0

this is my first time posting a question to a forum like this.

Electrician added a breaker and ran a line to an outlet that had power from a different circuit but had a short in it that could not be located. Is this safe?

Here is the whole story...

Plugged a vacuum in and it started and then went off right away. Also, lost power to 2 other outlets and lights in another room and hallway. On the same breaker there is the bathroom plug with GFI, light fixture and fan all working as expected including the GFI. The breaker was not tripped but I did flip all the breakers off and on a couple times to be sure. I reset all GFI in the house. I removed and replaced the original outlet that caused outage, then replaced another and before replacing the 3rd I used a non-contact meter to see that the wire to the outlet was not getting power. At this point I decided it was time to call an electrician.

I found the electrician on Angies list - they had an A rating and many positive reviews. They gave me the pricing and told me they start with an hour and that is usually enough time to find and fix the problem but if not that they would be able to give me an estimate for the work required, time and price. They came out the next day, the electrician and his apprentice. They looked at all the outlets with no contact meter, pulled out a few of the plugs on the circuit for this breaker to check for loose connections, took a couple of the lights that were out down and checked connections, traced lines in the crawlspace and attic and were unable to find the break in the connection.

After an hour and a half they had not found the cause of the outage but had found a melted connection on the GFI and had removed it. They told me that they could stop there and not charge me for the time - only the GFI replacement or they could keep going but would need to charge me the hourly rate. I said keep going. They looked for another 2 hours in the attic and crawlspace and were unable to find the break in connection. Said there was a line running down into a wall that didn't seem to have any outlets near it and that maybe there was a hidden junction box (even though I said I don't remember one from the complete gut down to studs that I performed 3 years earlier).

At this point the electrician said that he could not find the problem and that the only thing he could do was to put in a new breaker and run a new line to the original outlet (which only had one hot one neutral running to it). Since there were unable to find the break they were not able to disconnect the line that should have been powering it. But when I do find it the hidden junction box or loose connection (I told them I was going to be remodeling the kitchen in the next month) to cap it off. Basically they added another breaker to feed power to the outlets that lost power.

He told me 4 times before leaving to make sure that the smoke alarms worked.

After some more research I think that what he did is very unsafe so I turned the new breaker off. Is what he did safe? Can I leave it like this?

After they left I realized they never checked the bathroom light fixture - and that it is about where they said there was a line going down the wall and I had replaced a lightbulb around the same time the issue started (although I am not sure exactly when the power went out only noticed after vacuum incident). I am going to check it out the bathroom light fixture tomorrow but if that is not the problem what should I do. And if it is the problem should I cap off the extra wires here or should I fix connection and then disconnect the new line added?

  • It's unclear exactly what the Electrician did, so it's impossible to say for sure if it is safe or not. – Tester101 Jun 17 '15 at 10:50
  • 3
    Did he at least disconnect and cap the "old" circuit at the receptacle in question? As in within the junction box where that receptacle is installed? If this is the case, then you do not have "2 breakers powering 1 outlet", but rather potentially live cable abandoned in place (at least until your remodel). – mjohns Jun 17 '15 at 11:53
  • He didn't cap anything. He is relying on the short that caused the issue to not reconnect - and that if it does reconnect it will trip a breaker and cut power so he says it is completely safe with no fire risk. So yes - as long as whatever shorted doesn't reconnect there are NOT 2 breakers powering the same outlet. My concern is that if there was a loose wire that created the short that it will jiggle back and reconnect and cause sparks or just over load the lines and catch fire. Is it unnecessary to worry about this? – Jennifer Montgomery Jun 18 '15 at 2:46
  • @JenniferMontgomery It will only trip the breaker if it is on a different leg. – Brad Gilbert Jun 20 '15 at 0:48
1

The breaker was not tripped but I did flip all the breakers off and on a couple times to be sure.

Based on this and other comments, it sounds more like an open somewhere in the circuit and not a short. The other possibility is maybe (big emphasis on maybe) a bad breaker that didn't trip for a short. Here's some good reading about this subject

Half of the original circuit is powered by one breaker and the other half powered by a different breaker

(1) Consider physically disconnecting the half supplied by the new breaker from any cable(s) fed by the old breaker. (2) Or, as @Craig stated, simply turn off the old breaker. This is the fail-safe option.

On the same breaker there is the bathroom plug with GFI, light fixture and fan all working as expected including the GFI.

Based on what you have described, he rewired the portion(s) of the circuit that were acting odd, which implies that your open/loose connection/gremlins are somewhere between the OK portion of the old circuit and what he rewired. If you can't live without power in the bathroom you mentioned, then consider option (1) above.

If you disconnect the old circuit where the new begins, you should be minimizing the chance of aggravating the situation. By turning the old breaker off, you completely remove the chance of aggravating the situation.

  • Option 1 is what I was trying to get him to do. He seems unable to find where the string the didn't work connected to the part that did. I had him out again yesterday and am even more frustrated because I went into the attic with him and clearly see the line that runs from one non working to the working bathroom. He says he disconnected a second wire that was connected to a light switch in the bathroom and that it is now safe. Well if they were getting power from a light switch in the bathroom they would have been turning off and on with that switch. I am just shutting off the new breaker. – Jennifer Montgomery Jun 18 '15 at 14:58
  • I am doing some remodeling in about a month where I will be taking down sections of drywall in an adjoining room and ceiling in another room. I will figure it out then. For now there will be no power in the 2nd bedroom and hall. – Jennifer Montgomery Jun 18 '15 at 15:00
1

The new breaker isn't unsafe, the old one is.

The old breaker--which I presume is still powering the original circuit--is still providing electricity to a circuit which appears to have a problem hidden somewhere in one of your walls.

To be completely safe, shut off the old breaker (which will, unfortunately, also shut off power to everything else that is on the old circuit).

But if the electrician installed a new breaker and ran new wire to the old outlet box like you seem to be saying (and capped off the old wires in that outlet box), that new breaker and new line are perfectly safe presuming the electrician is competent.

  • He didn't cap off any wires. He is using existing wires to feed power in the opposite direction to where the short was. He added the new wire to an outlet that only had one set of wires. Since we are unable to actually find the short he cannot cap off the connection between the two circuits. I am concerned short will at some point reconnect if the house shakes or whatever. Half of the original circuit is powered by one breaker and the other half powered by a different breaker. He says if the short that caused the issue reconnects it will trip the breaker and there is no fire hazard. – Jennifer Montgomery Jun 18 '15 at 2:35
  • Ah... well offhand that does potentially sound a little screwy. I thought you said he pulled new wire, so presumed that meant he wasn't connecting the new breaker to the old wire. You're saying he connected the new breaker to the old wiring? – Craig Jun 18 '15 at 3:37
  • I was unclear- he ran one new wire from the breaker to one of the bad outlets. He didn't disconnect anything that was existing prior. – Jennifer Montgomery Jun 18 '15 at 14:53
  • At one point his apprentice told me if we can't find the short we will have to just rewire all that isn't working. I thought that is what they were going to do when he put in the new breaker. But in the end they just added a new wire to one of the ends of the line without changing anything on any of the old. – Jennifer Montgomery Jun 18 '15 at 15:04
1

If I fully understand this could be very unsafe. There is the potential for a circuit to be fed from more than 1 source. If the original breaker is on L1 and the new on L2 and things do connect for some reason that could start a fire in the worst case. I have a Greenlee 8000 that can trace wires through the walls and find an open in minutes; they are expensive, but tools do exist to find the problem.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.