I'm wondering if any of you could guess what might have happened. I live in an older 60s ranch with an older electrical system. I was cutting some shrubs this morning and hit a 3 strand wire that was just hanging out in the shrub that I'm assuming powered a irrigation pump (that's no longer there). Huge pop, flash of light, loppers slightly melted where I clamped down on the wire.

I came inside and the one breaker had tripped (the one labeled "Irrigation Pump"). I capped off the wires, put them in a junction box and buried them so hopefully the next guy won't do what I did.

None of the other circuits in the house had been tripped, but now several sections of my house have no power. There is a GFI outlet in the garage that had tripped, which I reset, but I can't figure out why many sections of the house no longer have power.

Any ideas what might have happened?

Many thanks.

Edit- I should mention one other anomaly. The overhead lights/fans in the bedrooms all work, but the wall circuits do not. Not sure if that means anything but just wanted to include it in case it is meaningful.

Edit 2- One new very odd detail. Our sunroom has a wall Heat/AC unit. If I turn that on, all the circuits in the house begin working again (though the AC unit doesn't sound like it normally does. It's very quiet like it's barely working at all and very little air blows out). Very strange

  • Are you sure the circuit you shorted only served the mythical Irrigation Pump? Did you turn that breaker back on? Have you tried cycling the other breakers? Mar 26, 2016 at 18:04
  • Thanks Daniel- I should have mentioned that. I did turn on the Irrigation Pump circuit, and did cycle all the other breakers. I'm adding one more note in the original question above if it helps. Thank you! Mar 26, 2016 at 18:07
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    It's possible that there are other GFCI outlets that have tripped. One GFCI outlet can service many other non GFCI outlets. If it's tripped then the other outlets would also be non functional.
    – vini_i
    Mar 26, 2016 at 19:13
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    @Hairgami_Master: That would be consistent with my theory of a partial main breaker trip. See my answer.
    – wallyk
    Mar 26, 2016 at 19:44
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    I had a situation similar to the one described by vini_i. I plugged something into a basement wall plug and everything plugged into any wall outlet in the basement went off. But none of the circuit breakers tripped. Cycled all the breakers and still nothing worked, I tore out pieces of the drywall and followed the wires. Nothing. After some consternation and a bit of random luck, I found the GFCI someone had installed in laundry room, behind the washer, invisible to all. Reset that and everything worked fine. Fixing the drywall? Not so much.
    – pndfam05
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Possibly the main breaker partially (only one pole) tripped in addition to the individual circuit. Since it is presumably an older breaker, this is not out of the realm of possibility. A newish breaker would have definitely completely tripped.

Start by switching off the main breaker and then turning it back on while carefully noticing if the spring action of both poles are resisting turn on. (Don't worry if you cannot tell.)

If all circuits come on then you are good, though scheduling replacement of the main breaker should go on the todo list.

Otherwise, it is possible that the panel's bus bars need tightening or other maintenance. Remove the panel cover and have a look for anything amiss: wires dangling, soot, melted metal, melted plastic, discolored metal bus bars, discolored lug screws, etc.

Once I mis-wired a replacement electric stove top switch so that when a certain pair of switches were both on, it placed a complete short across the 240 supply. It tripped both the range breaker and the main. The range breaker was melted internally.

  • Yep. OP's symptoms indicate that he's missing a phase.
    – Comintern
    Mar 26, 2016 at 20:23
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    Incredible insight @wallyk. You were correct. I had cycled all of the breakers on the inside sub-panel. I had looked outside at the breaker for the sub-panel, but it appeared to be fine. When I switched it off, it didn't click like it normally would. After I flipped it back on, all was well. Thank you!!! Mar 26, 2016 at 23:55

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