Low voltage?

Inspected a 1200 sft 12 year old forclosed log home today. Home had not been lived in for some time…no heat or plumbing turned on so the inspection went fairly quickly.

What was failry odd and I couldn’t explain it was the fact that about 70% of the light fixtures were running at about 25%…maybe less…very dim. 70% of the outlets wouldn’t even register on my suretest meter…my sniffer could tell that there was power to those outlets but they couldn’t power my meter.

The other outlets in the home tested somewhat ok…some reverse polarity, but of those that worked fine, they showed only a 2.5% Vd.
Panel was a 100amp main with a 60 amp sub. Some of the 220 circuit wiring were too small for the breakers , but most of the 110 were ok. Only thing I could see improper in the sub panel was the neutral and ground on a single busbar.
I could tell fairly easily that this home had been wired by an amateur, but I cannot explain the apparent low voltage issue throughout the home.

What was extremely odd was in the kitchen where most outlets are on the same circuit along a wall…left and right outlet was ok…middle one wouldn’t register. :???:.
This was the first time in the last 5 years I’ve experienced this.

Obviously I referred the system to an electrician, but if you have an idea, I’m all ears.


Maybe there was an open neutral wire at the incoming power connection.
With an open neutral, all current has to travel through a relatively high impedance earth path.

just a thought from a board banger…I had something like that happen to me one time on a house turned out to be a loose lug at the meter base,only getting half the feed…I’m sure one of the sparkys will have better thoughts though…jim

In Canada, sometimes a limiter is placed on the meter by the city if bills were outstanding etc…which only permits a certain amount of power through the system.? especially in winter to keep pipes from freezing from totally cutting off the power. Liability issue for the city. They usually wire on a red sticker stating this on the meter itself.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!!!

Yes, I’m sure that’s what it is. If the home had no other utilities turned on, it probably didn’t have electric either. In cold climates, or in the winter months, the utility will shut you off with a “Service limit adaptor”. This adaptor can be visually seen by the inspector as a large grey sleeve that plugs into the meter socket, then the kilowatt hour meter is plugged into this sleeve. It add about 5" to the total “stick out” of the meter", and normally features a white sticker on the side that says “10A”. They can use up to 10 amps at a time, and after that the voltage goes to pot. I know where there’s one in use at this very minute, so I’ll try to take a pic tomorrow if it’s still there.


(of course, it could just be a loose connection too :slight_smile: )

In WI the power and/or gas cannot be turned off in the winter for non-payment…they have to wait until March.

The loose lug makes more sense…I lost power to half my home one day because one line snapped at the streeet. So only part of my outlets and lighting were workning.

This is not exactly true. If the neutral is lost then the building becomes a series 240 volt circuit not the earth a conductor.

I don’t have a full understanding of what happens with a disconnected neutral. There was a good link posted a week or so ago on the subject.

I’ll have to read it more carefully one of these days.

You could also have elec. or utility company check inside the meter box itself. I had this happen to me last spring. By the time someone showed up to open it up, the wires were fried and had to be replaced. My house is 40 years old though and this was original. Might not be the issue on a 12 yr old, but might be worth a look. I am not real sure of what caused the arcing inside, but was glas to get it fixed.

I would bet on the limiter though. I bel;ieve here in WI that they can limit it if the home is vacant. May be wrong on that but I think they can.

As he has pointed out in his article math will give an answer. All that need be done is drive two rods and use an amp probe and see what they draw. Don’t know how it will trun out where you live but in my neck of the woods we couldn’t get any current draw with two rods fifty feet apart and one leg of a 240 volt circuit applied to each rod.

With a metal water pipe in between two buildings current can flow but it will be very rare for the earth to carry current between two houses unless they are very close togeather and the conditions are just perfect.

Thanks everyone.
Client called to let me know it was a grounding issue at the meter. A utility company screw up.