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Old 08-28-2016, 02:44 PM   #1
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Default Why does my stuff keep burning up?

So a customer is getting ready to sell their house and farm and they want to make sure nothing goes wrong with the home inspection. They've got drop cords all over the yard for the circulating pump for the pool, power for a gazebo etc. I tell them, I'm not sure why you're stuff is getting burned up but I can fix it. I get everything together and I take the panel cover off and what else do I see but Why does my stuff keep burning up?-imageuploadedbyelectriciantalk.com1472409688.049000.jpg

They tell me there was a barn that burned out 4 or 5 pool pumps burned up over a 20 year span. Like nobody could figure this out in 20 years?
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Old 08-28-2016, 03:13 PM   #2
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Off the top of my head, one pump every 4 or 5yrs doesn't sound bad on a drop cord to boot. drop cords=voltage drop & pumps have a high inrush current. Not a good combination.
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Old 08-28-2016, 03:19 PM   #3
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My eyes aren't the greatest but are there any grounds in that panel at all?
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Old 08-28-2016, 03:39 PM   #4
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My eyes aren't the greatest but are there any grounds in that panel at all?
Yeah, looks like bonded to the neutral bar.
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Old 08-28-2016, 03:48 PM   #5
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Well that explains it......the phase orientation is wrong. It's black - red - blue, not black - blue - red.......lol.

This might be a 120/240 3 4 wire ∆. If it is, then ckt. 30 is on the high leg, 208 volts to neutral.

Usually 120 volt stuff connected to the high leg burns up right away but if the run is long enough and the wire is small enough, there could be enough voltage drop to make it run for a while but eventually cook.
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Old 08-28-2016, 03:52 PM   #6
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Well that explains it......the phase orientation is wrong. It's black - red - blue, not black - blue - red.......lol.

This might be a 120/240 3 4 wire ∆. If it is, then ckt. 30 is on the high leg, 208 volts to neutral.

Usually 120 volt stuff connected to the high leg burns up right away but if the run is long enough and the wire is small enough, there could be enough voltage drop to make it run for a while but eventually cook.
I was thinking high leg as well. Apart from that though, incorrect phase orientation shouldn't cause burn up by itself, should it? Just incorrect motor rotation. There is a university campus here where the entire campus right from the main substation is phased wrong so any time you install a motor you have to swap wires.
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Old 08-28-2016, 04:09 PM   #7
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I was thinking high leg as well. Apart from that though, incorrect phase orientation shouldn't cause burn up by itself, should it? Just incorrect motor rotation. There is a university campus here where the entire campus right from the main substation is phased wrong so any time you install a motor you have to swap wires.
I was kidding about the phase orientation......lol.

It looks like it was originally Black - Red - Blue but Red and Blue were swapped later on. Possibly because they wanted the high leg to be phase C and possibly because the original phase rotation was CCW and they needed CW.

My house has a 120/208 Y and the POCO had it CCW at first but I swapped to CW because I have phase failure relays on my well pump and both A/Cs.
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Old 08-28-2016, 04:19 PM   #8
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It's 3 phase 240v. I got the ol' meter out and went leg to leg then leg to ground. 120 V on the black and red in the pic then 214v on the blue. The motors that burned up were all 200' away which would explain why they worked a little while then cooked.

My plan is to set a subpanel out in the general area and feed it with a 2 pole breaker. I just had to make sure I had open space on C-A phases for 120/240. I got to pick up some stuff to get it right tomorrow
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Old 08-28-2016, 08:55 PM   #9
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If incoming blue (phase B) is the high leg, then there are 5 single pole breakers on it.

Check the high leg carefully.......

If the high leg is incoming red (phase C) then you can use 31 and 33 for the 2 pole sub panel breaker.
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Old 08-28-2016, 09:24 PM   #10
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Haven't seen, or even heard of, a high leg config being used anywhere around
here. Is this just my good luck or were these never allowed in Ontario/Canada?
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Old 08-28-2016, 09:35 PM   #11
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Either way, Luck!
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Old 08-28-2016, 09:50 PM   #12
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Orange tape on the blue leg would be a nice heads up.
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Old 08-28-2016, 09:59 PM   #13
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Haven't seen, or even heard of, a high leg config being used anywhere around
here. Is this just my good luck or were these never allowed in Ontario/Canada?
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They have their place. We reconnected the service on an old grain system that had originally been high leg, but now the POCO won't put them in any more. The load is basically all motors, so I wanted a 240 volt system instead of 208, but they wouldn't give it.
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Old 08-28-2016, 10:30 PM   #14
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Why is everyone assuming it's a 120/240 3 phase 4 wire? Why couldn't it be a 208Y120V service, and the reason things are "burning up" is just because of voltage drop on a lot of under sized extension cords, or 240V motors being run on 208V with a long run, so excess VD?

