Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mystery Breakers

My wife and I went through our breaker box today, identifying what each one did. We've never done it in the 7+ years we've owned the place.

Two of the breakers, a 20A 110 and a 20A 220, don't seem to have any purpose at all. Weird. Clearly, the wires go somewhere, but where? The only thing we can think to do, short of getting a specialty tool to trace the wires, is to leave them turned off and wait to discover just what doesn't work any more.

Also, I still haven't found why the outlet I blew with the deep fryer still doesn't work. Curiouser and curiouser.


Kelly the little black dog said...

Do you have gfci outlets where you blew the circuit with the deep frier? We've got a microwave that throws the breaker in the kitchen. We first need to reset the brakes and then reset the fuse on the outlet.

We have an extra 220 because somewhere down the road someone replaced the electric stove with a gas one. Do you have a gas stove?

Ilíon said...

"Also, I still haven't found why the outlet I blew with the deep fryer still doesn't work. Curiouser and curiouser."

I presume you mean you've replaced the damaged outlet and that the new one doesn't work. Could there be a junction-box "upstream" of it, and due to the heat generated by the overload a wirenut inside the junction-box worked itself loose?

"We have an extra 220 because somewhere down the road someone replaced the electric stove with a gas one. Do you have a gas stove?"

I wouldn't have thought of that (since we have always had gas), but that is a strong possibility. Another is that perhaps the laundry area was moved at one time and the old circuit left in place, rather than repurposed for the newer location.

tom said...

We've been here 11 years and there are four switches that are still mysteries to me..

Kelly the little black dog said...

We only had two.

Ilíon said...

I gutted, rebuilt and rewired my place *myself* ... and I still have some mystery switches.

Mostly Nothing said...

When we built the house, I had a 200 amp service installed. One of the workers asked me why. Computers and woodworking was my answer, also, I grew up in a house that blew a circuit breaker at least once a week.
Over the year I've added at least 5 110 and 1 220 circuits.
First thing we did was trace where all the circuits did an put it in a copy of the blueprints. I still have the downstairs, can't find the upstairs.

The 220 is going to be something larger. Stove, dryer, something in the garage. The 20a 110, could be something like an outlet for a Jacuzzi, workroom, or garage again.

If the circuit works but the outlet that blew doesn't. The the outlet is suspect. Is it at the end of the circuit? Could be failed wiring to that circuit.

tim eisele said...

I agree that the mystery lines are likely to be lines put in "on spec" to allow for energy-hog appliances that may never have been installed. If you use gas, there might be lines for a possible electric water heater or dryer. Also, back in the 70s and early 80s, it was recommended to have a dedicated circuit for microwave ovens. I'd suggest looking for single outlets in the kitchen and utility room that might be on separate circuits from the rest.

Anonymous said...

"In my house there's this light switch that doesn't do anything. Every so often I would flick it on and off just to check. Yesterday, I got a call from a woman in Madagascar. She said, 'Cut it out.'" -- Steven Wright

K T Cat said...

Wow, great comments, all! Thanks! Anon, that was a great joke. I shared it with my wife.

As for the fryer outlet, there's a junction upstream of it, but that junction is dead, too. Nothing else, though. The wires go back behind the cabinet and can't be accessed without kitchen demo. No GFI on the line as far as I can see.

In the garage is a single outlet with 20A service. I'm going to build an altar for the beast there and do my frying out in the garage.

The mystery lines don't bother me. The house is 40+ years old. I'm just happy they exist so I have some expansion without having to mod the box.

Foxfier said...

Not sure if the thing Kelly mentioned is the same, but the outlets with the little red buttons on them are a royal pain if they get flipped-- we THINK that the Duchess flipped one in a house, and it took us a week to figure it out because we didn't actually use that outlet and it stopped an entirely different one we did use... (I think it's not supposed to do that, but.....)

Mostly Nothing said...

Foxfier, yes, Kelly was talking about the same thing. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interruptor.

You can wire it either way. Either in parallel or series. But if you put a GFCI in first in a circuit in series, it will protect the rest of the circuit from a short circuit, most usually caused by water. Which. Is why they are used for bathrooms, kitchens, and outside.

A month or two ago, our deep freezer in the basement kept flipping off. I found the GFCI had flipped. Hmm. Then it happened again a couple days later. And then again. Then my wife heard water in the work room. She went in there and called me in a panic. As I headed home, she had figured out it was something to do with the dishwasher. The drain hose has a junction in the middle and it had come slightly loose, spraying water on the wall right above an outlet. Without the GFCI, the freezer could have been destroyed, if not caused the entire house to burn down. With the GFCI, the worst case would have been some ruined food.

A regular outlet is a dollar or so, a GFCI can be around ten, and will protect a bunch of outlets.