Electrical Wiring in the Home/Hydro in apartment


QUESTION: My power went out. Nothing was tripped in the panel. My Husband played with it and the lights went back on. A few minutes later I went to turn on the oven and realized the oven light wasn't on. I shut the oven off and when I did the lights went out. Certain rooms have been losing power and then I turn on the stove and it will turn the stuff back on. I sometimes have to turn the oven up to 400 for it to turn power back on in certain places. The landlord came with his Electrician and they rewired from the stove to the box. They got it back working and left. A half hour later it did it again. I called the landlord back and he came back. He went to another pennants apartment to change the fuses in the Main Box. It is illegal to have that in another tenants apartment is it not? The lights all went back on and he left again. All the same stuff has been happening. I forgot to mention, when the stove controls the lights and sockets, the stove doesn't work...How much danger am I in...please advise..thank-you for you time and knowledge

ANSWER: Michelle,

Lot to read  but you have a lot of issues      sorry   I am thinking out loud here,    but this needs to be dealt with    

 I don't want you to panic,  just stay aware as you are now,   but yes, something is way wrong,    sounds like a neutral is either open or intermittent,   and someway shunted through the stove,  now maybe the stove is bad,  if they rewired it correctly and obviously they either got lucky, or maybe they repeated the same problem

Old stoves total electric can have three wires,   anything new has to have four,     two hots for a 220 stove,    the hots go to the two terminals marked H  or L     the third wire is the neutral wire  that used to be the ground also  now the rule is      two hots  the N  and a DEDICATED EARTH GROUND        four wires total      what do you have?  

so hard to tell from here,      I mean the rewiring could have done no more than the jiggling or playing your husband did...  

  when the temp is set to 4oo,  that could/would keep the shunt [connection through the stove] action going, because the stove would provide a closed path

 WHILE IT IS TRYING TO REACH TEMP,  then it closes the circuit,   but when it reaches temp,  it stops calling for voltage,  opens the circuit and other outlets then stop working,          

Must be maddening.

 As to this deal with the Landlord changing FUSES in another apartment, and the illegal issue,  are you saying the breaker box is in another apartment?    What and where was your husband playing and got things sorta working?    

At the other tenants ?   or are you telling me,  you think your power is fed from another apartment?

It all sounds   maybe not exactly illegal  but not up to code, or reasonable standards, or it is cobbled and patched  and whomever did all this was just wiring until things worked,   

that is too weird,   yea probably illegal,   I mean how can you know what your usage is, if the power gets to your apartment via a neighbor?

I hate this kind of thing,     not your question,  your question was well written and hopefully others might read this,   maybe help them out with what sounds like a slum lord and jack of all trades "electrician".

How much danger?  On the surface it seems more nuisance than danger,BUT ANYTIME YOU ARE IN A STRUCTURE where electrical stuff is going off and coming on by itself,  DANGER OF A FIRE,  possible damage to appliances and devices,   but of course the danger of FIRE is nothing to be taken lightly   yet breakers are not tripping,  no mention of smoke or smell,     right?

BUT if what I THINK is going on,    the 220 is someway shunted through your stove, and because it is likely 220   that puts two hots at a joint with a neutral    which is really two 115 circuits   [so to speak without getting real technical]  maybe the stove is intermittently bad  so many coincidences,    gotta be maddening,    

 with the two hots and neutral possibly going "open until you close the "switch"  by turning the oven on AND UP to 400 degrees........400 degrees......may only be buying time to keep the power flowing,

     when it reaches temp,  the stove then stops calling for power,   and then circuits start opening,  

   for example you could set the stove to 300,  things might start working but not AS LONG as they would if the temp was set at 400      it is simply the time to reach temp that keeps the power flowing,     sounds like they are struggling to "get by" on the cheap,       

My guess is neither landlord or electrician have the slightest clue what they are doing,    they just keep patching until power comes on, and the tenants shut up,


I don't like the situation,   I don't want you over reacting, but again who knows what else they patched, or jumped around, or removed a fuse and put a solid buss in to keep things ON,

Illegal  yea if I understood, and the main feed is in another apartment,   that is not "legal"   but without me knowing what is what,  kind of hard to say,  but I am going to guess there is a lot of patching going on,     

This will probably be frustrating,  but there should be some sort of local housing or electrical authority, in either the City or Township you live in,

do you know if there is a local housing or inspector's office?  they may know this building and even owner.....they may blow you off,   or have you fill out some complaint form,   which may be just a way of stalling,         

