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Old 07-29-2010, 06:12 PM   #1
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


Hello,

I have a triplex in southern california. I had a guy who works for a commercial electrician completely re-wire this whole place. We tested everything and it all worked fine. Now, we're at the final inspection stage of the project and we got called out because our AFCI breakers were popping when a load was placed on the circuit. We had regular Square D single-pole 15 amp breakers in the load centers (all 3 apartments -- 5 total bedrooms, so 5 total breakers) before, now we have 5 AFCI breakers in there. One issue is this: there is a light in the bathroom that is on the bedroom circuit (don't ask me why this is the case), when I flip the lightswitch on, the breaker pops. If I switch the AFCI breaker out for the old breaker, the light works fine. The AFCI pigtail is connected to the neutral bar in the load center. If I disconnect the pigtail, I noticed the circuit works fine. Can anyone offer something to help with this situation? By the way, that electrical guy skipped town and is nowhere to be found, so I can't ask him for help. I'm fairly adept at electrical, so I feel this is something I can fix on my own. Thank you in advance for your help.

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Old 07-29-2010, 06:42 PM   #2
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


If the circuit still works with the AFCI pigtail disconnected then the neutral wire of the circuit is landed on the neutral buss. It should be landed on the AFCI. In my mind that is the only way the circuit could still function with the pigtail removed.

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Old 07-29-2010, 06:54 PM   #3
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


So, you're saying the issue may be in the wiring of everything? There is a black cable plugged into the AFCI and the AFCI has a white colored pigtail which is connected to the neutral bar inside the load center. Should something be changed? Is it possible all the plugs and switches are wired up incorrectly?
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:01 PM   #4
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


There should be a white wire connected to the AFCI in addition to the pigtail.
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Old 07-29-2010, 07:05 PM   #5
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I'll try that and send a picture if I need further assistance. Thank you so much for your help so far!
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Old 07-30-2010, 04:00 PM   #6
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


http://www.ehow.com/how_4835951_inst...i-breaker.html
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Old 07-30-2010, 04:22 PM   #7
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


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I don't think I'd follow those directions. He is providing instructions to the general pubic to work on a live main panel.........................
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:41 PM   #8
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


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Originally Posted by bigmacfann View Post
I have a triplex in southern california. I had a guy who works for a commercial electrician completely re-wire this whole place. .... By the way, that electrical guy skipped town and is nowhere to be found, so I can't ask him for help. I'm fairly adept at electrical, so I feel this is something I can fix on my own. Thank you in advance for your help.
Sorry that you are having problems, but it sounds like you avoided the permit/inspection process and were unfortunate enough to hire Handy Jack [beginning of July]. These problems are largely the reason for permits.

I am inclined to agree that you shouldn't be working in an energized panel unless qualified. ... and qualified has a very narrow definition in the trade.

Anyway, I can see multiple possible locations for the problem. One is as suggested, that the circuit neutral bypasses the AFCI, which is an automatic trip. Another is that the lighting neutral might be intermixed somewhere in the field.

If you haven't killed yourself in the panel and the problem has vanished [I hate it when they do that] without explanation, I would like to suggest hiring a real [in business-type] electrician.

Best of luck

Last edited by Scuba_Dave; 07-30-2010 at 06:32 PM. Reason: self-promoting link in thread
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Old 07-31-2010, 08:54 AM   #9
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


Arc faults breaker are there to detect arcs between the phase (120v) and the neutral or the ground. When the filament inside the light bulb is either worn out or slightly defective (even if it's brand-new-out-of-the-box), the breaker trip because inside the bulb a tiny small arc is forming. I go around this by running a different circuit for all lighting outlet boxes, meaning I end up with: circuits with AF protection for the bedroom outlets only (in Quebec, only the bedrooms need AF protection), and another standard circuit for the lighting. Of course, if you plug a lamp in your bedroom outlet, and chances are you will, you end up with the same problem.

Arc faults breaker are a piece of crap, they only serve the interest of state rules-maker and electrical manufacturers. They are not worth the plactic thay are made of. They are virtually useless, and really, let's face it; does anyone know anybody, anywhere in the US or Canada, who suffered lethal electrocution caused by an arc on a 120 volts circuit?

I don't think so.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:01 AM   #10
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


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Arc faults breaker are a piece of crap, they only serve the interest of state rules-maker and electrical manufacturers. They are not worth the plactic thay are made of. They are virtually useless, and really, let's face it; does anyone know anybody, anywhere in the US or Canada, who suffered lethal electrocution caused by an arc on a 120 volts circuit?

I don't think so.
I agree with you that AFCI are worthless and only in use because the lobbying manufacturers.

However, their purpose is to reduce arcing which lead to fires, not electrocution, or at least that's what I thought... I'm not saying they work, just what their intentions are.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:47 AM   #11
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


Hi Proby, I agree with you with the arc issues regarding fires, however pretty much all fires in residential houses are caused by circuit overload and illegal add-ons by the step-brother..I am sure you know what I mean.

Personally, I think that with all the regulation already in places regarding electrical installation (80% max circuit capacity load, wire gauge, independent circuit for amps-hungry devices, etc, etc..), we do not need AF circuit protection. Our codes in North America are strict enough and are very safe, and usually electrical contractors have enough self-respect and conscience to perform their installations in a safe and code-regulated manner.

I would love to see statistics on how many fires where caused by electrical arcs on a properly installed circuit, plugged on a standard breaker, installed the way it should be.....

AF circuits won't do nothing to prevent fires from the would-be-electrician-second-neighbor sloppy add-on....

I hope that you can see my point.
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Old 07-31-2010, 11:52 AM   #12
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AFCI breaker pops but regular breaker doesn't


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not need AF circuit protection.
If a $20 circuit breaker buys you $20 worth of safety and the cost of a measure taken is proportional to the addt'l safety achieved by that measure an AFCI should cost about a dollar.
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Old 07-31-2010, 11:55 AM   #13
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If a $20 circuit breaker buys you $20 worth of safety and the cost of a measure taken is proportional to the addt'l safety achieved by that measure an AFCI should cost about a dollar.
That makes no sense.

The fact of the matter is that we have to spend $20-70 on breakers that serve no purpose except filling the manufacturer's pockets.

The worst part is that I am required to install these breakers which drives my cost up and therefore the price. This is yet another thing that pushes homeowners away from permitted and licensed work and into the hands of Craigslist handymen.

It's like being forced to put a $50 sticker on the back of your car that says "Please don't crash into me". Is it giving you $50 worth of protection or safety??
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Old 07-31-2010, 12:23 PM   #14
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[AFCI] breakers that serve no purpose except filling the manufacturer's pockets.
I think we are in violent agreement.
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Old 08-02-2010, 12:22 PM   #15
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Thank you everyone for your responses. I'd like to report that I worked on all 5 of the AFCI breakers and they are all working correctly now. The problem was simple: only the black wire was connected to the breaker. The white wire from the circuit was connected to the neutral bar in the load centers. I located the white wire from each circuit, connected it to the corresponding spot on the AFCI breakers, then connected the white pigtail from the breaker to the neutral bar on the load centers. Everything works perfectly. Thank you everyone for your help.

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