04:58PM | 01/09/05
Member Since: 01/08/05
7 lifetime posts
I had three outlets quit working while I was out of town over New Year's weekend. One is outside and was in use - it had Christmas Lights plugged into it. The other two are in my upstairs bathrooms and were not in use; I believe they are on the same circuit. None of the three are GFCI, although I realize all of them should be.

I replaced the outside outlet today, but that did not solve the problem.

None of my breakers were tripped, but inside my breaker box I found something that looks odd to me. One of the strips where ground wires are screwed in (sorry I don't know the proper term) is blackened. Go to this page: to see a picture of what I'm describing.

Is this some sort of corrosion? Is this from burning? Could this be the cause of my bad outlets?

Thanks in advance for your replies.



08:34PM | 01/09/05
Member Since: 12/19/04
62 lifetime posts
Ron, thanks for the picture of your panel. It was a great help in diagnosing one of your problems. It does look like you may have some loose connections on that ground bar. In fact the green wire and a couple of white ones seem to show discolorization on the insulation caused by heat from loose connections. My advice would be to turn the main off, remove all the connections at the bottom of the ground bar, clean them up by cutting them back and reconnecting them on the top bar that shows no connections. By code you are allowed to put two ground wires under one terminal but only one neutral (or white) wire under a terminal. When you are done tighten all the other connections and separate double terminations where possible on the remaining bar.

Regarding the outlets that are out. Don't know what year your home was built but if it was in the 60's or 70's you may have a gfi receptacle somewhere that is tripped. IN those days we would put a gfi in one bathroom and connect the load side of the gfi to all other bathrooms and the outside receptacles or put the gfi by an outside receptacle and feed all the rest from the load side of the gfi. So take a look around the outside of the home and see if you missed a gfi receptacle somewhere. It may even be located under the electrical panel. Hope this helps, otherwise repost.



08:30AM | 01/10/05
Member Since: 01/08/05
7 lifetime posts

Thanks for your reply. Are you saying that the blackening of the lowest ground bar was cause by heat? That's scary. Is it OK to use that blackened ground bar again after cleaning it?

My house was built in 1984. When you say GFI receptacle, I assume you mean an outlet with GFI test/reset buttons onboard. Should I be looking for something different?

Thanks again.


Tom O

12:51PM | 01/10/05
Member Since: 09/17/02
477 lifetime posts
In addition to the advice given by Ron, I'm going to suggest that you call in an electrician to investigate a few things I'm seeing and not seeing in your panel.

Those silver looking wires that are going to your neutral bus- if they all come from the same cable, they should all terminate in the same hole. You have two large connectors available just to the right of the big wire with the band of white tape. I believe these conductors are aluminum and when you reconnect them, treat the connections with some anti-oxidant paste.

Also, if this is your main panel, I'm not seeing any wire connected to the neutral bar that is big enough to be the required grounding electrode conductor to some ground rods and/or water pipe. Have an electrician check this.

Lastly, I don't see the main bonding jumper. Usually, this is a strap or a green screw (in newer panels) that connects the neutral bus to the enclosure. Sometimes, the neutral bus is bolted directly to the sheet metal of the enclosure, but this doesn't look like the case. Again, an electrician can easily determine this.



01:28PM | 01/10/05

Now that it is no longer 1 am and I am getting another look at your picture I am a little embarrassed that I did not notice the same problems Tom did. Before I explain the advice I gave you yesterday I want to say that what Tom brought to your attention is 100% correct and should absolutely be given attention by a licensed electrician. It looks like your service has no proper grounding attached to it and this could lead to a very dangerous situation should the power companies neutral become loose or disconnected. I hope you will follow Tom's advice and get an electrician to look at it.

Regarding the ground bar. If it was cleaned up properly it could be used again but it looks like you could move all of the wires to that top unused bar. But the problem of the dead receptacle I think is caused by a gfi that you may not know about. I have experienced this situation many times with customers that find they have another receptacle at the back of the house somewhere , maybe close to where the service is, that contains the gfi and feeds the other outside receptacles and bathroom receptacles from there. So take a look around the home for that gfi receptacle and reset it. The Christmas lighting may be the cause for it tripping. And the gfi receptacle is the type with the test/reset buttons on it.

I find it hard to believe that your home was built in 1984 and has no grounding in the service panel. It should have a bare conductor going to the water system and to two ground rods on the outside. Is this the main panel with a 100 amp main breaker? Or is this a second panel that someone installed in the home in which case the neutrals and the grounds should not be terminated under the same termination strip. What state are you in? Hope you are not getting overwhelmed.



01:56PM | 01/10/05
Member Since: 12/19/04
62 lifetime posts

I should learn not to respond to these requests at 1 am when I am very tired. I'm embarrassed to say I should have noticed all that Tom found in your panel but I guess my mind was on the gfi situation at the time. I will say that the problems Tom pointed out are 100% correct and should be looked at by a licensed electrician. Lack of grounding can create a very hazardous situation should the neutral from the power company come loose or disconnected.

The panel I see in your picture seems to be a lot older than 1984. In fact it looks more like it is from the 50's. Some of the conductors I see in that panel we quit using in the 70's and the large cable that Tom mentioned goes way back. And that is consistant with the lack of grounding in the panel. Are you sure this home was built in th e 80"s? What state are you in?

If the ground bar is cleaned up properly you could still use those connections but I would move all the connections to the rear ground bar. And, as Tom stated, if that large cable ground is split between the terminations it should be reconnected under one termination.

Regarding the dead receptacles. Check around the house to see if you have a gfi receptacle (the one with the reset/test buttons) that is tripped. You may have one outside in the front or rear of the house that you don't know about. I'm sure the Christmas lighting tripped it no matter where it is (wet cords)

Before I go I would like to reiterate the importance that you get that seervice panel looked at by an electrician that knows the code.

Let me know what you find. My email is [email protected]

Hope I helped you.

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