Next, if you don't mind a little white fib,  you can try the fire department,    gotta watch your words,  you don't want the Calvary showing up,     but maybe something like "I think I sorta smell something with an electrical smell to it,  when I turn my stove on"

I hate to stoop to that kind of behavior, but most any fire department must respond to a call on a possible burning smell,     they will ask     do you see smoke,    no,     but it seems to be getting worse   it seems to happen all the time and it is concerning me,

Speaking of illegal it is not exactly legal to summon fire or police, knowing there is no danger,   but you just asked not only if  but HOW MUCH DANGER    

I say lights going off and on,  fuses in other apartments,   while there is no smoke,  there is no smoke smell,  the fact the lights are coming on going off,  might very well be the warning something is about to go even worse,    who can say,     but there is a problem          

I mean if you just tell the real story,  they might have nothing on their plate and come right over, or they may  tell you to file a complaint with the building owner,

What they don't want is anyone hurt,  and absolutely dont want to have a record of being advised in advance and do nothing   then something severe occurs ,    most Fire Departments do free inspections, pretty much check out most concerns,   they are not electricians   but they know the signs of possible electrical dangers that could lead to fire,   

At the same time,   the fire department unfortunately cannot run around town,  dealing with every unknown issue, or POSSIBLE miswired apartment        

But if there is imminent danger,  then they gotta go check it out,     no flames or smoke,  but an electrical smell should get them rolling,  probably only send one truck and not a fleet of flashing lights,       

At that point if you could put a known lamp in one of the outlets,   with a bright bulb,  and  when they check the stove,  it should kill the light,   maybe a radio up a bit,  kind of annoying,  a light is better where suddenly it goes out, when the stove goes off,      now they should red tag the stove,  or even more    depending on what their SOPs [standard operating procedure] are,  when they see the light go out,   that could get their attention and maybe they will investigate even further,

Then maybe they red tag the entire supply,  which has to start a process of dealing with the landlord,

The problem with this kind of tactic is they could do anything from nothing to tagging the entire building out as unsafe  and of course then you can't stay there,  nor the other tenants, we started a big hassle,  but what you are telling me is a warning,   how bad   how soon,   cannot say,    

I know a ton of Firefighters who absolutely prefer dealing with putting a fix in motion, rather than dealing with a burning structure,   they all tell me that they don't mind these kinds of calls if the problem is legit,      by legit,   SOMETHING out of the ordinary is confirmed,  and you have that,,,,,,,,,,,,      

I am guessing you are getting no where with the landlord,  or you would no be looking for help,  and it is not your problem to dig into your pocket to call a real electrician,    

Next you can call the local utility and explain that the lights are flickering and going out,  that could get a technician on the way,   and they should see something is way wrong,    

Here is something interesting,    you first said   "My Husband played with "it" and the lights went back on."    Played with what?

  He needs to be real careful playing with anything electric   I am guessing he was flipping switches around in YOUR panel? Or are you telling me you have no panel it is in another apartment?  Or was he playing with the stove?    

 it could be whatever is intermittently being a problem was jiggled back enough to make contact,   but the stove went out, so maybe when one circuit was "played with"  that one came on, but at the same time another one opened,        

It could be anything from a bad stove, to a bad breaker,  to a loose wire nut in a junction box,,,     The problem seems   one that is opening not shorting, but you ALSO SAID HE WENT TO CHANGE THE FUSES    if fuses blew,  likely something shorted,  or some sort of overload,    got and idea if he DID FIND A BLOWN FUSE    wherever it is?

 no short no breaker trip, no blown fuse but something is not connected either correctly or tightly,    

I have seen too many of these apartment buildings that look like a fire trap   and often are simply nothing more than a big problem waiting to happen,     things are not kept up,  things are done cheaply  and often incorrectly     whatever it takes to get a complaint to go away      sad commentary  but it happens all the time,          

I don't know where you are  [City STATE so on],  PLEASE DON'T TELL ME IN PRINT,   no need to add to the mess with possible privacy issues,

IF the Landlord is either not cooperative,  or simply has no resources to resolve electrical problems correctly        it makes no difference,  maybe they are the nicest people you could ask for,  but   your circuits are coming on and off,      why did they run new wire to the stove?    Was it old,  frayed,  ?     Got any idea?

It worked, the oven came on,   but seems like a coincidence,    now maybe the wire looked bad    so that is good it is now new,  but if that wire looked old   or was decayed   it just makes sense the remaining wire is in the same condition       ???

