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Old 12-19-2013, 12:42 PM  
brewer55
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Default 89 - 90 volts at Outlet

I just moved into a new home and have discovered that 2 separate outdoor receptacles (2 locations near each other) both weren't working. When I put an AC meter on the outlets, both showed a voltage of ~90 volts. Is this indicative of a loose or broken wire somewhere?



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Old 12-19-2013, 12:57 PM  
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If your meter is reading correct, verify by checking a good known 120 V outlet. I would say not broken maybe loose but most likely corroded and that would be most likely someplace outside where wires are connected wire nuts or under screws.

That would be my guess if they once worked and now they don’t. you said new home is that new to you or new construction?



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Old 12-19-2013, 04:26 PM  
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Originally Posted by brewer55 View Post
I just moved into a new home and have discovered that 2 separate outdoor receptacles (2 locations near each other) both weren't working. When I put an AC meter on the outlets, both showed a voltage of ~90 volts. Is this indicative of a loose or broken wire somewhere?
A disconnected wire.
It's a phantom voltage, and with voltages that close to 120v you probably used a high input impedance digital meter. A cheapie analog meter with sensitivity of 1000 ohms/volt would probably read lower, its input impedance on the 150v scale would be only 150 kilo-ohms.

If it really is 90v then a small bulb (7-1/2w, 10w, 25w) should be somewhat lit.

To find it, you'll have to know where that branch circuit goes, from source to end.
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Old 12-19-2013, 05:40 PM  
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You want to prove that the meter is correct, then prove that you are getting 240 volts supplied to the house.

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Old 12-19-2013, 06:07 PM  
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2 separate outdoor receptacle
Look for a tripped GFCI. Probably in the garage behind the pile of stuff that hasn't moved in ten years.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:35 AM  
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Look for a tripped GFCI. Probably in the garage behind the pile of stuff that hasn't moved in ten years.
When were you in my garage???
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:15 AM  
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If your meter is reading correct, verify by checking a good known 120 V outlet. I would say not broken maybe loose but most likely corroded and that would be most likely someplace outside where wires are connected wire nuts or under screws.

That would be my guess if they once worked and now they don’t. you said new home is that new to you or new construction?
The house is 21 years old -- new to me.
My first test was with a light tester (lamp on one end, 2 probes on the other). It lit up, but it was not as bright as when I tested an outlet in the house that was ok. That is when I used an inexpensive battery tester (digital) using the AC scale. So, it is apparently getting some juice, just not 120V.
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:36 AM  
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The outlets should be on a GFCI circuit as Joe D pointed out the GFCI outlet most likely will be at another location protected from the elements maybe and these two are coming off of it on the load screws. As he mentioned maybe in the garage or something. It could be that GFCI outlet is having a problem. I’m far from an expert on those things but I understand the older ones had some issues and could fail in the open condition. Test it using the self-test check your outlets again even check that outlet and see what happens. They are not too expensive to try changing it out to rule it out. If you don’t have one then You will have to look in other places and you should think about adding one anyway.

Your meter does read 120 when you take it in the house and check a good outlet?

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Old 12-20-2013, 11:24 AM  
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The outlets should be on a GFCI circuit as Joe D pointed out the GFCI outlet most likely will be at another location protected from the elements maybe and these two are coming off of it on the load screws. As he mentioned maybe in the garage or something. It could be that GFCI outlet is having a problem. I’m far from an expert on those things but I understand the older ones had some issues and could fail in the open condition. Test it using the self-test check your outlets again even check that outlet and see what happens. They are not too expensive to try changing it out to rule it out. If you don’t have one then You will have to look in other places and you should think about adding one anyway.

Your meter does read 120 when you take it in the house and check a good outlet?
Yes, it does read ~120 in a good outlet.
Since my last post, I have done more investigating. There are 2 GFCI outlets in the garage. One controls an outside outlet (not one of the ones I'm have a problem with). I assumed that the other GFCI outlet controlled the 2 outlets by the deck that I am having a problem with but, it does not. I even pulled it out of the wall and in test, it opens the circuit and the voltage is correct.

So, I still have to keep looking. I checked the breaker at the breaker panel and I did have a loose wire connection there. Probably, somewhere in the basement I'm going to find a loose wire nut or something like that.

One more question. Is there a tool for electric circuits that puts a 'trace' on it with something like an audible tone? I know they make toners for low voltage wiring (phone line), but did not know how one traces out an electrical line short of line of sight.
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Old 12-20-2013, 11:55 AM  
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http://licensedelectrician.com/Store/ZR/CF12_Pro.htm
When you opened the gfi did you check how things were wired, If it was wired wrong you could be getting power from the line side.


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