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Garage Wiring Fire

Discussion in 'Model S' started by AC1K, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. AC1K

    AC1K Member

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  2. muleferg

    muleferg Member

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    This happened in NC 2 years ago with a Volt. Garage fire started by other source. I remember they sent out a notice not to charge your car with the chargers installed under the Duke give-a-plan. 75 for Leaf and 75 to Volt.
    We also lost a local man wed. In an accident. Ran off the road. The vehicle (ICE) flipped over on its top, and caught fire.

    zerogas.jpg
     
  3. Mhotep

    Mhotep Member

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    Sad. This all my wife needs to see. She already is scared of the car. Will not let me charge the car in the garage. Hope she doesn't see this.
     
  4. bonnie

    bonnie Oil is for sissies.

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    Moderator note: Changed the thread title to be slightly less *inflammatory*. :)
     
  5. imherkimer

    imherkimer Member

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    This is probably the real issue:

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/investigations/Federal-Pacific-Electric-Circuit-Breakers-Fire-Danger-I-Team-149541115.html

    My father's house burned down because of faulty wiring in the garage. No EV within miles!
    Just two months ago my sister and her husband had to cancel purchase of a home because they discovered this kind of panel was installed, and an electrician told them that if the panel is not replaced, they need to stay far form the house!
    Owner refused to replace or offer discount for replacement. Electrician said it is a fire waiting to happen. So they walked, and wisely.

    Don't know if it was a Federal Pacific panel or not in this instance, but there were a LOT of homes built with these some years ago and there are still incidents cropping up frequently.
     
  6. Zextraterrestrial

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    that is just plain silly

    does she let you use an oven or a stove in the house? or other appliances?
     
  7. Mhotep

    Mhotep Member

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    Lol. I know. Just have to give her time. She doesn't adjust well to new things. Good news is hospital is putting in a charger for me.
     
  8. Kraius

    Kraius Member

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    Heh, my previous home had a Federal Pacific Electric box. They aren't kidding about how shoddy/dangerous it is. Nothing ever caught fire but we did notice once that the breaker never tripped on a circuit when it should have (luck in that specific situation kept the house from burning down). Had no idea how dangerous it was until I was selling the house and had to replace the whole unit (we pre-inspected it ourselves to find out what we'd have to fix before putting on the market). The electrician was surprised that the house still had one after all these years and hadn't caught fire yet. The company that made it was sued out of existence back in the 80's.

    Electricity isn't some mysterious and unpredictable force. This garage fire is probably the result of an incorrectly wired circuit. I'll bet it was a DIY job from someone whose swapped out outlets before and figured he could save $200 and do it himself. We'll see more of these as more people start adding larger circuits to their garages.
     
  9. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    Installing a NEMA 14-50 circuit is indeed a DIY job if you have the basic skills needed to do so, I don't think a professional is always needed. There are a few mistakes that are commonly seen, though -- continuous loads require nice, tight, properly-torqued connections. Your general-purpose receptacles in your wall are going to be generally ok even if the screws aren't nice and snug; not true with a continuous load of 40A; same thing if the wires aren't stripped to the correct length and reduces surface-area contact. Another one is cutting through the outer strands of copper when stripping the wire - those strands are required, and nicking them can cause significant heat generation.

    Perhaps this is a good time to plug the FAQ - it has a lot of basic information you'll need.
     
  10. ThosEM

    ThosEM Space Weatherman

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    We must have had one of those FPE breakers at our home in Scarborough, ME. On investigating why the clothes dryer wouldn't work, I found that the breaker had melted down/burned out completely. Easy replacement, but I sure am glad it didn't spread outside the breaker box...


     
  11. howardc64

    howardc64 Member

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    #11 howardc64, Dec 19, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
    Curious if there is any electricians on the forum that can provide some experienced feedback

    I do know the circuit breaker for my NEMA 14-50 socket is 50A and is the 2nd highest amperage circuit breaker in my panel. I do have a 70A breaker but it actually feeds a separate panel circuit inside my panel. Its called a split panel design. Basically has 2 separate circuits within 1 panel to attach feeds. Top circuit feeds higher amperage appliances (oven, dryer, furnace ...) while the lower panel feeds small amperage items (lighting). The 70A breaker on the top panel is there just to cut off the entire lower circuit. I think split panels doesn't meet code now. But back in 1980 when my house was built, the code in my area was "<= 6 breaker throws to cut off entire panel power". I think today's panels all have a single main cut off.

    Anyhow, back to my original question, other than my 70A split panel breaker which is really just cut off switch for the smaller feeds. 50A breaker is the biggest amp feed in my panel. Oven, furnace and everything else is lower amps at 30A.

    So the Tesla charger is drawing 40A for say 4 hours at night while we are sleeping and parked in the garage IS the highest current flow in the house. This doesn't automatically make it unsafe of course but just noting it is one of the highest if not the highest current draw for extended time periods.

