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Electrical Issues for the Day!

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by vinny11950, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    The 2-year old Hampton Bay ceiling fan with lights started running real slow and the motor got very hot to the touch, so I decided to change it today.

    Got a Hunter model also with lights. The other two Hunters I have give me no issues.

    I thought it would be easy, but four hours later and gallons of sweat, I finally got it done, without making an added trip to Home Depot!!!

    I will take apart the old Hampton Bay and see if I can fix. Other than the capacitor, any one know why the motor would get so hot?

    Then, since I had the ladder and electrical tools out, I decided to try to figure out why the interconnected Kidde smoke alarms keep going off randomly. After much thinking, I said let me check the voltage on the line. 220V!!! Holy Molly, Batman, why would anyone wire the alarms on 220V.

    Sigh. This means climbing into the attic to find the feeder line and change it. More sweating and dust and spiders and insulation.

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  2. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Bad bearings, dirt/dust in the motor, bad capacitor.
  3. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    thanks, heat seeker
  4. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    You're welcome.
  5. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Check to see if you have a multi wire branch circuit with an open neutral somewhere. Smoke detectors do not like 240v, don't ask:rolleyes:. It's gonna be pricey but after you find and fix the problem you should replace them all. The electronics will most likely be toast. Cheap insurance however when you do need them
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Indeed, this sounds like there may be a 3 wire, split 120v circuit upstream toward the panel. Did this work correctly until recently? If so, was there change in the wiring or an outlet replaced?

    To see if this is a 3 wire circuit, find the breaker that turns off the circuit for the smoke alarms. Then, with the panel cover off, carefully note the wire on the breaker and visually trace it to where it exit the panel. See if there is another color wire in that cable. If the wires are black, red and white, this is a split 120v circuit with a common neutral. Follow the white wire down to the neutral bus in the panel and check it screw to see if it is tight. If it is, the problem is downstream.

    Caution, don't uncover the electrical panel unless you know what you are doing. Even then exercise great care, a mistake could be lethal.
  7. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    It's worth mentioning that now that we have permanently documented this issue out here on the world wide web time is most certainly of the essence in getting it corrected. Insurance companies go to great lengths these days to fight claims. Worse yet, if your smoke detectors are not functioning properly there could certainly be potential for far worse things than property damage in the event of a fire.

    Just my two cents.
  8. Jack Straw

    Jack Straw Minister of Fire

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    Are you sure you checked that right? Could you have a series of smoke detectors and you checked the wrong wires. Something doesn't sound right and I would double check that before I proceeded.
  9. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the replies, guys. Since I bought the house 3 years ago, the interconnected alarms have never worked. At first I thought it was the cheap alarms the previous owner had installed. I cleaned them with compressed air, replaced the ones I thought weren't working. But the always went off. So I took them out and am using the cheap battery operated type, one in room. So I then bought the good Kidde alarms that can be interconnected and that is where I am at now.

    Seige, I was afraid the smoke detectors are gonna be trash now. $120 down the tubes.

    Begreen, I will check that very carefully. But I think I know what the previous owner did. He was broke and in a rush to sell the house but the building dept. would not let him until he brought the house up to code by installing interconnected alarms. So he must have done it himself by tying in to the line for the electric heaters not really knowing/caring what he was doing. I did notice the thermostat for the livingroom electric heater had reset and was blinking, which must have happened when I turned off the breaker. If I am correct, he must have done a hack job connecting to the 240v wire, because everything electrical that I have bad to fix has been a hack job, just a few degrees away from starting a fire. Already had to replace the electric cooking stove wire because it was aluminum.

    Stee you make great points about the insurance co., they love an excuse not to pay. That's why I keep coming back to them and trying to get them fixed.

    Jack Straw, I did check and double check, at two different stations.

    I feel bad now because two days ago I called Kidde to ask them for ideas and they just said they would send me 4 new combo units (carbon and smoke) free of charge. I didn't even ask them to. I will call them and see if they will let me pay for them. That's good customer support, though.
  10. Jack Straw

    Jack Straw Minister of Fire

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    "Begreen, I will check that very carefully. But I think I know what the previous owner did. He was broke and in a rush to sell the house but the building dept. would not let him until he brought the house up to code by installing interconnected alarms. So he must have done it himself by tying in to the line for the electric heaters not really knowing/caring what he was doing. I did notice the thermostat for the livingroom electric heater had reset and was blinking, which must have happened when I turned off the breaker. If I am correct, he must have done a hack job connecting to the 240v wire, because everything electrical that I have bad to fix has been a hack job, just a few degrees away from starting a fire. Already had to replace the electric cooking stove wire because it was aluminum."


    WOW!!!!!
  11. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It's good that you are being thorough. Bad electrical work can be a time-bomb and a bear to correct at times.
  12. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Nothing wrong with using aluminum wire for a stove. It's the smaller stuff from the 60's and 70's you have to look out for
  13. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    Always thought aluminum was bad.

    This house was built in 1972, though.
  14. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    As long as the wire is sized correctly and the terminations are tight and coated with noalox, aluminum is fine for this application.
  15. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    finally made it to the attic today.

    it was hot and humid, and i sweated my !@#$% off. i was soaked.

    but i found the faulty connection that fed the smoke alarms. it was connected to a 240V, 20 amp junction box used for the electric heaters. also found the remain of some type of rodent, squirrel i think, but it was so dried up i could not tell. it has nested in that area, made a mess of the insulation, droppings everywhere, it even chewed on the studs near by. it also chewed through one of the 240v romex wires. had to tape it up and shut down the circuit. i will change it in the winter when i have more time and it is cooler.

    was gonna take pictures but it was so dark and dusty and cramped, i just wanted to get out of there.
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Oh, I have been in that scenario and you have my utmost sympathy. Sounds like you have nailed it and have a good plan in mind. Good sleuthing vinny.
  17. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, Begreen. If I don't have to go back into that tight attic till November, I'll consider myself lucky.
  18. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh man, how bad would that be if the smoke detectors started the house fire.;sick
  19. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    I know, Jags. Ironic it would have been.

    Now I am thinking of how to clean up the mess the squirrel made. Have to replace row of insulation that is torn up and crapped on. Would be nice to vacuum the poop droppings too. Maybe spray some Anti Icky Poo enzyme to help with some of the odor. Still smell a little when I move the insulation.

    Also have to place some wide boards over the joists so I can move more easily. Balancing in between joists, hunched over, was not fun. Almost put my foot through the sheet rock a few times. >>
  20. greg13

    greg13 Feeling the Heat

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  21. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the link Greg. I think I have them all sorted out, though. As for the chewed wire, I did tape it up and shut off the circuit breaker for that line (don't need it since it feeds the electric heaters). Amazing how much damage the little guys make. It chewed the hell out of the joists.
  22. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Holy crap . . . previous home owner who thought he knew everything there was to know about electrical wiring I assume???? I'm a bit surprised the detector had not crapped out well before this. Not a fun project, but better to find this out now rather than later while reading the fire investigator's report.
  23. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I replaced the batteries on my five wireless BRK detectors yesterday.
    They each take 2 AAs which lasted 13 months - not bad.

    I have a couple in the garage and need the others to get to the intereconnected.

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