Open-Neutral on ?city side? not recognized by ci ty

Have an ongoing open-neutral / bad-neutral electrical issue in my house. Not sure this is the correct forum but figured might have some
of the most knowledgeable folks regarding electrical. Short story, leaving out all the measuring and checking I have done ( I have some electrical background and understand power distribution ? but no real house wiring experience beyond adding a few circuits to panel), it?s clear to me I have an open neutral issue. I have all neutral line current going through my ground wire from electric panel to copper water pipes. I have checked and tightened all my connections and decided problem lies on city side. I called the city utilities- they came out and opened the meter box, took a few measurements, and to my surprise said I had ?no problem?. I reiterated I do have a problem in that current is going through my water pipes, to which they said I am fine on their side and I should call a ?professional electrician??.And then this is the strange part ? aft er they left - I then immediatly retested neutral at the weather head and it DID indeed now flow the current I expected ? and the house wiring had never performed better ? although I did nothing and the city claimed they did nothing. That was a bit over a month ago. And house neutral issues seemed gone for a few weeks, until a week or 2 ago - with fog and drizzle moving in after severe drought here - I had several short period power failures in one day ? caused I believe by a shorting transformer (not mine) I could hear popping in neighbors yard?and coincident with those power outs ? the neutral issue in my house has come back with a vengeance. I am reluctant to call city again, but all my neutral connections seem tight and OK. I also see no less than 3 suspect ?split-bolt? connections on the city?s side neutral wire heading out to transformer across the street (wires make a 90 degreee turn at a dedicated pole on my property ? 2 split bolt clamps I see at that turn/pole alone) Today I decided to run another test and took a jumper from my water line (carrying all the neutral current) to the bare neutral coming into my weather-head?measuring current in that jumper- I got some amperage, but only a small fraction of what was going through pipes to ground ? BUT that fractional current did not head out along the neutral towards the transformer but instead the current went other direction back into my electrical panel (using a C-clamp ammeter measuring each side from my jumper connection on city?s neutral)? What could be going on here ? ? it seems clear to me my last test proves I have no connection to city?s transformer from my weatherhead? but why did the issue vanish when they came out and opened up the meter box?? Am I safe in assuming the issue is the city?s ??? I am reluctant to bother them again - Do I just call (again) and ask them to check things again??? To complicate the issue ? I have (open delta) 3 phase service (old farm/ranch house) and do not see how the neutral gets to (3 phase) meter at all ? only the 3 hot wires enter the meter box (that I can observe from outside) ? the neutral cable goes straight into my house to electric panel neutral bus bar Frustrated with this ongoing issue..neutral has gotten so bad recently I can?t even run a saw in my shop without spinning the blade first (I know ? not safe)? Some pics are here: http://home.earthlink.net/~nottrusted/HouseElectric%20 Service_Nov2008
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snipped-for-privacy@mypacks.net wrote:

