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Thread: Power Out From Electric Space Heater

  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member Kiko's Avatar
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    Unhappy Power Out From Electric Space Heater

    I ran my electric space heater this morning and the power went out on that circuit. I checked the breakers and none had tripped. I reset all the breakers, but still no power on that circuit. I have three GFI's, but none of them are tripped, and they are on a different circuit anyway.

    I've unplugged everything and still no power, but no tripped breakers.

    Could a breaker be bad, even though it resets like all the other breakers and feels locked into the "on" position?

    What else could cause no power in that circuit?

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Be aware that you can't always "see" a tripped breaker. The only way to be sure is to flip is positvely all the way to OFF position, then back to ON.

    Also, I was tripped up once by an electric room heater that had a built in timer! The timer was turning it on and off per the default settings.


    If these don't help, you should probably have an electrician check the cord, the receptacle, and the breaker.

  3. #3
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    The available voltage can be tested at the breaker. It is very possible that you had a poor connection somewhere which has now burnt, causing a lack of continuity. This could be a fire hazard, and any loads should be removed from the circuit until it is properly diagnosed.

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    It could be that the internal Thermal fuse on the Heater opened.

    That would not normally happen unless you have a air flow or fan problem.


    The Best Space heater, is a Fat Woman. No electricity required.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Why hasn’t anyone asked if there was voltage on the receptacle in which the heater was plugged?

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    That was going to be my first question. It is also the easiest thing to check and isolates the problem to the heater OR the circuit. There are many things that can cause a circuit to go bad, starting with a burned out breaker, or a breaker with a "melted" connection the bus bar, going all the way to a bad outlet. NO way for us to diagnose it without being there and doing our own testing.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  7. #7
    DIY Senior Member Kiko's Avatar
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    Here is what I've learned so far:

    The portable electric heater is fine. It's working perfectly on another circuit and has never overheated.

    The breaker is also good. There is power coming out of it. And whatever is going on does not trip the breaker. But there is no power making it to any of the devices on that circuit, which includes three outlets, one light switch and one stacked light switch.

    There are no loose wires or evidence of burning on any device.

    I replaced all three outlets anyway, since they were very old.

    Behind the stacked switch, there were several hot wires pig-tailed together and wrapped with dried-out electrical tape. I removed the tape and checked for loose wires and voltage. No loose wires and no power making it to those wires either. I re-taped the connections.

    Above the breaker box is the access panel to the attic. I suppose the next step is to go up there and check for a break in the romex. Maybe an animal chewed through something. But that wouldn't explain why the power went out after the heater was running for a few minutes. You would think if an animal had severed the romex, the heater would not have gone on at all.

    If there is no obvious break or burnt-out connection in the attic, what is the quickest way to find the source of the problem if it's in the wall somewhere?

    PS: I've got the breaker shut off until the problem is corrected.
    Last edited by Kiko; 01-26-2013 at 07:50 PM.

  8. #8
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    Chances are that the open is at a connection inside a device or junction box which you have not yet located. The circuit will need to be traced in order to inspect and test from beginning to end.

  9. #9
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    I really don't like taped (only) connections...get yourself a properly sized wire nut. Twisting wires together just isn't a great way to make a connection. If any of the receptacles are using a friction, rear-stab connection (the ones with clamps and a screw are fine), you might want to consider using receptacles with better connections, or pigtail them and then make a connection to the screws only.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiko View Post
    But that wouldn't explain why the power went out after the heater was running for a few minutes.
    There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest problem is the heater itself. It wouldn’t matter if the receptacles and switches were installed using the stab-loc method or not.
    The biggest cord and plug load that can be plugged into any 15 amp receptacle is 1440 watts. Most of these portable heaters are rated at 1500 watts of heat then there is a blower motor. Being this is an electric heater it must be sized at 125% which will make the heater rated at 1875 watts.

