color cycle (slow)

Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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Snap, fzzzt
color cycle (slow)
The electrical wiring in this house is so reliable.

Something I decided was worth the trouble to set up: Bluetooth access to the LAN in my house so I could browse the Internet on my PDA via Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi, in large part for battery consumption reasons. I got it set up, but discovered that although the Bluetooth radio I have as a USB dongle attached to my computer is plenty strong, my PocketPC can't quite broadcast to the opposite corner of the house; my laptop was in such a corner, so my father and I decided to move my work area closer to the center of the house. I haven't yet tested to see how good my signal is now.

Upon plugging my computer in, there was an interesting "snap" noise, a distinct fzzzt! sort of sound, and then the BEEP BEEP BEEP of the battery backup power supply in the room complaining that it, like the now-clockless DVD player and now-off floor fan, had no power.

A romp through the five circuit board panels in the room revealed that none of them had flipped.

Insert frantic running about here until we discovered that the power outlet had its own breaker. But that should just be for that outlet, right? That would explain having no power to the computer and fan, but the UPS was on the other side of the room. Surely, despite all the electrical problems with this house (including light switches that throw sparks across the room, resulting in the first of three times the bathroom attached to my bedroom has been rennovated), the moronic electricians who set up the wiring in the family room couldn't have connected all the power supplies in series so this breaker blocked the other ones, could they?

My father reset the breaker. With a click, the UPS began recharging its battery as the DVD player flashed a now-familiar 12:00.

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They can't be in series. That would result in nothing working at all. Any outlet with nothing plugged into it, or the item plugged in and turned off, would stop the current flow at all the outlets. More importantly, though, if they were all in series the voltage at any given point would be so low that most things wouldn't work at all. Lights would be dim, electric motors would fail to start or would overheat, etc.

My guess is that the "circuit breaker" in the individual outlet is in fact a ground fault protector. It pops out when a ground fault occurs, and you have an intermittent or high impedance ground there. Or the ground may not really exist and merely be shunted to the ground side of the power lines (not at all good.) I can imagine several kinds of wiring faults that could cause the symptoms you describe if a ground fault protector were tripped. Some are fire hazards or can produce the danger of serious shock or electrocution. If you or your father aren't well versed in house wiring, a competent electrician should probably examine that wiring. (It sounds like an amateur job to me.)

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