Monday, August 6, 2007

My turn to catch up on photos

As I promised here nearly a month ago, I am finally getting around to posting the photos from the Oregon State Parks electrical nightmare.

Here is the outlet that first clued us in to the problem, described in this post.

The scorch marks, most prevalent around the "hot" slot, are from ohmic heating, and the melting of the molded rubber end of our 10-gauge shore cord. I took this photo in the daylight the next morning, as we were getting ready to leave. The cord end was melted on to the outlet, and required a good tug to separate them.

Note also that this is a 5-15R duplex receptacle, nominally rated for 15 amps, but the dedicated circuit breaker next to it is a 20-amp model. Really, they should have used a simplex 5-20R receptacle for this application.

This next photo shows the "junction box" servicing this outlet, and mounted somewhat below it on the pedestal:

The size and shape of this box, and the flip-front door, suggest to me that this once housed the breaker/receptacle for this site, and it was a 50-amp model. Why else would there be two legs of power, run with #4 wire? Clearly, the large wires continue on to another site (or maybe several), and I am guessing that eventually they figured out that if two 50-amp rigs powered up at the same time, they'd forever be resetting breakers back at the main panel. So they just downsized every site in the park to 20-amp.

Notice that they have simply lugged the input and output together, and, additionally, have ganged a pair of 14-gauge wires to service the new outlet above. Technically, this is a code violation, as there is no protection for the 14-gauge wire between this connection (which is likely protected by a 50-amp or larger main breaker) and the 20-amp breaker in the smaller box above it. I'm guessing, though, that I could have unwrapped these lugs and gotten myself 50-amp, 240-volt service for the night. (Not worth the grief, though.)

Not wanting history to repeat itself, when next we encountered this setup, described in this post, I immediately opened up the box (in the daylight, this time), and found this:

You will immediately notice that the neutral is oversized, and the installer has separated several strands, twisted them, and inserted them into the Quickwire terminal, which, unfortunately, is only designed for #14 solid wire.

A couple of the neutral strands have been haphazardly tucked under one of the screw terminals, but without the required "fishhook" wrap around the screw. And still other strands are simply cut off.

Harder to see in this photo is the fact that the hot wire, although properly sized at #14, is also stranded, and has had the ends soldered. The thus stiffened end has then been inserted into the Quickwire terminal, which is an accident waiting to happen. Normal heating of the terminal will cause the solder to become soft, and then the stranded wires will loosen in the press-fit terminal, causing a loose connection and more ohmic heating.

I spent the next five minutes rewiring this outlet, using the screw terminals and proper 3/4 wraps around the screws. Technically, I should have put spade or ring crimp terminals on the stranded wires, then secured those to the screws, but I didn't think the State of Oregon was going to supply me with crimp connectors for the project.

Here I am doing the re-wire in broad daylight. The guy in the Lazy-Daze in the left foreground came out to give me grief about the whole thing.

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