    A 20 amp receptacle can have 1900 watts plugged into them but we don’t have very many 20 amp receptacles in our homes. Even the 20 amp circuits will have 15 amp receptacles. Yes this is code compliant.

    This very high load has cause something to burn loose in the circuit therefore you are now searching for that needle in a hay stack. To find the problem find out what is not working with the breaker off and try to figure out how the circuit was pulled from the panel to the last device served by that circuit. Open each and every box starting from the first one to the last one and check for voltage. Do not just look, check for voltage using both the neutral and the equipment grounding conductor.

    Do this before looking for a broken cable as it will most likely be in an enclosure behind another receptacle, switch or light fixture.

    Remember only can plug in a fire hazard into your receptacle. Wait a minute that was only you can prevent forest fires but I think you get the idea. Just in case you didn’t, throw that damn portable heater away before you wake up thinking you are in the pits of hell due to all the heat the fire is producing.

  11. #11
    DIY Member DavidSeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post
    ... The biggest cord and plug load that can be plugged into any 15 amp receptacle is 1440 watts. Most of these portable heaters are rated at 1500 watts of heat then there is a blower motor. Being this is an electric heater it must be sized at 125% which will make the heater rated at 1875 watts.
    If a corded appliance can draw more than 15 amps, shouldn't a 20 amp plug be required? (by UL or something?)

    Just curious.
    Dave
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    DIY Senior Member Kiko's Avatar
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    Cacher, I have examined and tested every device and every visible connection behind a device on that circuit. Next step is the attic, where I will hopefully find a junction box with a failed connection (or an electrocuted squirrel with romex between his teeth).

    Jad, I agree, which is why I replaced one of the crumbling taped connections with a wire nut. But the large pig-tail had wires coming into it from three directions with no play at all, so they could not be made to fit into a wire nut. So, I taped the heck out of them. As for using the stabs, I'm as guilty as the electrician who used the stabs on the original outlets. I always tug on the wires to make sure they won't pull out, before I install them.

    JW, I have very lousy hydronic baseboard heat here, and the space heaters keep my toes from freezing.

    I always run my space heaters on low heat. Except, of course, this time, when I ran it on high heat, thinking that the worst thing that could happen is it would pop the breaker. Boy, was I wrong.
    Last edited by Kiko; 01-27-2013 at 08:30 PM.

  13. #13
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    There are other splicing devices than wire nuts...it's just that wire nuts are usually cheaper...I'd find one and use that. Some have a series of holes with a screw that tightens down on the wire while connecting it to those adjacent.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSeon View Post
    If a corded appliance can draw more than 15 amps, shouldn't a 20 amp plug be required? (by UL or something?)

    Just curious.
    Dave

    Most of the ones I have used and tested operate under 15 amps. Many are 12 amps.

    That is a bunch if it is operated continuous duty.

    I would never run one on high for very long at all, I don't care who slapped the 1500 watt sticker on it.

    People like big numbers.

    1500 sounds better than 1250.

    The Low setting is the only safe settings, as far as I can tell. 500 to 750 watts will be ok.


    If you need more heat than 500 watts, get a good gas heater. Not a wire warmer.
    Last edited by DonL; 01-28-2013 at 04:48 PM.
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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSeon View Post
    If a corded appliance can draw more than 15 amps, shouldn't a 20 amp plug be required? (by UL or something?)

    Just curious.
    Dave
    When we have more than one receptacle and a duplex receptacle equals two receptacles on one yoke we can install 15 amp receptacles on a 20 amp circuit.

    Where would we be if we are allowed to install more than one 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit and then any appliance that uses a cord and plug connection come with only 20 amp cord caps?

    We would end up with a bunch of appliances that we couldn’t plug into a receptacle.

    At my local Lowe’s a 15 amp duplex is $.48
    At my local Lowe’s a 20 amp duplex is $.3.28

    Now you know and you are welcome:
    Last edited by jwelectric; 01-29-2013 at 10:21 AM. Reason: for some reason I have forgot how to spell

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