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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While working in my basement HT project, I was taking a break and watching a 19" TV that I had placed down there. All of a sudden, I heard a cracking/zapping noise coming from my existing electrical panel. In the spaces (cracks really) between the breakers, I could see sparks. After a couple of seconds, it stopped.


My first thought is that perhaps moisture was getting into the panel. I took off the cover and could see no visible water, but this one once a problem in my house (water was coming in the service entrance during very heavy rains).


Does anyone know what could be going on here? How concerned should I be? FYI, my existing project is all in a new subpanel, so there was not much work done the existing panel.


I will bring this up to the electrician, but I was curious if anyone else had some knowledge to share.


Thanks,

- Hal
 

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If your wires aren't screwed into the breakers right, they will have a bad connection and spark. Maybe the breakers aren't clipping into the panel correctly. These are just guesses BTW.


My mother had an old shop and she had sparks in her panel. I called up an electrician friend to come and check it out. The service feed into the panel was loose. The screw holding one of tne of the hot leg wires had come loose of been installed loose and was creating an arc. The whole panel had to be replaced.
 

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Unless you had an incredible surge, which should have damaged at least some of your electronics, it sounds like there is a loose connection. You should have noticed some interference on the TV during the arcing, due to RF noise.


Some places to look are where the breakers stab onto the bus, where the main breaker is attached to the bus, where the service conductors attach to the maion brealker or lugs, and where the individual circuits attach to their breakers.


Don't neglect the neutral connections as well. Again, individual circuits as well as the main neutral-lug connection.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I'll check out all of those. I assumed that it was condensation or something in the panel, but it is probably a loose connection.


- Hal
 

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Hal


Not sure of what kind of panel you have, but from what you have described it sounds like a fridge compressor or other cycling load that has a heavy draw. When you take out the breakers ( main off) look very closely at both the breaker and bus as a loose contact point can be as small as pin head and as large as the bus tab totally fried. Look for any signs of heat or discoloration. Replace questionable breaker(s) and check everything for tight as stated above.
 

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Note: If your panel is a Federal Pacific (or other Federal offshoot), it's a fire hazard and should be replaced soonest.
 

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Removing the panel cover after such an incident was a dangerous thing to do. The arcing could have resulted in a high resistance ground, and if a live wire had been touching the cover you removed, as soon as the cover broke contact with the other metal in the box, you would have become the preferred path for the stray electricity. Always wear eye and/or face protection, and at least dry leather gloves when removing your panel cover.


All electrical connections should be clean, tight, and dry.


Arcing faults should be pretty easy to identify.

Kill the power, work by flashlight, number all of the wires and breakers, remove every breaker and inspect where the breaker attaches to the electrical buss.

Look closely to make sure the buss isn't loose, or tracking.

Smell each circuit breaker - Faulted electrical components have a very distinct odor.

Check where each wire enters the circuit breaker box. Each hole should have a bushing to protect the wires from the sharp edges created when holes were cut into the box. See if there are any burn marks around this area.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Larry Fine

Note: If your panel is a Federal Pacific (or other Federal offshoot), it's a fire hazard and should be replaced soonest.
No kidding. One of the things we did during our recently-completed remodel was to toss our original FP panel on the trash heap.


I'd had already replaced many of the breakers with new, FP-compatible units (read: non-commodity and very expensive), but I still sleep alot better with that old panel gone.


As to Hal's problem, since new problems are likely to be repeats of previous problems, I would think water coming in the SE during rain would be the most likely candidate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have a Siemens panel and breakers, so I guess I am good there. You guys got me freaked out :) so the electrican will be notified tomorrow. So far, I have not see this happen again.


- Hal
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by nobail
I have a Siemens panel and breakers, so I guess I am good there. You guys got me freaked out :) so the electrican will be notified tomorrow. So far, I have not see this happen again.


- Hal
Noting the picture of you with that beautiful baby, I for one am glad that you called the electrician. Having had some training as an electrician a long time ago, I distinctly remember always being cautioned to be alert to the nature of electricity. In a heartbeat, it can be your worst nightmare.
 

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Sparks from your electrical panel - big deal.


You should have seen the sparks fly when my wife stumbled across my collection of receipts from onecall, projector people, home depot, et al.


Sorry folks, couldn't resist - now back to your regularly scheduled program


Steven
 

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I was in the same boat early this year. I had a Federal Pacific in my house.

I changed the panel eventually but it wasn't until I needed a bigger panel as it was rated at 150A.

I called the county and several larger electric contractors as well as insurance. To date, there is not even one single fire related to Federal Pacific. The only fault is said to be a small delay for the breakers to trip but not enough to create a fire.


If you have one of these panels, be aware that replacements is not as straight forward as seems. Your 30+ yr house needs to be updated for wiring and receptacle before panel replacement. At least that what is like where I live. So be aware of the total expense involved.
 

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ouch! I really did not get the connection until I saw the term "stab lok" This is a rare system in my neck of the woods but I have done a good bit of remodeling in the past couple years for a customer with that box including some electrical expansion. I will definately read further on this. Thanks Larry..........
 
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