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Old 08-22-2011, 02:07 PM   #1
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Hello, I've got a problem (who doesn't) and was wondering if anyone might be able to help.

When I turned on a small lamp in my son's room last week, the circuit breaker tripped. I am able to reset the breaker, however, it trips when anything on that circuit -his room and the the adjacent bedroom- is turned on including overhead lights.

The breaker is an arc fault circuit interrupter Breaker (AFCI) and I'm not sure if that is part of the problem, but that is current code here. The house is nine years old and we have not had this problem before.

I've removed everything from the outlets and tried the light switch, I've removed the overhead light bulbs and plugged one thing into an outlet, but once anything is turned on, it trips. I have turned off every breaker in the house except the the one in question, with the same results. I have swapped the breaker with the breaker from the master bedroom (also AFCI) with the same results eliminating the possibility (in theory) of a faulty breaker.

I am at a loss. I've searched for answers and found similar problems, but nothing suggested seems to work in my case, so hopefully someone here will have an idea as to the real problem. Thanks to everyone in advance!

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Old 08-22-2011, 02:19 PM   #2
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Any new construction in the house? Including hanging pictures and such?

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Old 08-22-2011, 02:35 PM   #3
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Nothing comes to mind. Certainly nothing recent.
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Old 08-22-2011, 02:39 PM   #4
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Who installed the AFCI's ?
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Old 08-22-2011, 02:45 PM   #5
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Heres an old thread that went through all the diagnostics of and AFCI problem.

HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue

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Old 08-22-2011, 03:08 PM   #6
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Brric, we bought the house new in 2002. And Mark, I hadn't come across that one. I'll read through it and see if it helps. Thanks.
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Old 08-22-2011, 04:51 PM   #7
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Crispy never did post back as to if he got the problem solved.

If you look at how AFCI's work....I'm guessing you have a bad connection somewhere.

First....a little overview of circuit protection.

Over current....that is what a circuit breaker is for. On the classical magnectic breaker, when the current going to a device exceeds a set level, the current going through a coil inside the breaker causes it to activate and pull the set lever out of the way. Notice how you have to switch a breaker to off and then on to reset it? My best analogy would the classical mouse trap. The breaker being set is like the mouse trap. The coil inside is the plate where you put the food....when the mouse touches the plate, it releases the hook....when the current gets high enough, the coil pulls the locking pin out of the way and the spring opens the breaker. Clear as mud?

AFCI detects a different problem....arcs.....not all arcs are high current....a bad connection can cause an arc hot enough to start a fire but not pull enough current to trip a breaker. A good example are homes wired with aluminum wireing. A low current arc actually has a high freq component associated with it. When you have low current arcing, you get a high freq current pulse.

The best way to describe is like this....you have a bad connection...you turn on power......because an arc depends on voltage to jump the space, there is no current flow until the voltage gets high enough to jump the space...when this happens the actual current jumps....if you look at this with a scope, it is actually a high freq compenent as compared to the sign wave of the 60 hz power. When you consider that the duty cycle of our power is 16.66666 ms, and that AFCI's can trigger before that...it's a high freq.

The fact that turning anything on leads me to suspect the first connection from the AFCI. In most houses, your romex is going to be daisy chained from box to box. If you were able to use one outlet with no trouble, but then the next one or any others after it caused a trip...then focus on the first box.

I agree with the comments if the referenced tread about useing back stabed recpt.....I don't do it....you can't depend on the spring in them....especially cheap ones.

One thing I do as a personal preference is use a pig tail. I'm sure most of us are used to seeing the romex tied to one set of terminals on the recept....with the next leg tied to the other set of screws....well...your depending on the little jumper between the two screws to carry all the current for the whole brance....and...it can be a real b!itch to get that recept back in the box with the wire on it....so what I do is wire nut some 6" lengths of solid wire with the romex...push that bundle back into the rear of the box and don't worry about it...all I have now is the 3 6" pieces of wire going to my recpt. If you have to change a recept....your not pulling out the whole bundle.

