So running into a weird situation that I have not encountered before. Back ground - house was built in the late 60/early 70s - 3 bed 2 bath

So we have a weird situation where our house is partially losing power. If the AC is on, power is great no issues, once the AC reaches the temp we set it at, ac will power down (go idle), which is normal...Weird issue is that randomly, minutes later or even hours later (if the ac is not triggered on manually or automatically), the power to like 80-90 percent of the house dies. The only power that stays on is the hallway power (thermostat is located in hallway), one bedroom power, and guest restroom power...other than that - all power is out (inside, outside, garage, kitchen, etc) We check the breakers and all breakers look good and nothing seems to be popped or out of the ordinary. The weird thing is the only way to get the rest of the power back on is if we get the ac going by turning the temp down, just so it can trigger on.

Any ideas on this? Any help or guidance would be appreciated. Not sure how to go about troubleshooting this issue. —————update Below ———— From what centerpoint said when they came out is everything is getting power and all properly, but when he pulled the breaker for the ac out, it was all melted and bud bars had some burning on it. Seems it’s a common issue with the Zinsco breakers.

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    As a side note, I'd recommend you stop using the HVAC to get your other circuits to work -- this could easily damage your HVAC system.
    – Nate S.
    Sep 18, 2020 at 16:42
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    Where is this house located? Country and state. Sep 18, 2020 at 16:50
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    Does the same thing happen if you turn on the electric hot water heater, electric range or electric dryer? Sep 18, 2020 at 17:40
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    Can you post photos of your panel please? Do you have any other 240V appliances (electric hot water heater, electric range/cooktop/oven, electric dryer) in the house? Sep 19, 2020 at 1:06
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    My recommendation is best left to a pro, or the power company. But if you are troubleshooting until they come; what test equipment do you have? Test your voltages, maybe try some outlets in the working room, and some in the parts that die. Are the 'dead' ones really dead? -read 0Volts (less that 1V) or do they read somewhere in between 0 and 120V? Do any read above 120V (somewhere between 120 to 240V)? I was going to ask if the AC actually runs, but you did say it gets down to temp, so that must be yes. This is a regular AC with a compressor, not a swamp cooler, correct? Sep 20, 2020 at 6:18

3 Answers 3


I'm going to slightly disagree with the other answers and guess you have an open hot conductor. Either way, the answer is the same: call the power company and report a power outage. The problem is very likely at the pole, so they'll come out and fix it for free.

For more information on why losing one of your hot conductors will cause the symptoms you're seeing here, take a look at Harper's answer to this similar question: https://diy.stackexchange.com/a/153926/91556

  • Also, if the ac subpanel has those shot filled gigantic fuses on the hots, check that one hot is not open (pull breaker, remove fuse, check with ohm meter)
    – mark f
    Sep 18, 2020 at 17:01
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    The OP indicated that his a/c is working. Hard to see how it could be with one lost hot leg. Maybe he has a split bus panel and there is a lost hot in the 2-pole breaker or one of the wires leading to the lower bus for the 120 V 1-pole breakers in the lower section. Sep 18, 2020 at 17:27
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    Nate wins the medal. You have an open hot. Sep 18, 2020 at 17:39
  • WOO HOO Go Nate!
    – JACK
    Sep 18, 2020 at 18:38
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    Yup. This thing keeps returning in questions with HVAC, ovens, all kind of equipment running on 240V in the US.
    – Mast
    Sep 19, 2020 at 14:25

You have an open or lose neutral and that it dangerous. Call your power company and report an outage... right now. They will respond quickly. These problems are usually their problem and they will fix it for free. In the event that it's your problem, they might still help you out and fix it if they can.


This may be a problem with the neutral. The a/c condensing unit does not use the neutral so it will work fine, but the air handler inside does use the neutral.

Depending on where an intermittent or loose connection is in the neutral wiring there could be damaging high voltage on some 120 V circuits and low voltage on other 120 V circuits. At the point of a loose connection you would have damaging and dangerous local heating.

Have you had any lights blow or equipment fail after these outages?

A problem with the neutral is an emergency requiring immediate intervention, very likely professional, unless you are experienced. If the problem is at the pole or between the pole and your meter, then the power company will fix it. But if the problem is in your house wiring you need a professional repair immediately.

Edit Does your house have aluminum wiring? If so, you may have loose connections at the neutral bar in the panel.

What is the brand of your panel?

You can open the door of the panel, but I don't advise you to remove the "dead front" unless you are experienced or can otherwise do it safely. There is real risk of injury or damage with the dead front off.

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