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View Full Version : 230v PROBLEMS....



LowlyOilBurner
08-20-2005, 11:22 AM
Here is a good one, hopefully, one of you pros can be of some assistance.

I have 230v service on my property. It comes into the house, into the panel, then to a seaparate breaker (50amp) that supplys my barn (where workshop is). Goes out of the house down to my barn, which is like 50-80ft away. Comes into the barn, into a breaker panel there. There is a designated 230v 50amp breaker there, that goes to my 230v plug coming outta the wall.

Went to plug in my brand new TA 185, and nothing. Will not even turn on. So i reversed the 2 hots on the breaker, the machine powers up, but then gives me an error code "E85" which = "input power supply inadequte, consult a Thermal Arc tech." I did, he said that i'm not seeing enough power to the unit, and to check the voltage on each hot wire coming off the breaker.

So, i did. I got 114.6 coming off one, and 84.7 coming off the other. I'm guessing this is the problem. I checked the line in the house, going to the barn, and i got a steady 114ish on both hots.

So, the problem must lie in the line coming out of the house, to the barn. I've seen this happen before. Underground wires that get chaffed, and the aluminum get all crusty and oxidized, end up getting all "balloned" (like what a snake looks like after they eat a rabbit or something), thus causing a drop in voltage.

I figure this is what i got going on here. Now, how the hell do i fix that one?????. I had the same thing happen, only it was the line form the pole outside, into the house (not my house). Called Niagra Mohawk, they came out with all fancy "metal detectors", and were able to pin-point the exact location of the problem underground. Will the power company still be able to do that, even though its not from the pole? (probably not). Would an electrician be able to do this? Or should i just start digging, and fix it my self??? Sorry about the long post, but its really been pissing me off!
Thanks!
Matt

Sandy
08-20-2005, 12:22 PM
Couple things bother me here and one is that you are only 114 or so at the house. Not too many locations around the country are running that low anymore. Wouldn't take too much drop on the transmission side to put you into a brown situation. But---if that's normal then it is what it is.

Back top the Barn. Sounds like bad news eh?? Could be one side either bleeding some off to earth or going open. Typical with aluminum. Dang stuff should always be in conduit. I doubt your power company is going to do anything for you on the downhill side of the meter. Need a private electrician for that. They make several types of fault locators for that. If it's an earth fault one "A" frame affair puts a small current out on the affected wire and senses the direction of current flow. When you get to the earth fault the current flow changes. Other types put a high freq signal with a known power level in decibels and detects suttle rises and drops in the power level of the signal prior to, at, and past the fault.

Fault locating test gear is expensive and is an art in itself. Not a real common item. Half of those that do own test gear may not be real efficient at running it.

To double verify what you think you might kill the barn completely, get all three or four ends out and in the clear, short all together very very good, then go back to the house and measure towards the barn. At the house-measuring between any two wires you should get something close to a decimal reading in ohms. Decimal reading and solid as a rock. The meter should not drift up and down. Then measure each wire in reference to the ground. There should be no ground on any wire since you cleared that at the barn. for this you will need a good meter that will measure well up into the hundreds of thousands of ohms. Make sure your fingers are not touching the bare ends or you will be measuring your fingers and getting a false indication. I'll bet a cup of coffee that you get around a 25k ohm ground.


Fixing faults on older direct buried aluminum can be like taping leaks in a garden hose, ya know. Tape up this spot and you just shove it to the next weakest point. Six months later and another problem, fix that and ---and--- and.

Maybe try to get and estimate to locate/dig/repair and weigh that against the cost of total replacement. Depends on how much of each you can do yourself. If it's not your property it really complicates these decisions.

Good luck (easy for me to say)

caosesvida
08-20-2005, 02:57 PM
sandy has hit the nail on the head there. Personally I would just run new wire, overhead maybe would be cheaper if you can swing it, although 80' is too far without a pole. they make special underground splice kits, but they get a little expensive if you have to do a couple of the. One trick that (MIGHT) work is take a am radio, the old battery type, try and follow the line and you might get a stronger static signal. You would do this with the power on.

If the insulation on alum. underground is nicked it will go south at some point. If one is going you might have the other two nicked and on their way also. So as I said after buying three splice kits at $30 @? , havn't bought one in a while, you already have $100 plus a lot of labor, thats if you can find it. Look for any place that someone has dug around, or put a pipe or pole in the ground.

There is one other ( an better for you) possibility. You may just have corrosion on the aluminum at one of the breakers or other points, You may have corrosion at the meter pan, does any of the ligths dim when you try to use the welder, the ligths in the house? if so you have a problem that is not going to the barn.

usually I don't reccomend to people to fix it underground unless, it is really easy to find and its only one wire. otherwise time for a new one. the usual problem is that the wire is supposed to be 2' below grade, or/and the inuslation was nicked before it was buried by someone not being careful. If it is installed properly it will last at least 30 years, at least I have some that I put in that long. good luck I hope you find it. check all connections for corrosion or loose terminals, it happens a lot with aluminum especially if you don't use the anti-oxidant paste your supposed to use.