A few years ago I made a little wall recept tester. It was a plug and jack with test connections on it...I plug in the plug with my meter connected to the test jacks...measure the voltage....I thing plug in a load....I usually used an iron which makes a good 1000W or so load. I monitor how much the voltage drops....if more than about 5 volts....I have a problem. In almost all cases where I had a voltage drop, it was a piss poor recpt....if fact the voltage drop would be more like 15 and it would vary depending on how I wiggled the plug.

I need to find that tester.....handy little thing.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:58 AM   #8
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


OK, so here's what I've tried this morning: I bought an outlet tester from Home Depot and tried all six outlets on the circuit and all tested fine. I also used a multi meter to get an ohm reading and with the circuit off got about 18.3 (@200 setting) on all six. I don't know what that means, though I thought it should read zero.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:08 AM   #9
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


could be you will need to seperate the neutral from a standard breaker combination.each arch fault should connect to the panel neutral,do not mix with non-arch fault.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Muinchja View Post
OK, so here's what I've tried this morning: I bought an outlet tester from Home Depot and tried all six outlets on the circuit and all tested fine. I also used a multi meter to get an ohm reading and with the circuit off got about 18.3 (@200 setting) on all six. I don't know what that means, though I thought it should read zero.
When you were making the ohms measurement, how were you doing that? That measurement will not be the same as the voltage.

Voltage...your measureing hot to neutral

Ohms....your measureing the resistance from outlet to outlet on the same common point...i.e., neutral on outlet 1 to neutral on outlet 2.

If you were measuring 18 ohms from hot to neutral with the CB off...then you still had something plugged in....you were measuring the resitance of the load.

Have you mapped out all of your recpet? In other words, do you know which one is the first one from the CB and which one is the last in the chain?
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:50 AM   #11
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To test ohms per another thread I turned my multi meter to the 200 notch in the ohms area, with one probe plugged into the V(ohms)mA port, and the other into the COM port leaving the 10ADC port open, I put black in ground hole and red in smaller prong slot. That being done it would jump up a bit but end up between 18.3 and 18.7.

Also I have not mapped out as I'm not sure how to do that.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:58 AM   #12
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If you have the ability this is the first thing I would do. Disconnect the hot,, neutral and equipment grounding wires of the troublesome breaker inside the panel. After making completely sure nothing is connected to the circuit,cords light bulbs etc., connect your meter to white/black then to white/bare then to black bare. There should be no continuity on any of these three readings. If there is continuity on any of these readings then either the circuit is not completely cleared or the continuity reading will give you a starting point as to where the problem lies.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marbledust View Post
could be you will need to seperate the neutral from a standard breaker combination.each arch fault should connect to the panel neutral,do not mix with non-arch fault.
They are separate, and not combined.

Last edited by Muinchja; 08-23-2011 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:16 AM   #14
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AFCI Breaker Keeps Tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by brric View Post
If you have the ability this is the first thing I would do. Disconnect the hot,, neutral and equipment grounding wires of the troublesome breaker inside the panel. After making completely sure nothing is connected to the circuit,cords light bulbs etc., connect your meter to white/black then to white/bare then to black bare. There should be no continuity on any of these three readings. If there is continuity on any of these readings then either the circuit is not completely cleared or the continuity reading will give you a starting point as to where the problem lies.
Yes.....

Muinchja....it sounds like you were measuring from Hot to earth ground....if you were measuring 18 ohms....there is a problem....even with something plugged in, you should have an open between hot and ground.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:28 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brric View Post
If you have the ability this is the first thing I would do. Disconnect the hot,, neutral and equipment grounding wires of the troublesome breaker inside the panel. After making completely sure nothing is connected to the circuit,cords light bulbs etc., connect your meter to white/black then to white/bare then to black bare. There should be no continuity on any of these three readings. If there is continuity on any of these readings then either the circuit is not completely cleared or the continuity reading will give you a starting point as to where the problem lies.
OK I'll try this, however, since electrical work, as I'm sure you all have gathered by now, is not my area of expertise, let's go over this quick.

Turn off the panel, Disconnect the breaker, connect the meter to these in the panel? Sorry about this. You guys have been very helpful so far.

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