    I hope I don't catch flake for this in a EV enthusiast forum but it seems while it is fair to claim battery fire has much lower energy release compared to gasoline equivalent, it is also fair to say "refueling" ICE cars at a gas station might be safer because it is done over a very short time period in much fewer controlled installations than a home owner's garage for an EV car. Of course the EV installations are lower than number of gasoline stations now simply due to lesser EV cars. But if the EV sales scales, the number of EV installation will far out number the gasoline stations.

    Again, a 40A flow doesn't itself make anything unsafe (Supercharges have much higher flow but benefits from high cost high grade everything installation). Just noting it is likely the highest current draw which likely amplifies the chance of fire for any wiring mistakes or manufacturing/material defects. And majority of that flow occurs at night while we are sleeping. I think most people would say... its not a good idea to turn on your electric oven on for 4 hours at night while you are sleeping even if we put nothing in it to burn to catch on fire. But then again, I think most people leave their electric dryer on for an hour or two after going to sleep with no concerns at all :)

    Anyhow, just a thought in an attempt to objectively view this issue with facts rather than emotional. But I'm no electrician and my facts might be wrong. Please correct my logic if you see any errors. Not bashing EV (I have a Tesla parked in my garage being charged every night :)), just trying to be objective on where the relative comparative risks are.
     
  12. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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  13. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    Official response from Tesla which actually came last night:

    Tesla is aware of this incident, which occurred over a month ago. Based on our inspection of the site, the car and the logs, we know that this was absolutely not the car, the battery or the charge electronics. There was a fire at the wall socket where the Model S was plugged in, but the car itself was not part of the fire. The cable was fine on the vehicle side; the damage was on the wall side. Our inspection of the car and the battery made clear that neither were the source and were in fact functioning normally after the incident. In addition, a review of the car’s logs showed that the battery had been charging normally, and there were no fluctuations in temperature or malfunctions within the battery or the charge electronics.

    All of the above information was provided to the journalists and editors at Reuters responsible for the article. It is therefore disappointing that they would choose to publish as “news” a misleading article about an event that occurred more than a month ago that was not caused by the car and that was already covered by the Orange County Register. It appears that their objective was simply to find some way to put the words “fire” and “Tesla” in the same headline. The journalists and editors who created the story have patently ignored hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries unequivocally caused by gasoline car fires, instead choosing to write about a garage fire where there were no injuries and the cause was clearly not the car.
     
  14. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    Yesterday's Reuter's article.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/18/us-autos-tesla-fire-idUSBRE9BH1J020131218


    OCR brief article from a month ago:
    Fire contained to garage near UCI | fire, garage, one - News - The Orange County Register

    Interestingly, the original HPC that Tesla built for the Roadster had a smoke detector interlock.
     
  15. jkliu47

    jkliu47 Member

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    And to quote a line from the GCR report:

    " There are roughly 150,000 fires a year in gasoline cars icon1.png , according to the National Fire Protection Association."

    I guess when it happens so often with ICE cars, its no longer newsworthy.
     
  16. markb1

    markb1 Active Member

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    I'm not at all worried about battery fire, but this type of fire concerns me a bit. We've seen a number of melted adapters, which seem probably due to defects in the UMC. There's also a possibility of the outlet wearing out, and providing a loose connection. This wouldn't be due to any flaw in Tesla's hardware, but rather an inherent risk in using a NEMA 14-50 receptacle. I really think Tesla should put a failsafe in the adapter end of the UMC.
     
  17. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    Just as the original Roadster HPC had a smoke detector interlock, I believe the original design for the Roadster UMC had a thermister interlock in the plug.
     
  18. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    I would suggest that TESLA be proactive with this and make part of the delivery of your vehicle a cursurary inspection of the plug and wiring where you will be charging your vehicle. A simple 10 minute inspection and tightening of connections could prevent this from happening to someone else. At the very least, the owner should have any questionable connections inspected before subjecting them to the continuous loads that the vehicle requires.
     
  19. howardc64

    howardc64 Member

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    #19 howardc64, Dec 19, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
    Interesting... Don't own a Roadster. Its HPC includes both a smoke detector and temperature sensor (thermister) shut off?

    I had a good friend with wiring experience help me with my garage connection. We put a NEMA 14-50 receptacle next to the panel, ran a 33 feet 14-50 extension cord (like an inch diameter thick!) to connect to the UMC. I'll avoid arguing whether this is code here :) However, using my hand to check the temperature while pulling 40A charge found the following

    - The UMC's cord between 14-50 connector and the UMC was the warmest. Not hot, but pretty warm
    - 50A circuit breaker was slightly warm
    - 33 feet 14-50 extension cord is cool as a cucumber.

    Seems reasonably clear the UMC's flexible cord is the lowest load carrying part of this system.
     
  20. Gizmotoy

    Gizmotoy Active Member

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    That... is a really fantastic idea. Including some kind of temperature-detecting circuitry in the adaptors would have increased cost, but speaking for myself, I'd pay a bit extra if it helped not burn my house down.

    There are limitations, of course. It could only detect issues directly at the plug, or those caused by not fully inserting the plug, but given the number of melted adaptors we've seen I'd say it's worth it. Even though the blame in this case doesn't lie with the car, it could have proactively prevented this.
     

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