Here are my comments: 1) Your explanation of the service wiring implies that your panel does not feed through the meter, which doesn't make sense. 2) I see multiple problems in your photos. The connections at the pole look questionable. I don't like the look of the split bolt in the photo, as it is exposed and badly oxidized. The ground connection to the water pipe does not use a listed clamp, and may not be adequate. There are some questionable connections in the panel as well. 3) External neutral problems are often caused by the split bolts or the transformer connections. 4) Hire an independant electrician to certify that everything internal is good, and correct anything that isn't. He can also verify that a problem exists. Utilities are aften wary of homeowner complaints, but tend to believe electricians more. 5) The only way to get out of the finger pointing between you/your electrician and the utility is to hire an electrical consultant who can evaluate everything on both sides and determine where the problem is. 6) You didn't say where you are located, but you always have the option of filing a complaint with your state commerce commision. In Illinois, the utility MUST respond to a complaint through the commision. However, I suggest that you get good facts and independant reports before you do this, to maximize the effectiveness of the complaint.
Good luck.
Ben Miller
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On Fri, 26 Dec 2008 10:17:26 -0800 (PST) snipped-for-privacy@mypacks.net wrote:
| Today I decided to run another test and took a jumper from my water | line (carrying all the neutral current) to the bare neutral coming | into my weather-head?measuring current in that jumper- I got some | amperage, but only a small fraction of what was going through pipes | to ground ? BUT that fractional current did not head out along the | neutral towards the transformer but instead the current went other | direction back into my electrical panel (using a C-clamp ammeter | measuring each side from my jumper connection on city?s neutral)? | What could be going on here ? ? it seems clear to me my last test | proves I have no connection to city?s transformer from my weatherhead? | but why did the issue vanish when they came out and opened up the | meter box?? Am I safe in assuming the issue is the city?s ??? I am | reluctant to bother them again - Do I just call (again) and ask them | to check things again??? To complicate the issue ? I have (open delta) | 3 phase service (old farm/ranch house) and do not see how the neutral | gets to (3 phase) meter at all ? only the 3 hot wires enter the meter | box (that I can observe from outside) ? the neutral cable goes | straight into my house to electric panel neutral bus bar | Frustrated with this ongoing issue..neutral has gotten so bad recently | I can?t even run a saw in my shop without spinning the blade first (I | know ? not safe)?
Completely shut off all phases coming in (your main disconnect should do this). Then measure the current on each of the ground paths.
One possibility is a neighbor has the open neutral. His neutral current is going into his water pipe. That current is then paralleling its way back to the source transfromer through YOUR water pipe as well as other neighbors.
If you actually see current flowing when your phases are disconnected, this is one possible scenario.
ANOTHER scenario is an open or loose neutral on the utility distribution. The transfromer primary and secondary neutrals are generally cross connected to avoid lightning damage to the transformer. That means the neutral of the distribution line, and the grounding electrode at the transformer, and the neutral of the service drop to your house, are all connected together. If the distribution neutral is open, there may still be sufficient return path for that current to make it back to the source substation. If the break in the neutral is nearby, that's actually relatively easy. Current flow via ground is possible. But an even better path is a metal water pipe from you and other neighbors on this and other transformers with the isolated neutral, to more distant neighbors that are served by a transformer past the neutral break. The distribution current is flowing over the neutral going to your house, into your water pipe (plus nearby neighbors in parallel), through the water main, down to more distant houses, back up through their neutral, and crossing in reverse at their transformer to get back to the distribution neutral and back to the substation.
At the high voltages involved on utility distribution, it is possible for this to happen even without the water pipe being continuous. Ground current alone could account for it over some short distances.
Contrary to popular myth, it is NOT true that electricity takes the path of least resistance. Instead, it takes ALL paths in parallel, with current apportioned based on the inverse of the resistance.
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Phil
I think we can rule out neutral flow from an adjacent property because if that were occurring the current flow in the neutral at the service head would be much higher.
-- Tom Horne
On Dec 27, 2:44am, snipped-for-privacy@ipal.net wrote:

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Phil
I think we can rule out neutral flow from an adjacent property because if that were occurring the current flow in the neutral at the service head would be much higher.
-- Tom Horne
On Dec 27, 2:44am, snipped-for-privacy@ipal.net wrote:

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| Tom Horne wrote: |> Phil |> |> I think we can rule out neutral flow from an adjacent property because |> if that were occurring the current flow in the neutral at the service |> head would be much higher. |> |> | | Tom, I may be looking at this very situation in the near future. I only have | second-hand information, but reportedly someone has measured up to 8 amps in | their GEC (house 1) with the main breaker off. I have not confirmed this | myself, so take it with a grain of salt. However, I got to thinking about | possibilities, and it seems like an open neutral at another neighbor (house | 2) is the likely candidate. Assuming the house 2 return current flowed | through its GEC to the the water main, it seems like it would distribute to | several houses (1,3,4...) and each one might only carry a portion of it | through its neutral. Obviously it depends on the configuration of houses on | the transformer, etc. Does that make sense?
Might be interesting to pull a couple hundred amps ... or maybe even a full fault current, though that "distributed neutral" :-)
A major fault (open neutral + line to ground short) in one house could cause a lot of damage in a lot of other places. But this is not inherint in the "split phase" system the USA has. It could happen even with a single ended non-split system, and possibly worse since it would be the whole load trying to go over the piggyback neutral, instead of just the split-phase imbalance.
How to avoid this? Each home would have to have its own separate transformer.
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Tom Horne wrote:

