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Appliance and Electrical Fixtures Not Working?

I am asking for a friend. They recently moved into a home built in the 90s which has a recalled Challenger electrical panel, and the company went out of business. Since they moved in, brand new appliances, as well as older ones have been dying at an amazing rate. This included a new electric blanket, a new outdoor extension cord melted, new weed eater, new fan/lights, light bulbs burning out all over the house, 3 bulbs in one fixture burning out simultaneously, fridge chirping and making odd noises, clothes dryer taking way to long to dry clothes, hair dryer blowing circuit, Jenn Aire range needing multiple visits to function and a 'smell' when it finally worked. Those are just the ones I remember she told me.

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They have had the electric company check for surging and the results were negative, and an electrician come out and told them the box was fine except it needed one new breaker which was replaced. I have spent the evening reading everything, and it seems to point to a problem with a neutral? That a loose or damaged neutral could be causing all these issues? Problems are happening all over the house, even outdoor outlets. She has never said any outlets seemed hot or burned. Anyone have any ideas what is going on? They are using all their savings on this and are about broke. I worry about a fire, but my reading tells me that is not likely. Help anyone, please!

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July 12, 20160 found this helpful

It could be the neutral. Here is why (assuming you have a common single phase panel):

It once was common to run a "shared neutral". The breakers in your panel provide 120VAC relative to the neutral. Adjacent breakers provide 240VAC. A black wire would be connected to one breaker, a black wire connected to the next breaker and a white wire to the neutral bus. These three wires would then be connected in the house to various 120 VAC and 240 VAC loads. Everything was good. The white wire could handle the current because the two hot wires were 180 degrees out of phase and the currents cancelled. If one black wire had 10 amps and the other had 10 amps the white would have 15 -15 = 0 amps!

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And then, switching power supplies in electronics such as lighting and computers. uh oh. No longer do the currents cancel. Now they add. 15 amps on one hot wire and 15 amps on the other could now mean 30 amps on the neutral which could be a wire only rated for 20 causing overheating and damage to connections. This may even result in an open circuit on the neutral.

If the neutral opens on a circuit that has a shared neutral. Then voltages go loopy. There is still a current path but now it is through the other hot wire. We no longer have 120 and 120 on each leg. It will still add to 240 but it may be 130 and 110 or 140 and 100 or 150 and 90 ..... The voltage will depend on how evenly balanced the loads are on each hot leg.

Have an electrician
- confirm all neutral connections in your panel
- confirm the neutral and ground are bonded in your panel
- confirm the neutral and ground show zero resistance at loads in your house

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- confirm the neutral incoming to your panel is good.

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Home and Garden Repair Home ElectricalJune 18, 2016
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