A recent circuit troubleshooting job at 44xx Locust St. probably started when a plug-in electric space heater overloaded a knob-and-tube circuit serving a dozen locations besides the one where the heater was connected. Space heaters typically consume 100% of permissible circuit load, although when connected to a knob-and-tube location, they may be sharing with a dozen or more lights and other receptacles.
The overload might have had no consequence if a wire-nutted splice in a basement ceiling junction had been better made-up. Unevenness in the wire twist combined with absence of any metal bonding sleeve inside an old ceramic wire-nut probably allowed oxidation to partially insulate the spliced wires from each other. When the heavy heater load subjected this poor connection to overload, the connection failed entirely — probably due to arcing and burning of the tiny contact-points that remained. A problem such as this could be identified before it manifested as a complete fault, by use of a loading receptacle tester to analyze voltage drop under a load of 12A or 15A (see FAQ-Voltage Drop by SureTest(TM)).
Much of Philadelphia’s housing stock is more than 100 years old. Whether it’s a tiny row-house, a trinity, a grand victorian twin or a free-standing home from before the Civil War, houses built before World War II will tend to have some frail circuits in them that may need special attention — or replacement.
Why does my space heater/vacuum cleaner keep tripping its breaker?
Why do lights in my bedroom go out when I turn on the vacuum on the first floor?
Fuse cabinet as distribution panel
Many homes in West Philadelphia feature a distribution panel remote from the main service equipment. In older installations, this may be a wooden cabinet with a picture-framed wooden or glass-pane door, usually located in a stair- or hallway, and lined with a felt-like friable material that may be asbestos.
Several fuse-holder modules provide for branch circuit over-current protection. Unlike with modern wiring, the fuses may protect both the grounded (neutral) and ungrounded (‘hot’) conductors of 120V circuits, so a single circuit may have two fuses in it.
These fuse cabinets may not meet the demands of modern electrical usage
Customer Resource Blog Categories
Off-site Links ->
- Annapolis Home Inspection, LLC Aluminum branch circuits, homes 1965-1972
- ComplianceAndSafety.com OSHA Electrical Safety Training
- Electric Monk TV (YouTube) Video channel for PhillyLicensedElectrician.com Robert Monk
- EnergyConservation HowTo A tinkerer genius discusses energy conservation and his ladder system for accessing the attic (where a lot of energy-saving work happens).
- PennFuture Energy Center Energy and energy efficiency news for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Phila area rife with building efficiency upgrade opportunities Philadelphia Inquirer article discusses recent study showing Philadelphia’s inner-ring suburbs stand to save from energy conservation retrofits.
- Philadelphia Row-house Manual A design, maintenance, and modifications manual for our most widely-used form of housing.
- Robert Monk Robert Monk’s personal blog
- SolarCities (DOE) Solar PV Levelized Cost Interactive Comparator Simple graph compares ‘levelized cost’ of energy from solar PV to conventional grid rates, with a time-slider interactive feature.
- The Circuit Detective – Solve Home Electrical Problems Yourself! Electrical troubleshooting procedures pitched to homeowners.
- The Energy Co-op Blog from a leading alternative energy provider in PECO territory, includes fun conservation tips.
- Weatherization: the anti-Solyndra Salon.com article praising the continued success of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), low-income energy-savings and job-creation.
- West Philly Tool Library Official site of WPTL, Philly’s own community tool lending library: like a book library, but tools!
- WestPhillyLocal .com Site name say sit all.
- Bartram's Gardens Founded in Philadelphia’s colonial era, today the gardens continue pioneering in horticulture and agriculture with a variety of herbs, trees and other vegetation in an arboretum/gardens on the Schulkill River banks, and a new farm abutting sadly neglected
- HiddenCity Philadelphia Surprising places it takes an adventurer to discover; events, too.
- Philly Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Schedule City of Philadelphia dates and places for disposing of spent batteries, CFL lamps, unused paint and cleaning products, etc. LovePhilly: don’t pour these in the drain or send them out with the trash.
- Reading Terminal Market Purveyors of fine foods and foodie stuff, all under one roof downtown under the PA Convention Center
- Secret Garden on the Rails Jacques-Jean Tiziou shows some dramatic natural and urban and naturalized-urban scenes along abandoned rails of Philadelphia
- Sketch Burger, Fishtown A vegan-friendly burger joint with a #1 in Philly contender beef burger, best fries that somehow stay fresh for 1/2 hour while you tackle burger, and a vegan cafe vibe of friendly folks.
- WXPN: Philly sings in key of love Love songs by Philly artists