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Old 03-27-2017, 08:45 AM   #1
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Default Was it my fault?

Hi Guys,

I ran into a situation on a job the other day and I have been going back and forth on my level of fault. I was hoping to get some opinions from my peers.

Here goes. I opened an electrical panel at a clients house to replace a breaker with a gfci breaker. While tracing the wires from the breaker up to the connector to find the neutral that I needed to put on my breaker, another neutral popped out from the neutral bar and the power went off in the front of the basement. I quickly found out which breaker was associated with it and turned it off. I terminated the neutral on the bar and turned it back on. I noticed that the wire on this breaker was a newer yellow romex style and this is an older home, so I asked the homeowner if someone had added these circuits for the basement and he said yes. I informed him that the neutral hadn't been installed tightly and that it had popped out.

So while cleaning up to leave the job the customer came to me and tells me that his PC downstairs will not turn on. It appears that the power supply in it has gone bad, which I have seen happen before when neutrals come apart. I know that if the wire had been installed correctly in the neutral bar this would have never happened but I also feel responsible since it happened while I was working in the panel. Should I be responsible for repairing or replacing his PC?
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Old 03-27-2017, 08:56 AM   #2
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Was this neutral part of a MWBC? That's the only time that the neutral coming loose is going to effect something.

As for your question, I really don't know. It's not an easy answer. That neutral could have came loose on its own in the next month or two. But it was you who was there.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:05 AM   #3
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This is one of those situations where it is probably going to be less of a headache to just Amazon him a new power supply for his PC and move on with life. Do this and the customer will see you as a good guy and keep calling you back / get you referrals. If you don't it might end up as a whole big thing him filing a claim with your insurance, blah blah blah huge debacle.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:08 AM   #4
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How are you supposed to know that some guy before you didn't land a neutral properly?


Also, as hack said, the only way that it would blow something up is if there was another circuit from the other leg sharing that neutral. Are you sure the PC PS is bad? Did you check it's receptacle?


Good news is that a PC PS can be replaced for around $100 if that's the problem.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:10 AM   #5
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Is it plugged into a power strip? If so, plug it into the wall directly. Those power strips fry themselves during surges.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:12 AM   #6
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Learn not to sweat the small stuff, this **** happens.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:15 AM   #7
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1. If you feel like the guy will make a big issue over this, replace the power supply.

2. Are you sure the guy didn't have a bad PS already and saw this as an opportunity?
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:26 AM   #8
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IMHO, you fried his power supply -- subjecting it to an open neutral.

Because so many old crowded panels have multiple neutrals under one set screw -- take this as lesson learned.

Telsa's method is to turn of A LOT of breakers... even all of them.

Then you never let any smoke out.

No-one baulks when the plumber cuts off the water supply to the entire home. Hint.

You can work A LOT faster around a cold panel, too.

Just bring your own illumination -- and a 'head lamp', too.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telsa View Post
IMHO, you fried his power supply -- subjecting it to an open neutral.
Unless it was a MWBC, how is an open neutral any different than an open hot (ie. power outage)?
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telsa View Post
IMHO, you fried his power supply -- subjecting it to an open neutral.

Because so many old crowded panels have multiple neutrals under one set screw -- take this as lesson learned.

Telsa's method is to turn of A LOT of breakers... even all of them.

Then you never let any smoke out.

No-one baulks when the plumber cuts off the water supply to the entire home. Hint.

You can work A LOT faster around a cold panel, too.

Just bring your own illumination -- and a 'head lamp', too.
There has been more than one time I second guessed myself that it would have been better to turn off the panel before taking off the cover.

At this stage of worklife, it goes off. Call me a plumber until I get the to see what it looks like in there.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:37 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HackWork View Post
Unless it was a MWBC, how is an open neutral any different than an open hot (ie. power outage)?
I'm thinking it broke / made connection rapidly and the power supply did not like being cycled like that.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:37 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HackWork View Post
Unless it was a MWBC, how is an open neutral any different than an open hot (ie. power outage)?

He said yellow Romex, so it had to be 12-3 and there had to be some energized load on the other leg or no smoke gets out.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:49 AM   #13
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It was a 12-2 not a mwbc. I think the loss of neutral may cause a surge. Someone else told me that the power supply has the neutral and ground from the cord bonded in the PC and when the neutral breaks power flows on the chassis which damages the power supply or board.
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:55 AM   #14
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Damn, I never thought a disconnected neutral would damage anything.

