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turning on the toaster, turns on the light fixture


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Bad neutral.

Yep. The toaster is coming on but the filament in the bulb can't pass enough current to heat toast

We should add this person needs a professional electrician to make repairs pronto, and should stop using that portion of the home to make toast.

Eat out until that problem is fixed.

In simple terms, a loose neutral forces the hot side of the circuit to find an alternate path back to the panel. This is very dangerous and unpredictable.

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Without a solidly connected neutral to keep the potential of the neutral where it belongs, the actual potential will float between the two 120 volt poles which are 240 volts apart.

Another way to say it is that, without a neutral connection, you don't have a toaster and a light bulb connected to a 120 Volt source. You have the toaster and light bulb connected in series across a 240V source.

Marc

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Without a solidly connected neutral to keep the potential of the neutral where it belongs, the actual potential will float between the two 120 volt poles which are 240 volts apart.

Another way to say it is that, without a neutral connection, you don't have a toaster and a light bulb connected to a 120 Volt source. You have the toaster and light bulb connected in series across a 240V source.

Marc

Does that mean it could throw a poptart across the room?

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Without a solidly connected neutral to keep the potential of the neutral where it belongs, the actual potential will float between the two 120 volt poles which are 240 volts apart.

Another way to say it is that, without a neutral connection, you don't have a toaster and a light bulb connected to a 120 Volt source. You have the toaster and light bulb connected in series across a 240V source.

Marc

Does that mean it could throw a poptart across the room?

No, for that you should use the proper tool. A sling shot. [:)]

Maybe to cook it, lay the Poptart on the light bulb? [:-spin]

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All kidding aside, you guys make it sound pretty common. Is it in older homes, after owner made up-grades or this just happens over time...I ask because I never heard of it before, curious and curiouser....

It's not particularly common, but the symptoms are dramatic and memorable.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Actually quite common. There can be a loose connection and only one wire going back to the panel is making a connection. And another circuit using the same "neutral" could have its circuit "completed" by turning on an appliance.

More common is that when the main cables are installed in a main panel and meter socket, these need to be tightened to a certain tightness (usually in "inch pounds" [12 inch pounds = 1 ft. pound]). This would be on the panel label. You would use a "torque wrench" like would be used for an automobile.

And these main high amperage connections are in a class by themselves! They carry so much electricity, that tight is not good enough! Not quite as tight as it should be and the connection can have "resistance" and get warm. Or hot.

Then as you use electrical gizmos, then turn them off. The connection(s) get hot/cool, hot/cool. Eventually the connection works it way loose so there is no connection!

And quite common for people to not tighten these connections to the specifications on the panel label. They may not have a torque wrench or whatever. Or they may not read the directions. Then this problem occurs.

With aluminum wiring, you need to apply "anti-oxidant" goop to the wires or corrosion and a poor connection can occur.

Equally bad is to over tighten. Some men are "king kong" types and they will tighten the lug nuts too tight, the bolts will strip, the panel will come flying off the wall, or the whole house might turn upside down! [^]

WARNING! The main connections to main electrical panels are always ON. Even with the main breaker off!

So not a do-it-yourself thing!

The electric company may come out and "re-torque your lug nuts" for free. Or they would be happy to disconnect power so this could safely be done. Then re-connect power when the work is completed.

NEVER work with live electricity if there is another option. (And with a home, there is ALWAYS the option to turn off the power or have it disconnected.)

And if the problem is not with a main connection, then call an electrician. This would be an advanced troubleshooting problem. Takes a lot of knowledge of how to use a multimeter, knowledge of construction / wiring (need to guess where the wires run and where the loose connection might be), and electrical troubleshooting knowledge / experience. There are also wire tracing tools an electrician would have. Finds where the wires run in the walls.

Easy to install a new outlet, but many people would not be able to find a problem with that outlet if it was not working due to a wiring problem....

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Actually quite common. There can be a loose connection and only one wire going back to the panel is making a connection. And another circuit using the same "neutral" could have its circuit "completed" by turning on an appliance.

More common is that when the main cables are installed in a main panel and meter socket, these need to be tightened to a certain tightness (usually in "inch pounds" [12 inch pounds = 1 ft. pound]). This would be on the panel label. You would use a "torque wrench" like would be used for an automobile.

And these main high amperage connections are in a class by themselves! They carry so much electricity, that tight is not good enough! Not quite as tight as it should be and the connection can have "resistance" and get warm. Or hot.

Then as you use electrical gizmos, then turn them off. The connection(s) get hot/cool, hot/cool. Eventually the connection works it way loose so there is no connection!

And quite common for people to not tighten these connections to the specifications on the panel label. They may not have a torque wrench or whatever. Or they may not read the directions. Then this problem occurs.

With aluminum wiring, you need to apply "anti-oxidant" goop to the wires or corrosion and a poor connection can occur.

Equally bad is to over tighten. Some men are "king kong" types and they will tighten the lug nuts too tight, the bolts will strip, the panel will come flying off the wall, or the whole house might turn upside down! [^]

WARNING! The main connections to main electrical panels are always ON. Even with the main breaker off!

So not a do-it-yourself thing!

The electric company may come out and "re-torque your lug nuts" for free. Or they would be happy to disconnect power so this could safely be done. Then re-connect power when the work is completed.

NEVER work with live electricity if there is another option. (And with a home, there is ALWAYS the option to turn off the power or have it disconnected.)

And if the problem is not with a main connection, then call an electrician. This would be an advanced troubleshooting problem. Takes a lot of knowledge of how to use a multimeter, knowledge of construction / wiring (need to guess where the wires run and where the loose connection might be), and electrical troubleshooting knowledge / experience. There are also wire tracing tools an electrician would have. Finds where the wires run in the walls.

Easy to install a new outlet, but many people would not be able to find a problem with that outlet if it was not working due to a wiring problem....

Ok. I think I've got all that.

Did something just happen to the neighborhood?

Marc

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