contact voltage detector goes crazy as soon as it gets near any of the outlets. Using a digital multimeter the outlets show 31 volts with the breaker on and 0 volts with the breaker off. At the breaker in the panel there is 120 breaker to neutral bus. Removed a couple of outlets and hot to neutral shows 31 volts(with breaker on, 0 with breaker off) 2 wire ungrounded circuit (house built in the 60s). There are two lights that are on this same circuit and they work just fine. I disconnected the lights from the circuit and still only 50 volts on the outlets. I continued to disassemble all of the outlets on the circuit with the same result, 50 volts hit to neutral. I believe the outlets are pig tailed out of the wall as each outlet( so far) only has one set of wires to it. This is not in a kitchen/bathroom and has no gfci on it. This is not the same as having induced/phantom voltage. The circuit only shows the 31 volts with the power on to it at the breaker. If it were induced, it would show this when the breaker was off. However when the breaker is off it shows 0 voltage.

UPDATE: after disassembling all of the outlets, I still had the same problem. I found the main feed line and was getting 118 to it at the wall outlet it went to. The rest of the outlets on the circuit are fed from this point. I made a jumper using 12/3 from the feed to the last outlet on the circuit. Using wire buts to connect everything I then have 118.2 volts on the entire circuit, except the point where the circuit is fed from, 108 volts there. I believe I have a bad connection in the wall. This houses junction boxes are not easily accessible and have been hidden over the years. Proceeding to open the wall a bit and see what I can find.

I appreciate all of the input and help.

Outlet that feeds 2 lights and into a junction box also pictured. Hidden in the ceiling in the middle of the room.

  • 1
    It's probably not a short-circuit since the breaker didn't trip. Most likely there is a poor connection at one of the outlets (most likely) or a broken wire in the wall. But unless you have recently done something that might have disturbed your wiring, it's probably a bad outlet or connection at the outlet.
    – jwh20
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 14:02
  • If your lights are LEDs then they might work at relatively low voltage. But it is also possible they are getting full 120V. And also possible (though I think a receptacle is more likely the source of the problem) that they are actually part of the problem. So when checking you may want to test with lights both on & off, just in case they are related to the problem somehow.` Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 14:07
  • 2
    118.2 volts on the entire circuit, except the spot where the power is normally fed from, only 108 volts there. I believe I have a loose/bad connection in the wall.
    – Voodo
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 23:19
  • 3
    Every splice must be in an accessible junction box, so should turn up with enough searching. It sounds like I was hasty to VTC as dup , can you edit to reflect what's now known? Will VTRo. Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 23:35
  • 1
    When you find it, please post a pic here. This post can go down in infamy as one more example of why boxes aren't supposed to be buried! As you have confirmed you can backfeed the circuit from past this box forward, why not fully disconnect this outlet, separate the wires completely (zero wire nuts), go to the outlet you are back feeding from, and hookup a toner. You have a good shot at pinpointing it. (BY THE WAY... goes without saying, SECURE ALL AC POWER to this circuit first)
    – noybman
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 3:41


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