Electrical-fire waiting to happen…

Turned on the power to all of the circuits in the house and was seeing some strange behavior in a couple of places.

Porch light didn’t work. Wasn’t just a burnt-out bulb. Lower priority. I’ll get to it when I can.

The yard lamp (flood lamp) didn’t work. No idea if it’s a failed sodium bulb, which I’ll eventually replace with an LED. Its receptacle at the base of the pole was a GFI-variety that had no power to it. Hmm… higher priorities, but seeing both lights out suggests that the switches to each of them may be an issue.

Higher priority, though, is to get power to the outlets in the house. Spot-checked a few outlets in the house and discovered that all of the receptacles in the main living room were, uh, rather odd.

Typically, in North America, you’d see about 120VAC on a household receptacle. And I did see the expected 120VAC… on one outlet, then its other outlet in the same receptacle was rather representative of the rest of the receptacles in the living space.

Instead of the expected 120VAC, it was… 8VAC. Huh?

Another receptacle registered about 15VAC.

Okay, now it’s getting damned odd…

Seven or eight receptacles in the main living room were horribly (dangerously) under-voltage. After I threw all the breakers then removed all of the outlet and switch covers in the living room, I discovered an omen… a bad omen…

Hmm… that’s a red wire-nut… which would be rated for use on up to four 10-gauge wires on a 20-amp circuit. And it’s binding together only three (!) 14-gauge (!!) aluminum (!!!) wires. And it’s over-effing heated to the point that it’s melted.

The only way to overheat a circuit is to draw more than 80% of its rated capacity for a prolonged period of time — more than a few minutes. I’d wager that the previous owner (occupants?) had multiple electric space heaters plugged in round the room that they ran constantly. And, seeing the kludge of cobbled-together electrical add-ons, they were probably chasing problems that were entirely of their own creation.

I’ll just plan on putting in new receptacles and just replace the wiring with some proper 12/2 cable to all of the points known to be bad.

Dear God, I just had a realization — knowing that the previous owners cobbled things together, it’s occurred to me that the entire circuit is very possibly not connected to a breaker at all. I certainly hope it’s not as bad as I image it to be.

It’ll have to wait until next Friday when I can get out there again and dig into it.

Son of a…

Reminds me of something that I saw in one of the data centers I managed several years ago where teams expected a 20A circuit to have 20A of load all the time. This is what happens when you run a 20A circuit regularly between 16 and 20A.

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