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Test Switch in Electric Panel Does Not Work. Why?

Posted 03-17-2014 at 05:13 PM by electricalnovic

we have a breaker labeled 'Test Switch' at the bottom left of our electrical box. It contols outlets on the back porch and two bathrooms. Somtimes a heavy rain will cause an outlet on the back porch to get wet and the power goes out. When that happers, the 'Test Switch' becomes 'tripped'. After a day or so, I can switch it back, and everything is fine. Three days ago it rained, the power to those areas went off, but when I checked, the Test Switch had NOT
been tripped. I turned it off, and after three days everything is dry and the switch still won't won't allow current when I switch it back on.
1. do all panels have a test switch?
2. what is their purpose?
3. can they wear out?
4. can they be replaced without replacing the whole electrical panel?
thanks for any comments, help.
p.s. electrical box is about 30 years old
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  1. Old Comment
    1. no
    2. sounds like gfci circuit breaker
    3. maybe
    4. sure.

    bottom left "IN" panel.... if yes, it's a gfci breaker...(bath and exterior receptacles need to be gfci protected)

    The idea is to have a separate circ for bath .. someone ran outside receptacles off that breaker too.

    1) Remove those outside receptacles from the circuit. Refeed with new gfci circuit or regular circuit and install gfci receptacles at the exterior receptacle locations.
    2) Put that circuit on a regular breaker and install a gfci receptacle at each receptacle point. (unless at the exterior the receptacles are jumped, or at the baths the receptacles are jumped, then you could install a gfci line in load out to protect next regular type receptacle down stream)

    For ease I would say put a regular breaker in.... and change each known receptacle on that circuit to gfci receptacle. If one trips, they all won't.
    Posted 03-17-2014 at 08:39 PM by UnclePhil UnclePhil is offline
    Updated 03-17-2014 at 08:53 PM by UnclePhil
  2. Old Comment
    Uncle Phil..Thanks a LOT for the response.
    I meant for my username to be Electricalnovice, but I forgot to enter the last e. My knowledge of Electrical Switches goes about as far as replacing light bulbs, so I really appreciate the information you provided.

    One main concern was that a previous owner of the house used that circuit breaker to add some power to the back porch, and that this modification might violate some city or state code. Whereby, if I hire a local certified Electrician to come and look at this, I am wondering that if this is a code violation of some sort, would he have to report this, and could this require us having to have a brand new circuit panel installed.

    I have no problems bringing in a certified electrician, but I do want to know as much as I can about the situation to avoid having more work done than necessary.

    What is your estimate of the amount of work a knowledgalbe certified electricain would need to do to either replace the switch and if necessary rewire the switch so the outdoor recepticals are not wired to that switch.

    Thanks again for your response
    Posted 03-18-2014 at 11:01 AM by electricalnovic electricalnovic is offline
  3. Old Comment
    If the exterior receptacles and bath receptacles are on the same circuit, it is a violation of the nec.. but thats today.... if it was installed that way 10 or 15 years ago it wasn't a violation..and no one is running around telling all home owners who have bath receptacles shared with other things on the circuit to change it... so..

    So you can leave "the circuit" the way it is ....or..
    It may be just as easy to refeed the circuit running to the exterior.. Is the basement open? hung ceiling... trace the wire back to the panel, it may be right there (if thats where it's fed from, and not the bath itself).

    Bottom line is that right now non of the receptacles are working, right?

    Besides just moister tripping the gfci from the exterior receptacles... the receptacle could actually be shot and thats why the gfci is not resetting. With power off you can take out the (exterior) receptacles and see if it's all crapped up or not..
    You can take the existing receptacles off the wire... wire nut the wires... (write down how the wires came off, should be simple but ya never know), see if the breaker resets...

    If so, replace the receptacles with new ones.. put the weather proof cover back on (it is weather proof right) seal it better and walk away.

    Cost for the repair..??? depends on what is done.

    service call and swap out 2 regular recepts. ?

    service call, supply and install one breaker and 2 or 4 gfci's.??

    Refeed or separate exterior and bath circs., and install gfi's outside...

    a hundred...?? five hundred tops...??

    depends what he does.
    Posted 03-19-2014 at 09:14 AM by UnclePhil UnclePhil is offline

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