LowlyOilBurner
08-20-2005, 04:04 PM
Thanks for the info. This is getting to be a pretty big affair. Its sounds stupid, but what if i just went and ran a new line from the barn to the house, with a plug on the end going to the house, and anytime i wanted to work, all i would have to do would be plug in? I mean, its the same thing, only not underground, and it would have a plug on one end? I dunno, it sucks. Its like having a car, and no drivers license.

caosesvida
08-21-2005, 12:58 PM
yes you can do that, just be aware, the length of the wire directly affects the voltage at the other end. You would have to calculate the size of the wire vs. the distance to get the proper voltage at the welder end.

LowlyOilBurner
08-22-2005, 04:57 PM
Bump, till the electrician stops by....
Halbritt, explain to me this "Duplexing" of 120v you speak of....

LowlyOilBurner
08-22-2005, 05:00 PM
Please, correct me if i'm wrong, but is it something like this:
splitting one 120v line over the panel, so the two "hot" connects are of the same nature? I think i might have a picture of this being done at another location, i'm gonna head over there tonight and take some readings and pictures.

Pentawelder
08-22-2005, 06:48 PM
LowlyOilBurner,
the 120/240 volt thing exists in almost all our homes.
The three wires coming into your distribution are usually called
L1, L2 and Neutral.

The voltage between L1 and neutral is 120v
The voltage between L2 and neutral is 120v
The voltage between L1 and L2 is 240v
Your 240 v appliances (stove, drier{welder} etc are connected
between L1 and L2 with no neutral in some cases
Usually half of your breakers are connected to L1 and the others to L2
for all your 120v needs.
Nothing exceeds 120 v above ground but there may be 240v
between the hot lines in two different rooms (one room on L1 and one on L2).
Now with luck an electrician will jump in here and explain this better.
Gordon.

halbritt
08-22-2005, 06:48 PM
For single-phase applications, 120VAC lines are pulled off of either "leg" of the 240VAC supply voltage. In the absence of a 240VAC outlet, one could potentially use two 120VAC outlets off of either leg of the supply and duplex them together to get 240VAC supply voltage.

While it would be possible to do this in a pinch, it is an ill-recommended procedure. I brought this up on the forum with the expectation that I would deservedly be chastised by the pro-electricians for even suggesting it.

Running a cord out to the barn would be an acceptable solution provided that it's not permanently attached to any structure. You could, certainly, but an inspector would complain. Given that your voltage is already running pretty low, you'll probably want 6AWG copper for 50A service or 8AWG for 30A service. I bought 100' of 6/4 outdoor rated cable last year for a generator application and woo! That stuff is pricy.

12,000 Doors
08-22-2005, 10:33 PM
I think I would just weld closer to the house. At least until I come across a heavy cord cheap, but that's just me.

Sandy
08-23-2005, 12:34 AM
LowlyOilBurner,

You're starting to scare us with this cord thing here.. :p

What you want to do is what would be called non-compliant. If you gotta do something non-compliant you'll need to do it as rock solid as you possibly can. We all worry about wasting money we don't have but it's also a waste to spend even a dime on something that isn't going to get us where wanna go.

Gauge was mentioned a couple of times. I don't know but imagine that ta-185 is going to need more than a few amps so along with this low voltage thing you've got going wire size is going to be crucial. Keep that in mind.

You'll also want a wire that is UV resistant (sunlight) and an outer water tight layer (letter W). Insulators for attachments and so on.

Add the larger wire size requirements to the UV and water resistance and we are looking at one of what is called a Service Cord material. SO or SJ. SJ being the thinner skinned and lighter duty of the two it is also cheaper but will still be pricey. Three plugs/receptacles and a double breaker for the house end and you'll be pushing $200 to $250.00. EEEgads, I even gave myself sticker shock there. ;)

LowlyOilBurner
08-24-2005, 01:39 PM
I'm gonna go after it with devining rods. I saw a guy find a break like this a long while ago using those rods. Pretty amazing, he was within 2in. of it, and got the same spot with his super-expensive testing equipment that he used after the devining rods.

halbritt
08-24-2005, 05:57 PM
Sandy, how is it non-compliant to use a cord? Provided that the cord is rated for outdoor use and plugged into an outlet that is compliant and isn't a permanent addition then I don't understand the issue. Note, I'm not arguing the point but rather illustrating my ignorance on the topic.

Sandy
08-24-2005, 11:31 PM
Sandy, how is it non-compliant to use a cord? Provided that the cord is rated for outdoor use and plugged into an outlet that is compliant and isn't a permanent addition then I don't understand the issue. Note, I'm not arguing the point but rather illustrating my ignorance on the topic.

