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So, weird stuff is afoot and even my electrician is lost. All my HDMIs are hot, as well as my COAX coming from the cable company.

Details of what is going on.

  • Internet & cable went out, called service repair, cable guys noticed the HDMI & COAX were hot (22-62v)
  • house lights and appliance started to act up - lights dimming or brightening when other lights or appliances in use, built in microwave stopped even heating, bathroom light flickering (old school tube lights)
  • Called 311, city came out, found something wrong on their end, fixed that = still hot HDMI & COAX
  • electrician came out, discovered by ground was cut when I recently had whole house re-pipe with flex, fixed that, re-grounding the electrical, added new grounding(?) connector for cable COAX incoming to house, BUT HDMI still hot on every TV or connection, new or old wiring. checked all outlets, all 'correct' 120v reading. COAX may still be hot, hard to tell, but seemed fine, reading nothing from outside connection. HDMI hot no matter where TV or modem or cable box or PS4 is connected to in the house.

I'm super scared and don't know WHY this is happening and if it's a problem. I even checked my electricity 'pen' reader on an HDMI at work to see if it was the reader. It's not the pen. It's my wires.

Any help on diagnosing what the heck is going on or who to contact about this would be great.

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    what do you mean with "hot"? How did you you determine that? Please be specific and add a picture of how you measured this.
    – P2000
    Mar 2, 2023 at 16:37
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    "lights dimming or brightening when other lights or appliances in use" -> is this a case of diy.stackexchange.com/questions/184016/… ?
    – user253751
    Mar 2, 2023 at 16:38
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    Have you disconnected your TV, cable modem, and router and still observing the same? It's quite possible these were destroyed in the arc flash "lightening" and are now pushing voltage to the coaxial/HDMI lines. This should be checked regardless of what else you do. Mar 2, 2023 at 16:47
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    Please explain how you are measuring "HDMI voltage". Add detail to your question. Exactly where are you attaching each of your two meter probes? If you are attaching to pins of an HDMI cable, where is that cable connected at the other end? Same with Coax. And when you say "Coax may be hot, hard to tell" it makes me wonder even more about what you mean by "hot" because it's not hard to tell, you can easily measure it with a meter. Please explain!
    – jay613
    Mar 2, 2023 at 16:49
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    FWIW coax is supposed to be "hot" at 24 up to 60 volts...
    – jesse_b
    Mar 3, 2023 at 13:12

4 Answers 4

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TLDR: Forget the networking stuff, that's only a symptom. Call the power company and report a power outage, tell them "Lost Neutral". When they ask, don't talk about other symptoms other than "my appliances keep frying". DO NOT tell them a story. They will tell you to call an electrician, which won't work, you tried it.

You have a lost neutral on your AC power! Get it fixed for free!

The reason everyone's missing it is that they're focusing on your networking and not your AC power supply. From here on out, forget the networking. Focus on your broken AC power.

In the USA, we get 2 hot wires and a neutral. The 2 hot wires are 240V apart. The neutral is in the middle (or it's supposed to be) giving us 120V, twice, in two "poles". When the neutral wire breaks, we still get 240V, but the poles are not 120V anymore. Neutral starts wandering all over the place. So it might be 100V/140V, 90V/150V, 60V/180V, it varies.

The insidious thing about Lost Neutral is that usually, the voltage deviations aren't that bad. So everything still works. It just becomes subtle gremlins.

house lights and appliance started to act up - lights dimming or brightening when other lights or appliances in use

Yeah. "or brightening". That's what we're talking about.

Normally, this doesn't get too extreme, because neutral current has a couple of alternate paths. Each of yours had a problem, though!

First, at your house's main panel, neutral is bonded to ground which is wired to a Grounding Electrode System (GES, i.e. water pipe clamp or grounding rods) which ties to the actual dirt. So neutral current will try to go out your GES, through the actual dirt, to a neighbor or transformer's GES and then back to neutral. Dirt isn't a very good conductor (that's why we bother to mine copper), so it still allows a fair bit of wobble. Now you were mentioning

electrician came out, discovered by ground was cut when I recently had whole house re-pipe with flex, fixed that, re-grounding the electrical

Right. You had a water pipe GES, which was broken when converted to plastic pipe - common problem but still negligent. The electrician fixed you up with a different type of GES, probably ground rods and advised you to "mumble mumble" lost in the noise.

The second path is cable TV, typically grounded at both ends for safety. Neutral current will try to seek through that. Of course it's not rated to return 20 or 30 amps of current, so this happens

Internet & cable went out, called service repair, cable guys noticed the HDMI & COAX were hot (22-62v)

Varying, huh? That's typical of Lost Neutral.

added new grounding(?) connector for cable COAX incoming to house, BUT HDMI still hot on every TV or connection, new or old wiring

Right. Because the cable guy gave up on you ever fixing your Lost Neutral problem, and simply disconnected your cable TV cable from ground on your house's end. You do not have their permission to use their cable jacket as a substitute for your AC power neutral.