Tom, I may be looking at this very situation in the near future. I only have second-hand information, but reportedly someone has measured up to 8 amps in their GEC (house 1) with the main breaker off. I have not confirmed this myself, so take it with a grain of salt. However, I got to thinking about possibilities, and it seems like an open neutral at another neighbor (house 2) is the likely candidate. Assuming the house 2 return current flowed through its GEC to the the water main, it seems like it would distribute to several houses (1,3,4...) and each one might only carry a portion of it through its neutral. Obviously it depends on the configuration of houses on the transformer, etc. Does that make sense?
Ben Miller
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Phil - thanks for response. I am original poster and just changed to a newsreader instead of browser via googroups - so new ID. I understand your points, and I am turning off power later today (have computers others use - so can't just power off without notice). I am going to replace the original ground clamp to water pipe (badly corroded) and will first take reading for current as you suggest - but if neighbors current was traveling through my water lines - wouldn't I read some current in my neutral at weatherhead??
Your idea of an open distribution neutral seems possible - coincident with my recent problems was a transformer on corner of my property popping loudly several times (but this was NOT a transformer that feeds my house - although I lost power during those 'pops'). Furthermore (I wrote this earlier but GooGrps put response in lousy spot) I have 3-phase residential (open-delta (2 transformer) config). I used to have text-book perfect 240 volts across my 3 hot lines, and 120-120-208 to neutral from those hot lines. Now I have across the 3 hot lines : 243, 126,113,.and to from those hot lines to neutral I have: 115, 127, 0.So appears my 'wild leg' creating the three phase from the second transformer must be shorted to ground???..how else could I measure these voltages now?? I like and agree with your myth-breaker - and so the fact that my neutral wire from weather head to transformer is carrying NO current would indicate I have open neutral between transformer and my house. I.e - multiple problems - 3 phase voltages awry and no neutral current to pole - or could they be same issue?? With the bad 3 phase Volt readings (I currently have nothing connected to 'wild' leg) - I am pretty sure I have problems on city side...guess I have to bite the bullet and am going to call them...again...
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On Sat, 27 Dec 2008 09:17:11 -0600 KGize <kgize7 at earthlink dot net> wrote:
| Phil - thanks for response. I am original poster and just changed to a | newsreader instead of browser via googroups - so new ID. I understand your | points, and I am turning off power later today (have computers others use - | so can't just power off without notice). I am going to replace the original | ground clamp to water pipe (badly corroded) and will first take reading for | current as you suggest - but if neighbors current was traveling through my | water lines - wouldn't I read some current in my neutral at weatherhead??
If you had computers connected to 240V they would not be affected. Those that are autoranging should be able to handle anything in their range, which is usually 100-240V to accomodate the standards of the world.
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Have an ongoing open-neutral / bad-neutral electrical issue in my house. Not sure this is the correct forum but figured might have some of the most knowledgeable folks regarding electrical. Short story, leaving out all the measuring and checking I have done ( I have some electrical background and understand power distribution but no real house wiring experience beyond adding a few circuits to panel), its clear to me I have an open neutral issue. I have all neutral line current going through my ground wire from electric panel to copper water pipes. I have checked and tightened all my connections and decided problem lies on city side. I called the city utilities- they came out and opened the meter box, took a few measurements, and to my surprise said I had no problem. I reiterated I do have a problem in that current is going through my water pipes, to which they said I am fine on their side and I should call a professional electrician.And then this is the strange part after they left - I then immediatly retested neutral at the weather head and it DID indeed now flow the current I expected and the house wiring had never performed better although I did nothing and the city claimed they did nothing. That was a bit over a month ago. And house neutral issues seemed gone for a few weeks, until a week or 2 ago - with fog and drizzle moving in after severe drought here - I had several short period power failures in one day caused I believe by a shorting transformer (not mine) I could hear popping in neighbors yardand coincident with those power outs the neutral issue in my house has come back with a vengeance. I am reluctant to call city again, but all my neutral connections seem tight and OK. I also see no less than 3 suspect split-bolt connections on the citys side neutral wire heading out to transformer across the street (wires make a 90 degreee turn at a dedicated pole on my property 2 split bolt clamps I see at that turn/pole alone) Today I decided to run another test and took a jumper from my water line (carrying all the neutral current) to the bare neutral coming into my weather-headmeasuring current in that jumper- I got some amperage, but only a small fraction of what was going through pipes to ground BUT that fractional current did not head out along the neutral towards the transformer but instead the current went other direction back into my electrical panel (using a C-clamp ammeter measuring each side from my jumper connection on citys neutral) What could be going on here ? it seems clear to me my last test proves I have no connection to citys transformer from my weatherhead but why did the issue vanish when they came out and opened up the meter box?? Am I safe in assuming the issue is the citys ??? I am reluctant to bother them again - Do I just call (again) and ask them to check things again??? To complicate the issue I have (open delta) 3 phase service (old farm/ranch house) and do not see how the neutral gets to (3 phase) meter at all only the 3 hot wires enter the meter box (that I can observe from outside) the neutral cable goes straight into my house to electric panel neutral bus bar Frustrated with this ongoing issue..neutral has gotten so bad recently I cant even run a saw in my shop without spinning the blade first (I know not safe) Some pics are here: http://home.earthlink.net/~nottrusted/HouseElectric%20Service_Nov2008 Neither single or three phase power metering requires a neutral connection. The neutral generally passes thru the meter box only for conection convenience.
Your neutral problem would be more apparent to the utility workers if you could arrange to disconnect the ground with only one phase loaded while they were checking. Fortunately or unfortunately, you seem to have a pretty good ground which is doing what it is intended to do, provide a backup path for the open or partially open neutral. I agree that you may have to invest in professional help to get it resolved. Not all electricians are real familiar with open neutral and ground problems, particularly on the utility side. Don't give up, it sounds very much like you have a serious problem which the utility should correct.
Don Young
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snipped-for-privacy@mypacks.net wrote:

I agree with you, there is a hazard to opening the ground connection. The utilities around here tend to respond to symptoms of open neutrals, as they know the danger involved. Mention lights getting brighter, and say that "the electrician said it looks like an open neutral, but everything inside is OK".
Ben Miller
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OP here with different ID. Thanks all for responses - just an update... Took enough flak over the non-listed clamp (that was originally intended as a wire hanger - I just stripped it and hose clamped it..never really intended as the main ground connection - although it had become so)..So I replaced it today, and added it's image to website (in original post). New clamp is now taking the majority of the neutral amperage, and with a functioning new clamp replacing old original. I now have even better neutral current through my pipes (2 HP saw starts by itself now)..but still have a neutral problem obviously..city coming out tomorrow morning. This problem has been intermittent and recurring. Question - if the city comes out as they did last time and simply measures voltages in my meter box, and if my ground is acting as a very good neutral connection (e.g metal pipes to neighbors and their neutral to pole) ...are they likely to think all is fine??? Last time they came out they simply told me it had to be my problem...I made it clear I had current through pipes and no current through neutral wire to pole..they just sorta stared at the pole...but after they opened and re-sealed the meter box - the problem vanished...for a few weeks only...
Have an ongoing open-neutral / bad-neutral electrical issue in my house......................................... Some pics are here: http://home.earthlink.net/~nottrusted/HouseElectric%20Service_Nov2008
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On Sun, 28 Dec 2008 17:48:43 -0600, "KGize" <kgize7 at earthlink dot net> wrote:

Merry flak week! :-]
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KGize wrote:

A proper ground is a thing of beauty! Glad you resolkved the problem.
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I had intended to do just that - create significant load on one side vs other to show significant difference between each hot to neutral. But turns out they recognized I had a problem right away this time out...The neutral (single strand bar wire serving as support of three hot wires - old setup) had shorted into the third leg of my three phase hot wire and blown both of the wires into being open at that point (between my house and pole) ..very old wires with brittle cracking insulation....surprised I had power at all. I am happy as this time the city guy not only fixed the issue - but also sent in an order for all new service from pole to my house ....just a little frustrated how long this (intermittent) problem has been existent and that it took a significant short and associated explosion to get some action - but I am happy now... So this thread is about done and suppose I should start another - but I do have another related question for the experts: With an open neutral (blown wide open - no contact at all), and the water pipes acting as they should as the ground taking all neutral current, when I ran a jumper from my water pipes to the neutral just where it comes out on city's side of weather head (described in previous post) - why did I get some current (about 1/10 of the current through my pipes) in that jumper - the current (of course) went straight back into weather head to my panel....but why would ANY current make the loop I created with the jumper from water pipes to outside neutral - when that neutral went nowhere but straight back to same pipe..???

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(Original OP here with new ID) To end this thread - thanks again to all responders. City utilities man came out and found a broken neutral wire, and broken hot wire (the third leg of my 3 phase inputs). They fixed the opens and re-did all split bolt connections from house to transformer....and put in order to replace entire service to house from street...all is well - thanks again for the suggestions..
Have an ongoing open-neutral / bad-neutral electrical issue in my house. Not sure this is the correct forum but figured might have some of the most knowledgeable folks regarding electrical. Short story, ..... I have all neutral line current going through my ground wire from electric panel to copper water pipes. I have checked and tightened all my connections and decided problem lies on city side. ............ Some pics are here: http://home.earthlink.net/~nottrusted/HouseElectric%20Service_Nov2008
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