Ooof!! - Burning smell.......wtf?!

mrblotto

Golden Member
Jul 7, 2007
1,647
116
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So there I am, minding my own business. We have a crew out replacing the garage floor concrete (It has/had a huge crack in it and had sunk about 1".

Anyhow, I'm watching Youtube when I smell a faint burning smell. Could it be the garage peeps machinery? I ask one of the dudes. Nope - they're using a gas powered generator on wheels to power their jackhammer, so that's not it. Stumped, I wander back inside via the laundry room. The smell is a bit stronger. The dryer is on so I get my head closer and sniff - nope, not it. I walk up the 2 steps into the kitchen dining room and the smell is definitely stronger there. There's an old(er/est?) breaker/fusebox there. I think it's the original one from when the house was built in the 30's or 40's. I put my hand on the cover - dayum it's quite warm!
Now, sufficiently alarmed, I open the cover and touch one of the.........uhhhhh....I dont know what they're called. Big plastic blocks about 3" X 4" with a handle on them for removal/yanking out. Danged near burned my hand!
So I turn off the dryer 'cause it's the only thing I know is running (except for fridge and HVAC, the wife's computer and a lamp), then retrieve my Flir camera and take a few snaps..............

Laundry_Room_Panel_1_Dryer_on.jpegLaundry_Room_Panel_2_Dryer_on.jpegLaundry_Room_Panel_3_Dryer_on.jpegLaundry_Room_Panel_4_Dryer_Off.jpegLaundry_Room_Panel_5_Dryer_Off.jpegPanel.jpeg

As you can (hopefully) see, the temp went down after I turned off the dryer.

Now, knowing this......I'm guessing the next thing may be a call to an electrician?

There are 3 panels in this house - the original one above, and 2 more (1 newer and another a couple years old) down in the basement.

Basement Panels.jpegNewer_Basement Panel.jpegNewest_Basement Panel.jpeg

Why the old-timey one was even kept connected is beyond me. I'm guessing it was cheaper *shrugs*

At any rate, what are my options ATHG? I can at least pull the one big connector out (or both - 1 at a time) and see what it powers, and also check it for damage. I'm thinking checking all the connections in there would be a good idea. But it's so old-timey I'd rather not have that one connected at all. I reckon it would be a pretty penny to transfer all that stuff to the basement 'newest' panel (obviously not as expensive as a new house tho lol)

I'll definitely be contacting an electrician but would like to be somewhat 'in the know' when he starts telling me this and that. Not that I dont trust 'em, I'd just like to know what is what so I can understand it way ahead of time. Thus my post to y'all :)

For the time being Im going to take a look-see at the big block connector things (and the screw in fuses as well - although I think they're all good.

Thank you for your time!
Blah-Toe
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
62,050
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With the apparent age of that panel, I'd opt to have it replaced with a more modern breaker panel. Could be anything from a loose or corroded wire or connector to a failing fuse block to the wiring just being overloaded.
 
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mrblotto

Golden Member
Jul 7, 2007
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With the apparent age of that panel, I'd opt to have it replaced with a more modern breaker panel. Could be anything from a loose or corroded wire or connector to a failing fuse block to the wiring just being overloaded.

For some reason (prolly cause I wasn't thinking straight - like I ever do? lol) that thought didn't even come to me....smh. Thank you BoomerD for the information. I'll be calling an electrician tomorrow to get it taken care of!
 

pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
20,944
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Damn you are lucky you haven't had a fire yet. That sucker has been cooking for a while as looking at the discoloration and black around it.

What usually causes this indication in a fuse panel is a loose connection which acts as a heater and disapates energy as heat.

Get a new panel installed in the place of that one and not worry about it anymore is the way to go. Better to pay now than later after the fire.
 

sdifox

No Lifer
Sep 30, 2005
93,645
14,275
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Is the old fuse panel still useful? You could just eliminate it completely.

Wait it's now a subpanel, so just get a new breaker subpanel to replace that fusebox.
 
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mrblotto

Golden Member
Jul 7, 2007
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One thing I didn't think of yesterday - why didn't the breaker on the 'main' fusebox in the basement trip? There's a breaker that clearly says 'old service panel laundry room' on it (although I haven't verified that's what it's actually connected to)
 

crashtech

Lifer
Jan 4, 2013
10,434
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One thing I didn't think of yesterday - why didn't the breaker on the 'main' fusebox in the basement trip? There's a breaker that clearly says 'old service panel laundry room' on it (although I haven't verified that's what it's actually connected to)
Because the bad connection in the old panel was just acting like a resistor and the current flow in your dryer circuit was falling, not rising.

Breakers can't save you from everything.
 

waffleironhead

Diamond Member
Aug 10, 2005
6,856
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It looks like that failing panel is now a sub panel fed 60 amp 220 from the 200Amp new main in the basement.

Id pull that "Range" fuse block that is feeding the dryer and see what the cartridge fuses look like behind it.
 
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pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
20,944
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One thing I didn't think of yesterday - why didn't the breaker on the 'main' fusebox in the basement trip? There's a breaker that clearly says 'old service panel laundry room' on it (although I haven't verified that's what it's actually connected to)


It wasn't drawing excessive current. You have a high resistance point in that box acting like a heater. Higher circuit resistance will cause a reduction in current. But that increased resistance will dissipate the lost current as heat.