You are saying "the cable TV wire is hot" - probably not. Probably, the cable TV wire is properly grounded. Your house's grounds are hot because of the Lost Neutral.

checked all outlets, all 'correct' 120v reading

"Correct"? So you're using a dumb "pass/fail" tester that doesn't actually give you a voltage number. It just says "In the neighborhood of 120V" or "not". So it will read "correct" even if your house has a Lost Neutral. We need to get you a better tester. An excellent tester for all sorts of things, way beyond voltage - is the "Kill-A-Watt" home energy monitor. About $25 and Walmart stocks it. Just plug it into any outlet and it will readout the voltage. Now check several outlets and watch for that "high/low voltage" symptom. 100/140V etc.

What actually happened

If you look at an electric line from the poletop to your house, you will see an aluminum carrier wire with 2 insulated wires wrapped around it. That stuff is triplex. The bare wire is the physical carrier wire that carries the weight of all the wires. Unfortunately, it's also neutral. It whips in the wind for 30 years, and aluminum has no fatigue limit. SNAP! This is often (but not always) seen by an obvious gap and the cable hanging by the 2 insulated wires. That's a hard failure, and it's more likely on the neutral than the hots. (unlike an underground installation where it's equal chance).

Get it fixed for free today

Anyway, 95% of the time, a Lost Neutral occurs in the zone that the power company is responsible for maintaining. That overhead line wire. You call them up and report an outage, they send an insulated boom truck and it's fixed in a jiffy once the lineworker spots it.

When I called to have ours fixed, on a Sunday, they were out in an hour. They identified a neighbor's lost "hot" and fixed that too.

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    "weird unrelated symptoms" -->> lost neutral just-about all the time, at least from the number of posts on SE about it.
    – Criggie
    Mar 3, 2023 at 3:13
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    Our aluminum carrier wire / neutral whipped around in a storm and broke at the weatherhead a couple years ago. Lights in the house got brighter and brighter and brighter and... I flipped the main switch in the breaker box & called the power company, which - yes - came out & fixed it for free Mar 3, 2023 at 18:37
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    @Criggie And always answered by "Harper - Reinstate Neutral"
    – user253751
    Mar 3, 2023 at 18:37
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    Rule of thumb: If it seems like you have a poltergeist that only appears in the form of electricity, suspect an open neutral. Mar 4, 2023 at 15:20
  • @Harper - Reinstate Monica , Can you expound on this further: "So neutral current will try to go out your GES, through the actual dirt, to a neighbor or transformer's GES and then back to neutral" What does "...transformer's GES and then back to neutral" mean?
    – OpenCoderX
    Mar 5, 2023 at 6:56
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Everything you are describing could be explained by a disconnected neutral that might be within your premises or outside. You should start by calling your power company and suggesting they come look for that specific problem. You could also call an electrician to look for it.

With this problem:

  • Some devices will not work sometimes, or will work partially or poorly with fluctuating supply voltage when other devices are turned on. The connection between devices will appear random.
  • Devices with metal housings (including the metal housings on HDMI cable ends and the ground shield on coax cables), where those housings should normally be at ground potential, may come up to various voltages. The effect gets worse if the building's grounding is poor or doesn't exist.
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    OP said "electrician came out, discovered my ground was cut...." This certainly confused the symptoms too.
    – Criggie
    Mar 3, 2023 at 3:14
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When you say the HDMI and Coax are hot (22 V - 60 V), I assume you're talking about the outer metal shell on those cables? If that's the case, it means that all your metal chassis/boxes are hot, which is bad.

Since those metal boxes/chassis should be connected, eventually, back to earth ground, that indicates there may be a problem back in your circuit breaker (or fuse) panel. Like maybe the neutral and earth ground have been reversed, or one of them is no longer connected.

Unless you have some experience in this area (these kinds of problems can be tricky to track down the root cause of), you need a good electrician.

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  1. Disconnect all items that have coax and/or HDMI from AC power/Wall AC adapters and from the wall's coax plate(s).

  2. Now, measure the voltage from pin to shell on the closest-to-cable-provider/utility-plate. If it is not 0VDC and 0VAC, call your cable provider.

  3. One-by-one start re-connecting your items to the coax/hdmi. Measure the voltages. If OK, re-connect their power source. Re-measure the voltages. If good, repeat this step for all of your items, one-by-one. I'm guessing that the culprit(s) can be quickly determined in this fashion. Given your 'lightning' incident, it could very easily be that all of your devices will have to be replaced.

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    You may also want to -- carefully! -- try disconnecting and testing the external coaxial feed, if you can get to it. That would establish whether the problem is in your house or not.
    – keshlam
    Mar 2, 2023 at 18:53