Phase rotation is all relative by the way, the colors are irrelevant except to allow electricians to reconnect them again correctly after a change-out. In other words there is no difference between A-B-C or C-A-B or B-C-A. There is also no difference between that or C-B-A, unless you had the motors connected for A-B-C first, in which case you swap it at the MOTOR, not at the service. All of PG&E's power throughout Northern California, over 5 million service connections, are C-B-A rotation at the distribution lines. 99.9% of people are totally unaware of that. The only time you find out is when you use a portable generator that came from somewhere that used A-B-C and connect it to a motor here that worked fine on PG&E power, and it runs in reverse.
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Old 08-28-2016, 10:40 PM   #15
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Why is everyone assuming it's a 120/240 3 phase 4 wire? Why couldn't it be a 208Y120V service
See post #8
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Old 08-28-2016, 10:43 PM   #16
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240 ∆ systems are pretty common around here in the older parts of town. All of them are pole-mount, none are pad-mount. Some are open ∆ with a big pot for the 120 legs and a small pot for the high leg.

There are a few subdivisions that have 240 ∆, a single phase panel and a ∆ breaker for the A/C.

A lot of guys are scared to death of the high leg......3 phase only.......can't think of how many times I've heard it.

They're not dumb, they just don't understand the system.

I use the high leg and one of the other legs for every straight 240 load that I can. It helps balance the 3 voltages and uses less space in the panel. And yes, I use 240 volt breakers, not 120/240.

One thing to be careful of is with a closed ∆, the available fault current will be pretty high. This is because all 3 transformers will contribute to the fault. A medium-size system can exceed 10KA.
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Old 08-28-2016, 10:45 PM   #17
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240 ∆ systems are pretty common around here in the older parts of town. All of them are pole-mount, none are pad-mount. Some are open ∆ with a big pot for the 120 legs and a small pot for the high leg.

There are a few subdivisions that have 240 ∆, a single phase panel and a ∆ breaker for the A/C.

A lot of guys are scared to death of the high leg......3 phase only.......can't think of how many times I've heard it.

They're not dumb, they just don't understand the system.

I use the high leg and one of the other legs for every straight 240 load that I can. It helps balance the 3 voltages and uses less space in the panel. And yes, I use 240 volt breakers, not 120/240.

One thing to be careful of is with a closed ∆, the available fault current will be pretty high. This is because all 3 transformers will contribute to the fault. A medium-size system can exceed 10KA.
Same for here, older places you will see them. Not super common otherwise.
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Old 08-28-2016, 11:04 PM   #18
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@JRaef I ruled out VD being the culprit when they told me all the motors came pre wired for 120V that burned up then had someone reconfigure them to take 240V. Along with that other loads served from the same panel but much closer to the source had burned up in times past.

There's also a little disconnect that I'm getting rid of and replacing that burned up on one pole from getting 208 on a 120V circuit. I haven't positively ID'd it but I'm sure I'll find it.

I did my own calculation for VD for my install. This won't happen again 👍
@Micro mind you stole my answer! I want to leave a number too for the new owners to call should they want to do anything down the line. At least then they'll have a sparky that knows what's going on out there.
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Old 08-29-2016, 12:07 AM   #19
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Phase rotation is all relative by the way, the colors are irrelevant except to allow electricians to reconnect them again correctly after a change-out. In other words there is no difference between A-B-C or C-A-B or B-C-A. There is also no difference between that or C-B-A, unless you had the motors connected for A-B-C first, in which case you swap it at the MOTOR, not at the service.
I got into an argument with a consultant about that... We swapped transformers on a job and checked phase rotation first - it was CBA... I told the guys no sweat terminate the transformer Blue-Black-Red, knowing that we still had a 50/50 chance. Well low and behold when we energized and it was backwards. I said no sweat give me 45 minutes and we'll have it fixed (4 - 500's per phase).. The consultant said "That's why it didn't work - you switched the Red and the Blue. To change rotation the Black has to be one of the conductors changed..." I had to do a double take to see if he was serious - he was.. He even had a tech convinced that he was right.. I had them write out "ABCABC" and had them switch it using any 2 conductors, showed them there was always a "CBA" orientation, indicating the phase rotation reversal. They said "It doesn't work like that..".. They left the MCC Room, and I looked at the plant electrician and he said "You know you're right, right?".. I said "Yes I do.. How does it make you feel those two idiots are going to tell you that I have done my job properly and your electrical is done properly?".. He laughed and shook his head...
The next day, the same consultant told me that it didn't matter if you mix up "1 and 4" on a 6 lead, 3 phase motor.. Another day of shaking my head..
Sorry for the tangent I took...
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Old 08-29-2016, 04:56 AM   #20
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Orange tape on the blue leg would be a nice heads up.

And required by NEC. High leg needs to be marked orange and be the middle phase left to right & front to back.


I also found out when ordering a replacement 400A panel that would have a high leg supplying it that the bus was required to be rated for the high leg (making it even more of a special order than it already was).
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