I would tell you to go trip the stove   but I don't know if you can do that,   the landlord went somewhere else to change a fuse,    that one is the most alarming,

So as you put it,    the stove is acting like a switch,  so the lights go out, or power goes away in an outlet,  you then turn on the stove,  that turns the power back on, but then the stove stops working,,,,,,    got that right?    Then by control   you are saying if you were to turn the stove off,   the lights or power somewhere goes away,  but the oven works,    ???   But isn't the oven off at that point?

See my confusion?      then I turn on the stove and it will turn the stuff back on.   I forgot to mention, when the stove controls the lights and sockets, the stove doesn't work

SO stove ON   STUFF WORKS      but stove ON    the stove itself will not work   

LETS think about that   stove on,     lamp on,     lamp on  stove on     stove is "ON" but no stove control       so the stove in the on position is closing a circuit   allowing the other outlets to function,   but no stove even though it is in the ON position     so you are saying    stove on,   lights or whatever on,   now the oven will not heat to 400  . I sometimes have to turn the oven up to 400 for it to turn power back on in certain places.



WOW new stove wiring   fixed the problem  but only for a short time,  

The stove is providing a path to other loads,  but if you leave the other loads not working,  the stove now gets hot?

Technically I think there is a bad neutral  in the main panel, or in a junction box,  the stove in the on position then closes the hot to neutral  but in a backwards manner,   it is looping through the stove to the outlets or loads,    

Write me back and tell me if you have a fuse box or breaker box in YOUR apartment,   if not,  yea  that is going to be a code violation,    you have to have to have access to the main of your own space,    if you have to gain access to another apartment to kill your power   that is not acceptable as you call it illegal         

IF THAT IS THE CASE   then the local housing or electrical inspection department needs to know that,  forget the fire department if that is the case,    

Danger,   unplug the stove         if everything works      [I am guessing the other loads will stop or not work if you unplug the stove.    

Let me know what happens when the stove is unplugged,      you have smoke detectors and they work?    You have an adequate sized extinguisher or more than one?

I would not put that on the landlord or any landlord,      you can get a free smoke detector from any fire department,    I dont know of one that wont provide at least one,    you need at least  one in each bedroom,   one before the kitchen    of somewhere you can get to it   if there were a fire in the kitchen,     and maybe a small one in the kitchen should a pan catch fire,      DO NOT LEAVE ONE in the kitchen only     if the kitchen would catch fire  you could not get to it,    spend the money on smoke detectors and extinguishers      those devices are your safety net          

Someway  if the landlord is ether unwilling or unskilled and or the electrician is a so called electrician    you must have someone with knowledge look over your apartment,        

2 Unplug the stove until we find either a GOVT inspector, or decide whom we are going to get over to look,      
3 Get back to me right away Talk to the landlord   what are his intentions  how is this going to be fixed and when and by whom?    one 1  I need to know where the fuse or breaker panel is, two 2 I want to know what your husband was fussing with, three 3   I want to know what happens with the stove unplugged, four 4   detector[s] first  at least one in each bedroom and one in the kitchen   or between kitchen and living room,      new good batteries  even if you use a powered detector[s]    get those first or check the ones you have,    then get the extinguishers    at least one all purpose and one, and small one for the kitchen,    that can be last but lets see what all we need to do first       wbwill@sbcglobal.net    use my personal email   faster way to get to me        

lot to read  but you have a lot of issues          stove unplugged  I feel better about the danger issue,        anything else going on?    dont stick your finger or anything in an outlet  but you can feel the cover plates   outlets and switches    all     any warm?

You can even use a contact thermometer     any switch plates or outlet covers that are warmet than the ambient temperature   [temperature of the room]   that is more than a degree or two warmer,  have that circuit shut off,    anything hot?     ANY smells of anything hot or burning,     at all?    anytime?

Get back to me ASAP          

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: There is a panel box in my apartment but there is a main box for all the apartments, which is in another tenants apartment. If the stove is unplugged it will shut the lights off. I really appreciate all the knowledgeable information. We have a working fire alarm and there is a fire extinguisher in the hallway. They fire department made them put it there because the apartment across from me had a fire three months ago, shortly after I moved in. The Landlord informed me, he will be coming today with an Electrician at 3:00. Its a different one from the last guy he brought. Hopefully we will be in good hands today..I can't thank-you enough for your help. FIRE scares me so much

Well I have been through two fires and trust me you are justified in being cautious.

IF they put a buildimg main in one apartment and it meets local code, that is fine,  that would make all the rest sub panels,    now  in your panel is there another smaller main   ?

