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Old 02-12-2009, 12:36 PM   #1
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AFCI Tripping


Hello everyone, any help on this would be appreciated..

I have a 20 amp circuit which has 9 cans controlled by a switch, 3 procelian fixtures each being controlled by a seperate switch. Bulbs currently in play are 65w. (way under the 20 amp capacity)

The problem: When I energize the circuit (flip the circuit breaker on) the breaker holds just fine. When I flip the switch for the cans, the breaker will trip either instantly, like there is a short, or it may take 10 minutes or so for it to trip. NOW for the interesting part, if I take something off the circuit, than re hook it back up, turn the breaker on, the circuit works fine for the rest of the day or evening. Turn the lights off for the night and come back down in the morning, flip the light switch on and POW it blows the breaker again! Till I remove something and reconnect it on the circuit and repeat the process. It does not matter what I take off the circuit and reconnect.

I have replaced the light switches with higher quality ones, I have dismantled the cans looking for shorts in their factory wires, I have reterminated all connections at switches and fixtures. Tried two other AFCI breakers (these are Cutler Hammer breakers, combination type that I am using), tried different light bulbs, tinned all the stranded wires off the cans...I am at a lost. Pretty much the only thing I have not done is replace all the cans in this area, and replace all the wiring. My other 5 Circuits I added are working perfectly and have more studd on them than this circuit! It is just this one that is having issues and causing me my sanity :-)

The ceiling and walls are not covered yet.

Any thoughts suggestions etc would be more than appreciated!

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Old 02-12-2009, 01:14 PM   #2
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AFCI Tripping


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Originally Posted by pokertrin View Post
When I flip the switch for the cans, the breaker will trip either instantly, like there is a short, or it may take 10 minutes or so for it to trip.
Leakage current at the pass/fail limit for the AFCI?

NOW for the interesting part, if I take something off the circuit, than re hook it back up, turn the breaker on, the circuit works fine for the rest of the day or evening.
This time dependent reset function must be happening inside the AFCI or some other household component with electronics inside. The shorter the reset time, the less likely it's a thermal issue.

Turn the lights off for the night and come back down in the morning, flip the light switch on and POW it blows the breaker again! Till I remove something and reconnect it on the circuit and repeat the process. It does not matter what I take off the circuit and reconnect.
See above. How 'bout if you just turn the AFCI on and off without disconnecting anything?

Tried two other AFCI breakers (these are Cutler Hammer breakers, combination type that I am using),
Time dependent reset function is built in, on purpose or by accident?


Last edited by Yoyizit; 02-12-2009 at 01:17 PM.
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Old 02-12-2009, 05:18 PM   #3
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AFCI Tripping


If I only reset the breaker it will keep tripping, It seems to me that the only way it will hold is by disconnecting some of its load and re-attaching it.

I am not aware of a time reset feature inside of the Cutler Hammer AFCI, are you aware of one?

Is there a way to test for leakage current. With say a multi-meter??

Thanks for your reply!
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Old 02-12-2009, 06:21 PM   #4
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AFCI Tripping


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Originally Posted by pokertrin View Post
If I only reset the breaker it will keep tripping, It seems to me that the only way it will hold is by disconnecting some of its load and re-attaching it.
I don't understand that.

I am not aware of a time reset feature inside of the Cutler Hammer AFCI, are you aware of one?
No, it just seems to act like that. These symptoms are strange enough that I'd try to e-mail the manufacturer about this. There may be a recall out on this.

Is there a way to test for leakage current. With say a multi-meter??
Yes, put your multimeter on the mA range and put the leads in series with a 1/16A or 1/32A fuse. Above 4 mA probably counts

Thanks for your reply!
as excessive leakage current.
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Old 02-13-2009, 02:47 PM   #5
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AFCI Tripping


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Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
as excessive leakage current.
I contacted CH today, very nice tech support.

They are going to send me out filters for all my circuits. I live close to an AM radio station, which they say is causing the issue. The filters they are sending out are "guarenteed" to fix the issue. I was told that it is a known issue in my area and after the filters are in place the problems will go away... I should have them on Tuesday, I will put them in and post a follow up...

If it wasn't for the great tech support person, I would probably be more upset, (all the hours of troubleshooting etc) , if the filters work I will be all smiles, that at least the issue is resolved!
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Old 02-13-2009, 03:00 PM   #6
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AFCI Tripping


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Originally Posted by pokertrin View Post
I live close to an AM radio station, which they say is causing the issue.
Based on your symptoms, is that plausible? In any case I hope this fixes it.
Maybe the problem is that the radio frequencies that arcs generate overlap with AM frequencies (along with a lot of other frequencies).
And CH could somewhat reasonably say "it's not a design defect" so they can afford to be cooperative.

So I guess your house wiring is acting as a reasonably efficient antenna for AM wavelengths. The human body, at 6' tall, is a less efficient antenna at 1 mHz.

BTW. . .
I live 1500' NE of an AM station. The field strength is 100x below "the safe threshold" but still, if I had kids I would move. Cell damage on a molecular level may take 20 years to show up.
As it happens the field is intentionally weakened in our direction to avoid interfering with some station in Rhode Island. AM waves carry a long distance, especially on winter nights when the layers in the sky cause a kind of a waveguide effect.

I don't know if leukemia rates in our neighborhood are statistically significantly above expected rates, and if I dare to ask, the Men In Black will be at my door with that flashy thingy.

TV stations use much shorter wavelengths, more nearly comparable to the length of a person, and so they are more dangerous.

On second thought, it is plausible
http://www.freshpatents.com/Arc-faul...pe=description

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5373241.html

Did I say "nuisance tripping?" Of course not.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 02-13-2009 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:08 AM   #7
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AFCI Tripping


The filters fixed the problem...on the breakers I could squeeze them in on. I will have to get a lot more creative to get the addiional two in there!
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:21 AM   #8
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AFCI Tripping


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The filters fixed the problem...on the breakers I could squeeze them in on. I will have to get a lot more creative to get the addiional two in there!
I guess it's like a hidden warranty; only those who complain get the filters.
This may explain why all the AFCIs in a subdivision tripped at the same time. Maybe someone was in that neighborhood with a high power AM transceiver.

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