Actually I was doing some of that "assuming" thing when I mentioned non-compliant. I never really saw the word cord mentioned by oilburner and saw things like "line from the barn to the house", "plug on one end" and "duplexing" and conjured up pictures of romex through the trees. Probably shouldn't have done that. "Cord" was my sarcastic/humorous way of referencing this image of mine. I should appoligize to oilburner for doing that. Sorry guy!!!

When I went on to mention SO or SJ then we would be getting to the real "cord" category, which very well could be compliant.

Sorry for the confusion and pre-judged assumptions guys.

:blush2:

caosesvida
08-25-2005, 06:59 AM
The cord would be compliant if it was protected from damage, not permantlyatched, and didn't go though and structure, such as you house or barn, so you would have to mount a waterproof receptacle on the outside of the house, then have your cord ( very expensive cord) run through the barn door not through a hole.

In the end you will be better off running new wire to the barn, you are spending a lot of time and enventually money for something that you will always have trouble with, bite the bullit, find a electrician that will let you do the labor, trade him welding for work. For as much time you have spent trying to get around running new wire, couldn't you have found a reasonable way to get the job done?

Pentawelder
08-25-2005, 10:55 AM
LowlyOilBurner, another thought here, if you have a fire in which this mega-extension is involved(from ANY cause, cigarette butt) your insurance company may lock onto the cord and try not to pay off.

LowlyOilBurner
08-25-2005, 01:09 PM
Update:
So, i went out there with my "homemade" devining rods. Traced the line from the house to the barn, marked it with spray paint. Double checked and re-checked, seems legit. About 25 feet up from my barn, there are a few apple trees. Sure enough, the line runs right next to one, like maybe 4-6in away from the trunk of it. Well, the 'ol devining rods crossed over right where the line passes by the tree. I'd be willing to bet a root or rock has interupted that line, as i've seen this before. I double checked this too, sure enough, as i walk on the line, and pass the tree, the rods go normal again. I started digging last night but did'nt find the line yet, as it was getting pretty dark at the time. I HOPE to find the issue later today. We shall see what happens.

LowlyOilBurner
08-25-2005, 01:18 PM
Yes, i'd really love to run new cable back there, but its so rediculously expensive, and i don't feel like digging down 2.5+ feet, all 250ft of the way. Renting equipment cost money too, so does that wire at around $300.00 for 250ft of it. If this works, i'd have about 30bucks into the whole ordeal, for a splice and what nots. After all, i just spent like $2,000 on the welder, looking at possibly another $1,000 to make it work really don't make me too happy!

Pentawelder
08-25-2005, 02:29 PM
LowlyOilBurner, I think that someone already mentioned using an AM radio tuned off-station to find the loudest hum and crackle on the speaker. It might work to cunfirm your witchin' wands location. In case you think I'm knocking divining rods I'm not.
My late wife swore up and down that there was no way that they could work ... but ... she found all my water and drain pipes at our old house and she had no idea where they were or what she was looking for!
Good luck finding (fixing) the problem. Oh yes one more thing, don't put the
pick or shovel through the cable, even if the power's off it will hurt(in a different way if you know what I mean)
Gordon.

caosesvida
08-26-2005, 06:57 AM
in your original post you said it was 50 to 80 feet, you could go overhead with that its much cheaper.

Good luck with digging and finding the fault.

LowlyOilBurner
08-26-2005, 12:56 PM
in your original post you said it was 50 to 80 feet, you could go overhead with that its much cheaper.

Good luck with digging and finding the fault.

hahahah, yeah, thats what i thought, till i measured it! 250ft ouch!

caosesvida
08-27-2005, 07:37 PM
in that case, 250' ( is that metric feet? ha ha ) I would consider the fix then. You have to consider a significant line loss on that lenght, If you want, let me know how many amps you want at the end and I will figure the proper wire size that you should be using. You may just have a large enough line loss to give the problems you described. in line loss you have to figure both wires to and from, so thats 500' of conductor, you would be surprised how much loss you will get at that distance.

LowlyOilBurner
08-29-2005, 01:05 PM
in that case, 250' ( is that metric feet? ha ha ) I would consider the fix then. You have to consider a significant line loss on that lenght, If you want, let me know how many amps you want at the end and I will figure the proper wire size that you should be using. You may just have a large enough line loss to give the problems you described. in line loss you have to figure both wires to and from, so thats 500' of conductor, you would be surprised how much loss you will get at that distance.

Thanks. I have roughly 250ft (+/- a few feet). One of the 2 hots is down by about 30volts, according to my readings. (114.5 vs. 83.4). And yes, i really cannot see running an entirely new line, due to most likey one small problem in one of the 3 wires. Calling electrician now to see about a dead currant test..