This sounds like something that could give you a bad online review. I'm new to online marketing but I have a GC with bad reviews from a couple of nut job customers. For $100.00 I would probably just pay it even though my terms and conditions say otherwise.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:00 AM   #15
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as others have said, stuff happens.

there is no way you will ever figure out if it was truly your fault. pay your dues and move on.

the bigger issue is to proactively avoid mistakes in the future. After every job, big or small, you need to ask yourself
"what could I have done to avoid those mistake"
"what could I have done to make more money".

once your hands are on it, it is yours (in part or whole), whether that means a part, a row of lights, or a lawsuit.

making key decisions, prior to putting your hands on it, while your hands are on it, and after your hands are on it are the decisions that will determine your success or failure.

as always, just my 02
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:11 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMA Sparky View Post
Hi Guys,

I ran into a situation on a job the other day and I have been going back and forth on my level of fault. I was hoping to get some opinions from my peers.

Here goes. I opened an electrical panel at a clients house to replace a breaker with a gfci breaker. While tracing the wires from the breaker up to the connector to find the neutral that I needed to put on my breaker, another neutral popped out from the neutral bar and the power went off in the front of the basement. I quickly found out which breaker was associated with it and turned it off. I terminated the neutral on the bar and turned it back on. I noticed that the wire on this breaker was a newer yellow romex style and this is an older home, so I asked the homeowner if someone had added these circuits for the basement and he said yes. I informed him that the neutral hadn't been installed tightly and that it had popped out.

So while cleaning up to leave the job the customer came to me and tells me that his PC downstairs will not turn on. It appears that the power supply in it has gone bad, which I have seen happen before when neutrals come apart. I know that if the wire had been installed correctly in the neutral bar this would have never happened but I also feel responsible since it happened while I was working in the panel. Should I be responsible for repairing or replacing his PC?
Why didn't you wiggle alll the neutrals individually before you started messing with them?
J/k I know that's ridiculous but it's something you COULD have done and didn't. Also I feel that's it's fairly likely that this did damage some electronics. I've seen it before. A lost neutral reconnected under load is baaad thing for electronics. I killed my projection tv doing just that.

Hackwork, its different from a power outage because in a power outage there is zero potential on either side of the circuit. In a lost neutral scenario you have full voltage on the hot side with no where for it to go.. It's been my experience on circuit boards that this can kill capacitors. I assume it has something to do with charge build up and release. That's just a hypothesis though, I've never really looked into it. But it does happen, I've seen it first hand. A lost neutral is worse for electronics than a lost hot.

Back to op,

Tell the homeowner you will pay half (just for good business practices) but the person who didn't install that neutral correctly should pay the other half.

Sent from my C6725 using Tapatalk
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:19 AM   #17
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If you have an open neutral in an incandescent lighting circuit nothing bad will happen. The filament will simply not heat up.

Switching power supplies are not so tolerant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_tunnelling

The actual switching is performed by solid state transistors -- and their critical interfaces are governed by the rules of quantum physics -- they are THAT small.

An open neutral starts to degrade the transistors, via "tunnelling." The very distribution of the dopants is being disrupted. This is happening at the smallest scale imaginable.

The rate of ruin can't be predicted. I've seen stuff go 'poof' in seconds ... or take all night to go sour.

The other road to ruin is that many solid state components are VERY sensitive to polarity.

An open neutral -- in a system loaded with capacitors -- large and tiny -- permits the caps to load up -- and then flush b a c k w a r d s. If the designer did not provide polarity protection ( diodes ) then the power supply can go 'poof' in a hurry.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:20 AM   #18
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This is a good conversation. I'm guilty of digging into a panel without much thought.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:21 AM   #19
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Thanks for all of the replys. Just to be clear I offered to cover the damage, however the homeowner said that it was 5-6 years old and the school he works for would give him a replacement anyway. It just got me thinking about what other things could go wrong that may not really be your fault but could bite you in the a$$.
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:30 AM   #20
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Ask to see the permit for the new circuit and pull the well the other guy did not torque to specs
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