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Old 07-31-2008, 06:21 AM   #1
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arc fault tripping


hello, i'm build a new house and i wire to bedrooms on 1 arc fault breaker, when i was finished i check out the circuit with a plug tester and everything was wired fine. when i flick the switch for the light on the breaker jumped. i have checked everything 3 times and there is no wires in the wrong place, i changed to a regular breaker and the light works but it won't work on the arc fault breaker, any ideas?

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Old 07-31-2008, 07:09 AM   #2
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arc fault tripping


Look for contact between a neutral (white) and a ground (bare) wire somewhere in your circuit.

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Old 07-31-2008, 07:27 AM   #3
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arc fault tripping


i hyave two question then, is there a special way to run the wire for that circuit?

the 2nd question is the ground that goes to the light switch, can it be attached to the box/
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:25 AM   #4
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arc fault tripping


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i hyave two question then, is there a special way to run the wire for that circuit?
Just make sure when you fold the wires back into the box, the bare is not touching the neutral screws.

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the 2nd question is the ground that goes to the light switch, can it be attached to the box/
If the box is metal, the ground must be attached to the box.
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:34 AM   #5
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arc fault tripping


thanx, i will re-do all my connections and see what happens
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Old 07-31-2008, 09:31 AM   #6
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arc fault tripping


What you might also try:

The AFCI is supposed to tell the difference between good arcs and bad arcs.
I suppose if the internal spring in your switch is tired and doesn't give the "snap-action" that it's supposed to (to shorten the time the arc takes while the contacts open and so prolong switch contact life) I guess the AFCI could classify your switch's arc as a bad arc. And it might actually be a bad arc. So you try a new switch.

Since not tripping on a valid fault is the worst thing these devices can do, AFCIs and GFIs seem to be biased toward tripping unnecessarily (IMHO).
There is boatload of stuff on "nuisance tripping" on the Internet for these two devices. There are also patent applications to fix all the problems these things have, or are supposed to have.

I have never seen data on how many lives are lost due to not having an AFCI or a GFI and how many lives are lost even with having an AFCI or a GFI.
When I ask these specific questions, the gov. agencies that collect these data always refer me to their website [good luck with that].
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:38 PM   #7
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arc fault tripping


Disconnect the wires for that circuit from the electric panel. Then use an ohm meter to check for unwanted continuity between the neutral and ground on that circuit. Check with the light switch on and off.
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Old 07-31-2008, 06:27 PM   #8
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arc fault tripping


We had the same problem with our newly built house. It tripped every time we turned on the light or fan (ceiling fan light). After a few hrs of troubleshooting w/ the electician, it came down to the light having 2 different wattage/amp bulbs in it. Since we replaced the bulbs w/ two of the same, we have not had a problem...knock on wood.

I'm not saying this is your problem.. but it is what fixed ours...

I read all about nuisance tripping while I was researching the problem. It seems they are putting the cart before the horse making these required before they work all the bugs out of them...
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:43 PM   #9
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We had the same problem with our newly built house. It tripped every time we turned on the light or fan (ceiling fan light). After a few hrs of troubleshooting w/ the electician, it came down to the light having 2 different wattage/amp bulbs in it. Since we replaced the bulbs w/ two of the same, we have not had a problem...knock on wood.

I'm not saying this is your problem.. but it is what fixed ours...

I read all about nuisance tripping while I was researching the problem. It seems they are putting the cart before the horse making these required before they work all the bugs out of them...
I'm glad to hear from you.

Were you ever able to get a plausible explanation for why these mismatched bulbs would do that?
If so, from whom?
You have a make & model for your device?

Thanks.

To correct my earlier post, switches are supposed to arc when the contact is broken, not when it is made. I think.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 07-31-2008 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:50 AM   #10
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I'm glad to hear from you.
Were you ever able to get a plausible explanation for why these mismatched bulbs would do that?
If so, from whom?
You have a make & model for your device?

Thanks.

To correct my earlier post, switches are supposed to arc when the contact is broken, not when it is made. I think.
The only explanation I had was from the electrician who was trying to find the problem. I believe his explanation was that the afci is detecting a difference in ampherage (sp?) which is causing it to trip. He said he has run into this problem before.

Just prior to this, he was just about to conclude it was a problem with the ceiling fan/light itself... since disconnecting the light completely seemed to alleviate the problem.

Another fairly easy check is to switch the breaker w/ another afci if you have one. I had one for each bedroom, so I was able to it that way. If the new breaker does not trip, then there is a chance you have a bad breaker.

I'm not sure what make/model you are looking for.. the light or the acfi?

One last thing... is our tripping seemed to get progressively worse our first week in the house. It didn't have this problem when the inspectors were there. Few days later it started tripping once in a while. By the end of the week, it was tripping every time. At that point, we called in the pro... since they were supposed to warranty their work for 1yr.
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:58 AM   #11
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I thought of another comment he made...

