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Old 11-06-2011, 04:31 PM   #1
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Just finished my lighting project and, to my dismay, the breaker is flipping. I should have done calculations before hand instead of just going at it. If I am not mistaken, I have two options:

1. change all the bulbs to a lower wattage
-or-
2. change to a circuit with more capacity

While number number two would be the more economical approach, this highly intimidates me as a do-it-yourselfer. If anyone could offer a sentiment or a link to a tutorial, it would be highly appreciated.

Additional options are also welcome!

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Old 11-06-2011, 05:19 PM   #2
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Breaker Flipping Problem


How about before doing anything further, doing the calculations now?

How many amps is the breaker?

What size wire is used?

What all is on the circuit? Just your new lights?

How many watts are all those lights total?

Convert watts to amps at the following link. Use single phase, 120 volts...
http://www.jobsite-generators.com/po...lculators.html

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Old 11-06-2011, 05:41 PM   #3
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Another diagnostic is whether the breaker is tripping immediately when turned on or is it tripping after a time delay. Depending on the amount of overload a breaker can take hours to trip.
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Old 11-06-2011, 05:52 PM   #4
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Breaker Flipping Problem


If it is a lighting overload then the breaker should not trip if you have the lights turned off. Does it trip with the lights off or instantly when you turn it on?
If it trips instantly then you have a short somewhere. Perhaps a cable clamp is too tight. Perhaps something is wired wrong. Maybe a ground wire is touching a hot on a receptacle.
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Old 11-06-2011, 06:48 PM   #5
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Breaker Flipping Problem


To clarify:

The lights are switched on when the breaker flips, and it does so rather immediately--I'd say two to three seconds after flipping on.

These lights are running, along with two front door wall sconces, on a 20 amp breaker.

I am running 15 units at 90 watts a piece, or 1350 watts total. This, in conversion to amps, is 11.5. Additionally, 20 amp breakers should be able to handle 2400 watts or so.

I've spoken with Home Depot and they recommend just trying to replace the breaker with another 20 amp given the above data and the fact that it hasn't been replaced in the 20+ lifespan of the house.

I would still appreciate input and hope this clears some things up. Cheers!
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:13 PM   #6
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Sounds like there is a short in the system. This could be confirmed with a multimeter. You could also throw a clamp-on ampmeter on the check the current being used.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smokey847 View Post
To clarify:
I've spoken with Home Depot and they recommend just trying to replace the breaker with another 20 amp given the above data and the fact that it hasn't been replaced in the 20+ lifespan of the house.
Well, there is your problem.

If the breaker is tripping as soon as you flip the switch, it would be most likely a fixture issue, not a overload. Need further info, such as pictures of the fixtures, or what type of fixture (ie can light, track lighting). It would also be nice to see pictures of how you wired these fixtures, if they were done by code.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:28 PM   #8
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Well, there is your problem.

If the breaker is tripping as soon as you flip the switch, it would be most likely a fixture issue, not a overload. Need further info, such as pictures of the fixtures, or what type of fixture (ie can light, track lighting). It would also be nice to see pictures of how you wired these fixtures, if they were done by code.
Hmm. . . Before this weekend I have had 11 of the lights running with no problem, which led me to believe it was an overload. After adding four in addition this weekend is when the problem began.

I wouldn't be able to get a picture until Wednesday, so I will explain to the best of my ability. The source is coming from underground (from beneath the house) and is split two ways: one working three lights, the other (prior to this weekend) powering eight. This was with no problems whatsoever. I added two more yesterday to the side of eight, and it worked with no problem, but after adding an additional two today, the breaker is flipping. Now for the lights--they are stake flood lights wired with buriable 12-2 wire in series, connected with wire nuts and taped.

Again, the 11, and even the 13 were working properly. It wasn't until I added two more that the problem arose. I will check my connections on the addition I made today, but will also replace the breaker anyway as a precaution.

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Old 11-06-2011, 07:42 PM   #9
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Breaker Flipping Problem


I would hazard a guess that there is a problem with the two you added today. Disconnect them and see if the problem goes away.
It's not an overload.
It is likely not the breaker either.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:44 PM   #10
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Also, please don't listen to the morons at HD. Come here, or any other DIY type site, before you take advice from places like that.
This is advice that can be confirmed by MANY people, including many on this site.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:48 PM   #11
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Somewhere when you added the extra lights, you created a short. Start by removing one fixture at a time from each leg, and when it does not trip, you know that you have fixed the problem. If it doesn't, then that means you have a issue with the cabling, and most likely best solution would be to replace it. How long has that wire been in the ground, and can you read any markings as to what kind it is, or post a picture with the markings.
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:30 PM   #12
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Also, if the junctiob box on the lights are still accessable, open them up and make sure a wire is not in the wrong spot. Meaning, a green wire on a white wire, black and white together, etc.

Another good way to test it, is turn the fixtures off. Then, reset the breaker. If it still immediately trips, it's most likely a problem with the breaker. If it holds, it's a problem with the fixtures.

Also, it's rare, but sometimes even a bulb can cause a short circuit. Try taking the blubs out, and then, once the breaker is reset, screw in the blubs one at a time.

Lots of trial and error.

If you check all of the above, and also what Speedy Pete has said, you've got a problem with the breaker.
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:36 PM   #13
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Breaker Flipping Problem


toofarfromfemwa, these are outdoor spots/floods. That means that they are always on, when the timer or photocell activates. The OP knows where the problem is, they just have to take the time to pull the added floods and reconnect properly. It is probably going to just be a bad fixture that is shoring the Neutral and hot, and will just have to fix.
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:17 PM   #14
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Breaker Flipping Problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
toofarfromfemwa, these are outdoor spots/floods.
Missed that. Thanks.

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Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
That means that they are always on, when the timer or photocell activates.
Gotcha. Not unusual, so that makes sense.

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Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post
The OP knows where the problem is, they just have to take the time to pull the added floods and reconnect properly. It is probably going to just be a bad fixture that is shoring the Neutral and hot, and will just have to fix.
Again, new development.
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:37 PM   #15
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Breaker Flipping Problem


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Originally Posted by smokey847 View Post
...If anyone could offer a sentiment or a link to a tutorial, it would be highly appreciated.

For the sentiment...

Many moons ago I went to work for an electrical company. They put me with their best and most seasoned electrician so he could show me how things were properly done...

We went to an office and he just needed to install a new additional outlet. I just watched. He wired everything up, then flipped the breaker, then there was a loud popping noise and sparks flew everywhere!

I did not say a word (mainly because I had done this myself a few times. )

Anyway he pulled the outlet out. As it turned out, everything was wired properly. The outlet was manufactured with a bit of excess metal in it which caused a short. I guess they stamp the metal parts. This one outlet just so happened to have a defect and missed inspection.

And of course that was the one outlet the electrician happened to get when showing me how to do things! (And also in front of an office full of people...)

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