Ohms law. Voltage divided by Resistance = Current
 

PowerEngineer

Diamond Member
Oct 22, 2001
3,532
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Well, not exactly. Higher resistance will tend to reduce the current given a steady driving voltage, although motor loads (with their variable impedance) can complicate that picture a bit. The real issue here is that the energy dissipated by resistance is the value of the resistance times the square of the current passing through it. Connections within the breaker box are supposed to have very low resistance and therefore should produce little heat. Worn, corroded, or dirty connections can have problematically higher resistances that create much more heat for the same amount of current flowing through them.

As others have already suggested, you should either replace that old fuse box with a new one or transfer those circuits to breakers added to the other two boxes.
 

pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
20,944
4,167
126
Well, not exactly. Higher resistance will tend to reduce the current given a steady driving voltage, although motor loads (with their variable impedance) can complicate that picture a bit. The real issue here is that the energy dissipated by resistance is the value of the resistance times the square of the current passing through it. Connections within the breaker box are supposed to have very low resistance and therefore should produce little heat. Worn, corroded, or dirty connections can have problematically higher resistances that create much more heat for the same amount of current flowing through them.

As others have already suggested, you should either replace that old fuse box with a new one or transfer those circuits to breakers added to the other two boxes.


I am trying not to over complicate the issue.
 

Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
19,853
4,716
136
You need an actual electrician that knows what he's doing. There is no reason to have the secondary panel next to the new service.
The wiring randomly hanging around the panels screams "hack", and has to be protected since it's below 8'.
I don't see any #6 wire coming out of the main, though it could be hidden.
I'd look for a jumper across the dryer circuit fuse, and penny's behind the others.

I'd like to see a pic of the internals of that old sub. My hunch is it's cooked from top to bottom.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
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532
126
While I agree the two panels next to each other is silly my guess is the panel to the right used to be fed by the OG panel that is fried. At some point it was added during a remodel or whatever. Then when the whole service was upgraded to 200A the big panel to the left was added and the sub was just retained as a sub.

Again, only speculation but it's the only reasonable explanation that doesn't include complete incompetence.
 

mrblotto

Golden Member
Jul 7, 2007
1,647
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While I agree the two panels next to each other is silly my guess is the panel to the right used to be fed by the OG panel that is fried. At some point it was added during a remodel or whatever. Then when the whole service was upgraded to 200A the big panel to the left was added and the sub was just retained as a sub.

Again, only speculation but it's the only reasonable explanation that doesn't include complete incompetence.
Correct. The biggest panel was installed a couple years ago as part of a reno by the previous owner in 2019 or 2020.

As an aside - I removed the 'block' fuse for an inspection. Yikes! The thing was fried! Still waiting on callbacks from electricians....go figure.

You need an actual electrician that knows what he's doing. There is no reason to have the secondary panel next to the new service.
The wiring randomly hanging around the panels screams "hack", and has to be protected since it's below 8'.
I don't see any #6 wire coming out of the main, though it could be hidden.
I'd look for a jumper across the dryer circuit fuse, and penny's behind the others.

I'd like to see a pic of the internals of that old sub. My hunch is it's cooked from top to bottom.
The 2nd panel was made into a sub after the reno I'm thinking
Is conduit the right answer to enclosing the romex?
I'll take a look next time I'm down there to see if there's any 6# (or bigger) between the 2 boxes. I believe 6# + requires 1 1/2" conduit whereas 12# Romex can use 1". Not positive tho.
What about Romex that is stapled along the joists on the basement celing? I can't find a common answer on the interwebs.....maybe a state-dependent thing?
 

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NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
27,011
532
126
You know, the contacts on that block don't look bad. It looks to me like fuse was about to blow (doing it's job).

It wouldn't be a terrible idea to clean things up, install a pair of new fuses and see what happens. Perhaps something is on the fritz with the dryer.
 
Last edited:

Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
19,853
4,716
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You know, the contacts on that block don't look bad. It looks to me like fuse was about to blow (doing it's job).

It wouldn't be a terrible idea to clean things up, install a pair of new fuses and see what happens. Perhaps something is on the fritz with the dryer.
Looks to me like the fuse partially failed and that was creating huge resistance and generating heat. If he try's your idea, I'd recommend a 30amp fuse.
 

crashtech

Lifer
Jan 4, 2013
10,434
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My dryer circuit is 30A. I've been told that 30A is "code" for electric dryer circuits, but I don't know that for sure.
 

MtnMan

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2004
8,590
7,615
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As a volunteer firefighter for 30+ years, I recall responding to a number of house fires that originated in the service panel box.

Get that damn thing looked at, fixed, by a reputable and licensed electrical.
 
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Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
19,853
4,716
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As a volunteer firefighter for 30+ years, I recall responding to a number of house fires that originated in the service panel box.

Get that damn thing looked at, fixed, by a reputable and licensed electrical.
The panel should have been eliminated when the new service was installed, or replaced with a new one. Panels are cheap, fires are expensive, lives are priceless.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
27,011
532
126
Panels are cheap, electricians are expensive;) But replacing a sub is something I would do myself with little hesitation.
 

Greenman

Lifer
Oct 15, 1999
19,853
4,716
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Panels are cheap, electricians are expensive;) But replacing a sub is something I would do myself with little hesitation.
Compared to the cost of a fire, electricians are downright reasonable.
Replacing a sub is a fairly elementary piece of electrical work, on the order of replacing brakes on a car.