Again that is a code issue, but most have a smaller main in each sub panel to kill everything in one apartment if needed,    

So the lights go out if the stove is unplugged,   that tells you right there something is open, and the stove connection either back feeds the open,       not right but not hugely dangerous, or the kind of thing that would be getting hot and starting a fire,  

Matter of fact most new surge protectors are Line to Neutral   protected,    what that does is open the circuit in the event of a surge          so it is kind of the same thing     in electrical principle,   NOT RIGHT    but probably if there is a best kind of problem    this sounds like it

So you can probably ease up on the worry a bit,      

What did your husband play with to make things work?  Even for a short while?

Lets see what this new electrician has to say,     It has to be an open neutral somewhere,   

very COMMON problem      in houses and all kinds of electrical systems       

Most likely if he chases the stove outlet wiring back   which was replaced,   it should lead him to a loosened connection,      the wire was replaced from the panel to stove,  so either they copied a mistake or the problem was before the wiring to the stove,

But again not zomething like a heavy loaded circuit that is hot, or something like that   which could potentially cause a fire,          at least from all we have discovered,

Stay in touch  I will walk you through this until you feel secure about it all  
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Will Babbitt


Electrical issues of all types, wiring, control, appliances, components, specialty in Electric MOTOR or APPARATUS trouble shooting, electric motors, electrical problems, single phase, three phase, DC, capacitors, elevator MG-Sets, modifications, reverse engineering, VFD Drives, single to three phase convertors. Repair of most any electrical/mechanical/electronic apparatus, OEM, AC, DC, Industrial Applications, Three phase, single phase failure mode, determining the root cause of the equipment failure BEFORE failure repeats, Antique appliances, electric motors, fans, ceiling fans, base mount fans, poor equipment performance, Modifications, habitual failures, vibration, redesign, obsolete issues, collectible items restored, rewinding. Owner of EMR Repair Inc www.emrrepair.com More information on electric motors, under Engineering/Motors Ask about any electrical or mechanical problems in the home, office, or even at your work. B2B or business to business CONSULTING I can do but it would be a much more complex issue, that would require a significant amount of time. repair@mearservice.com from there we can discuss and begin work on about anything. Industrial electric motors, controls, troubleshooting, vibration, alignment, any type of industrial or commercial electric/electrcical equipment For the home owner, renter, apartment if you have odd things going on, describe to me, photos are normally very helpful, appliances, heating and air conditioning issues, light switches, installation, DIY PROJECTS FOR THOSE NOT EDUCATED IN ELECTRICAL, we can do some things, but for safety and sanity reasons, I may refer you to a local electrician, and help you find one, help you with pricing and even speak directly with anyone you hire if you have issues,


Over thirty years with a major repair and sales company, VP of Operations, and former owner of my own specialty repair shops, MEAR Services local to Kansas City Missouri EMR Repair Inc., located in Kansas City Missouri, 2014 sold both businesses to JCI Industries, Lee's Summit Missouri wbabbitt@jciind.com Evaluation and repair of electrical/mechanical apparatus. Electrical and mechanical repairs, trouble shooting including, vibration and balance issues. About.com provides this service, and the huge costs to provide help on about any subject. They provide the servers, the people to vet the experts, costs that would be the same as operating a good sized business, They should be appreciated for what they do, the huge costs and the great help they provide for free, Electric motor questions, can be answered here but there is a dedicated category that has other experts to help and add to a solution. Other common questions, are noises in the walls, breakers tripping, devices not starting or shutting down for no apparent reason, smoke alarms buzzing, thermostat change outs, or sizing wire or needing information for a new project, but anything can be resolved, anything, with enough effort and patience, DIY, with electrical is possible, but in most cases the use of a simple ohm meter or volt meter is needed, they can be purchased at any hardware store for a few bucks. If you have smoke, or smell smoke, don't be writing me, call 911 the Fire Department has no problem looking for smoke smells, better then spraying water on a blazing fire. DO NOT GET CAUGHT INVESTIGATING AND TRAPPED IN A BASEMENT LOOKING FOR A BLOWER FAILING< As to the tip jar, it is up to you, it is appreciated, every expert spends out of pocket that I know, we spend on IP time, computer wear, printing documents, books, and of course our time, but if we prevent a $400 service call, we did well,

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10 plus years, various Technical Schools, followed by Industrial College Credit and non Credit Courses, electronics courses, experience in most any electrical apparatus, electric motors and generators, AC OR DC, fractional to above 5000HP, other electrical apparatus, slip rings, sleeve [plain] bearings, lubrication, identification-no data plate, control components, service and sales. I have continued night schools for decades, the list is extensive. I have been in the business of repairing most anything with wires or mechanical parts for decades, I have some helpful hints and directions you won't have to dig up. Or hopefully not have to pay a huge service call invoice to find.

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