He said that a good afci test is to use a vacuum cleaner. According to him, there is something about a vacuum cleaner that simulates an arc fault. If a vc doesn't get it to trip, then it should be good. If this is true, it could be a problem in the future when they make these required for all rooms in the house.
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:59 AM   #12
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I am very skeptical by nature and I don't buy the light bulb theory.
There is NO WAY the AFCI breaker can detect the difference in amperage of the two lamps. They are spliced in the light fixture and come out as one pair of wires. How in the world can this be detected by the circuit breaker?
That being said, if it solved the problem, great. I am simply suggesting something else was altered/touched/moved/etc, when it was looked at.



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One last thing... is our tripping seemed to get progressively worse our first week in the house. It didn't have this problem when the inspectors were there. Few days later it started tripping once in a while. By the end of the week, it was tripping every time. At that point, we called in the pro... since they were supposed to warranty their work for 1yr.
THIS is one of my main issues with AFCI requirements. The technology is OBVIOUSLY not perfected yet, yet they are shoving AFCIs down our throats. Then where there is an issue the installer looks bad.
You quote exactly what bothers me: "since they were supposed to warranty their work for 1yr."
99.9% of the time it is NOT "their work" that is the issue. It is the AFCIs or something that is being used on the branch circuit. Things that are TOTALLY out of the control of the original installer. Yet we get blamed when the breakers constantly trip.
You think the AFCI manufacturers are going to pay us for multiple return trips to troubleshoot their issues????
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Old 08-01-2008, 06:09 AM   #13
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I am very skeptical by nature and I don't buy the light bulb theory.
There is NO WAY the AFCI breaker can detect the difference in amperage of the two lamps. They are spliced in the light fixture and come out as one pair of wires. How in the world can this be detected by the circuit breaker?
That being said, if it solved the problem, great. I am simply suggesting something else was altered/touched/moved/etc, when it was looked at.



THIS is one of my main issues with AFCI requirements. The technology is OBVIOUSLY not perfected yet, yet they are shoving AFCIs down our throats. Then where there is an issue the installer looks bad.
You quote exactly what bothers me: "since they were supposed to warranty their work for 1yr."
99.9% of the time it is NOT "their work" that is the issue. It is the AFCIs or something that is being used on the branch circuit. Things that are TOTALLY out of the control of the original installer. Yet we get blamed when the breakers constantly trip.
You think the AFCI manufacturers are going to pay us for multiple return trips to troubleshoot their issues????
I agree w/ you 100%... likewise, I don't see the afci manuf. reimbursing the HO if the problem is discovered outside of the warranty period or if they don't have a warranty to begin with. Appliance/light manuf. may also have some responsibility if it is their goods causing the problem. I don't see them stepping up to the plate any time soon...


Yes, it could certainly have been something else. All I know is what I was told. I do know that we didn't play w/ any wires in the walls. We pulled the plates and looked for loose wires visually. We tried switching the breaker. We pulled apart the fan. After all that, it was still tripping. When we switched the bulbs, it stopped. Now there is a chance that in playing w/ the lamp itself, a wire moved in some way. No way for me to know for sure. I suppose I could switch the bulbs back and see if it starts tripping again, but I don't want to mess w/ it at this point.

Last edited by DIY_JC; 08-01-2008 at 07:01 AM.
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Old 08-01-2008, 08:28 AM   #14
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(I needed the make and model of the AFCI).

". . .NO WAY the AFCI breaker can detect the difference in amperage of the two lamps."

No, there is no way, according to the published literature and my mental image of how this thing is supposed to work. But it is somehow happening anyway.

That's the problem.
I am hearing about symptoms that make no sense to me.

Several times in my life I have run across this situation, and each time it was because I was assuming something that wasn't true.
Each of us makes hundreds of assumptions every day about how the world works, and the older we get the more often we are right.
It is automatic; we're not aware anymore of the assumptions we make.

In this case our unspoken assumption has failed. And finding out what assumption you are making which isn't true is just about the hardest work you can do. It calls for us to question stuff we have taken for granted, for years.

Of course, there may be some engineer on the AFCI factory floor who knows exactly why this is happening. The problem is in getting to speak to him.
And if he did speak to you about this he would probably be summarily fired (on orders from the marketing people).

Can you imagine the AFCI instructions having a disclaimer that says that you have to match bulb wattage?

The Dilbert cartoons are not so funny for people who have lived them.
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Old 08-01-2008, 09:14 AM   #15
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(I needed the make and model of the AFCI).
I will have to take the cover off and look. However, I do not believe it says on the face of the breaker. I asked the electician what make/brand but I do not recall his answer. He did say that they were one of the better manuf. and one of the older styles, which he says he prefers. I believe my box may be Cutler Hammer, but I could be mistaken on that as well.

If it doesn't say, I will try to take/post a picture...

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