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Old 01-19-2004, 11:27 PM   #1
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electric outlet

hi, had this experience today 1hr before i left for work. my reef tank was on all lights, ext. 1100 watts. the 3 prong adaptor going into the wall outlet made a sizzel noise, after looking at it one prong was black also the plastic casing, the power surge strips end was black on one prong also. this has been running like this for 1 yr, minis 100watts or so for the little ad on's. i have the tank on 1, 15 amp circuit, my 500watt ballast is only 5amp. any ideas on a safer hook up? thanks walt.
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:37 PM   #2
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Is there anyway it could have been some SW dripped? You have drip loops on everything?
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Old 01-19-2004, 11:57 PM   #3
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no,all my strips are hung on the wall above any loop, the plug itself is away and also above the floor from the cord. this happend the same way with my ac. the 3 prong adapter had 1 prong black, but the ac cord was not affected.
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Old 01-20-2004, 12:14 AM   #4
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You probably have the cheap outlets...that's what they usually put in when a house or apt is built. They'll handle a load close to what they're rated for a while, then they smoke. I'd replace them with the heavier commercial outlets. You can get them at Home Depot or Lowes. I forget the amp rating on them...20 I think. They have heavier contacts and jumpers. If possible, I would pull another circuit and split the load. If you're pulling close to 15 amps across a 15 amp breaker, it'll likely fail in time too. Another thing you might check is the gauge of wire in the cord going from the wall outlet to the strip. If it's light gauge wire...#16 for instance, you might buy some heavier SJ cable and make up a heavier cord. I'd use #12. The light wire offers more resistance and heats up. JMHO.
One last thing...check all the connections in the breaker box. Especially the neutral strip.
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Old 01-20-2004, 12:29 AM   #5
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the outlet is old, i will replace it. the strip is a 15 amp belcon surgemaster, i got it for the timers, why are they so big. is a surge power strip needed or could i go with reg strip? i will try to get 20 amp strip if i can find one. this house is old all i got is the 15 amps in the basement. this outlet is the only one in use for the circuit.
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Old 01-20-2004, 01:31 AM   #6
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I'm using regular strips on all my tanks, but I'm not pulling near the power you are. If you have an empty space in the breaker box, I would think seriously about pulling another circuit though...shouldn't be hard to do in the basement. You can make your own power strip using PVC conduit, plastic boxes, and regular outlets. That way, you can use heavy duty receptacles and heavier wire. It ain't pretty, but it works.
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Old 01-20-2004, 02:31 PM   #7
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FWIW. I would recommend that you stick to using a surge protector. This offers surge and (in some cases) dip protection from power fluctuations. If all your house circuits are 15A and you can tap or add another one and split the load, then go for it. Or as Logan suggests, if you have access, you can run a 20A circuit with 12AWG romex to the tank location and install GFCI outlets (get good ones) for your tank connections. The sizzling you hear is the housing for the receptacle frying. Continued high loads on standard circuits will over time, fry the housing and contact points. Under no circumstances however, should you install a 20A breaker on your existing house wiring. This is a major fire hazard. HTH 8)
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Old 01-20-2004, 06:18 PM   #8
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I had an issue with a non-functional outlet one time on my fish tank. I wasn't there to see what happened, it just wasn't working when I came home. My father is an electrician, and apparently the outlet had been "speed wired." If you look at the back of your outlet, there is a chance that yours was, too. Apparently, (and I haven't seen this) there are two ways to wire some outlets... speed wire and whatever the normal way is. If you see a couple of clips that are holding the wires from the wall, that's speed wiring and it frequently fails under a high load. The other way, I believe, uses a couple of screws to connect the wires. This, according to my father, is a much more dependable way to connect your outlet. This is all hearsay, but it's indirectly coming from someone who knows their stuff. I don't know if it's applicable, but FWIW, there it is.
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Old 01-20-2004, 10:50 PM   #9
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Just .02 more cents to add. You're right about the "speed wiring". That's when you strip the wires back about 1/2" and stick them in the holes in the back of the receptacle. Better by far to use the screws on the side to connect the wires.
Also, I'm not sure the powerwstrip type surge protectors are going to do you any good on an aquarium. These things will only trap a large surge (and they are not efficient at doing that) and will do nothing if voltage drops. If you really need surge and brownout protection, a UPS is the only way to go. If you get a large one, it gives you some running time on the battery in the event of a power failure. You could run a couple of powerheads for a long time on one of these. Definitely don't up the breaker size on the existing circuit. As Sam mentioned, this is a great way to burn your house down. I should clear up the statement I made about breakers failing under rated load. A 15 amp breaker won't carry the full 15A for long. It will fail. The only viable solution to this is to replace it with another 15A breaker and reduce the load on the circuit.
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Old 01-21-2004, 12:04 AM   #10
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thank's for all the valuble info. i was turning off the breakers in the basement 1 at a time and i have another circuit on the other side of my living room. i will use the 5amp mh/pc ballast on the 1 circiut, and the pumps,heater, ext on the one on the other side of the room. i replaced the outlet, old yes but not speed wired. i have my 90 amp gen outside with an extension cord going to my tank, in the event off power outage i just unplug tank from wall and plug into extension cord, this was a life saver over the summer when the power went out for 5hrs. 8) kudos for all walt.
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