Electrician Help needed

Discussion in 'Other Repairs' started by metalman, Jan 1, 2006.

  1. metalman

    metalman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,447
    State:
    IN
    Name:
    Winston
    On Thursday night the lights in the barn worked fine. Saturday afternoon lights in the barn don't work. :confused:
    Did some trouble shooting and found that both breakers for the lights are on the same leg in the panel. No power (actually 5Vac) on that leg. The barn is fed from the house through a double 50amp breaker on the main house panel. Checked that breaker and it has power (120Vac) coming out of both legs.
    So, there is power to both legs leaving the house but only power to 1 leg coming into the barn. :confused: :confused:
    Logic says that one of the cables is broken.
    Logic also says that cables don't just break.
    The weather has been mild the last few days but quite heavy rain. I see no evidence in the yard of the ground heaving.
    The cables are aluminum conductors inside a hard plastic outer. I assume the guy who built the house (in 1999) used aluminum wire to save cost but don't really know. The barn is about 90 feet from the house and to the best of my knowledge the cable does not run in any kind of conduit, it's just buried under the yard.
    Any theories / suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks...W
     
  2. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    Make sure you are checking voltage from hot to neutral and then hot to ground. It could be you dropped a neutral on that circuit in the barn.
    If you have 5 volts, sounds more like a neutral problem. Also where it comes into the barn check phase to phase, you should have 240.
    Problems with wiring in the ground will rear their ugly head with rain.
    All it takes is a slight nick in a cable to degrade it over time. Water speeds the process up.
    Alot of times I've had a wire burn up in the ground and most times it can be found at the end of the ditch where people throw metal trash from panel cans, meter bases, or whatever on top of the wire before closing the ditch up.
    When a good load is later placed on the cable it vibrates ever so slightly to the point you couldnt detect by feel.
    eventually the insulation is compromised.
     

  3. metalman

    metalman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,447
    State:
    IN
    Name:
    Winston
    Mark,
    I understand the basics of electrical wiring but I am by no means familiar with the nuances. I checked across the 2 wires leaving the house and as I expected there is 240V. I get 240V no matter which way round I put the probes of the multimeter.
    At the barn there is not. I'm not sure why but depending on which way round I put the probes from the multimeter I get 130V or 170V. On the problem leg depending on which way round I put the probes I get 5V or 50V.
    At the barn the good leg shows 120V either way round.
    I checked each leg in the barn to the buss bar with the white wires and then to the buss bar with the ground wires and the readings are identical.
    Does any of this mean anything to you or is it time for me to call the local electrician? Thanks...W
     
  4. boogie

    boogie New Member

    Messages:
    160
    State:
    east tennessee,maryville
    ohm out the cables ...have had it happen to me once .....one of the wires just burned in half on me for no reason that i could see ........unless it was just a weak spot in it that finally caught up to itself over time .....lost a leg in my shop ,,,,,that be the critter that caused it ... i think the ground settleing may of stretched my cable causeig the weak spot ......never will know for sure ...but i had to replace mine ...pulled out the old and there it was plain as day,,,hollow spot in the wire housing ...all burned out ....hope this helps
     
  5. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    Whatever it goes into in the barn take the wires loose.
    I am assuming they go into a breaker box.
    Take the wires loose from the terminals. Check from hot to hot for 240 volts
    If you dont get 240 you got a conductor failure somewhere in that line.
    If you do get 240 volts you'll know the problem is from that termination point forward.

    Your typical homeowner or electrician isnt going to bury that cable 2 feet as required if they can get by without it.
    It may be be as little as 4 inches underground.
    I wouldnt be real surprised if you can grab one end of it and run back across the yard with it.
     
  6. metalman

    metalman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,447
    State:
    IN
    Name:
    Winston
    Mark,
    Yes they do go into the breaker box out in the barn. I did detatch them when I checked for 240 across them as you suggested above. I think the reality is what I first suspected and as you state: conductor failure. :cursing: :sad: :cursing:
    When I put in the new wires should I go with copper or is there a reason that they used aluminum other than cost? I will put them in a conduit, I was thinking Sch.80 PVC would that be OK?
    Thank you both for the help...W
     
  7. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    4 conductors # 6 copper in 1-1/4" pipe is the way I would go. 1" pipe minimum.
    Drop another 3/4 pipe in the ground while you got the ditch open.
    You might want a phone or cable line out that direction sometime.
     
  8. Cattracker16

    Cattracker16 New Member

    Messages:
    356
    State:
    Wilton Iowa
    If it was me i'd replace with copper wire maybe #6 and use sch 40 pvc there's no advantage of using sch 80, except the inside is smaller than the sch 40, and the sch 80 pvc we get is threaded on both ends where the sch 40 is belled end pipe no couplers needed that way.. and the cost diffrence.. fi your worried about crushing it i'd look at the black coil pipe used for water line. they make several grades of that but i think that 160# would work just fine.. thats my opinion for what it's worth... kenny
     
  9. metalman

    metalman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,447
    State:
    IN
    Name:
    Winston
    Mark,
    4 Conductors? Is the 4th one a spare? Thanks...W
     
  10. fwmud

    fwmud New Member

    Messages:
    693
    State:
    Wilson's Mills,nc
    Winston,
    4 conductors,
    2 are "hot", one is the neutral and the 4th is a ground wire.
     
  11. Mark J

    Mark J New Member

    Messages:
    9,407
    State:
    Four Oaks, NC
    NEC code would be 2 hots, 1 ground , and 1 neutral and a ground rod at the barn also. Neutrals and grounds have to be seperated in the panel in the barn.

    Obviously it will work like it is now but if you plan on selling anytime you'll no doubt have to deal with a home inspector. You may or may not get a thorough one.
     
  12. metalman

    metalman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,447
    State:
    IN
    Name:
    Winston
    Thanks everyone, time for me to get busy...W