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JH7800 06-28-2006 09:26 AM

Breaker keeps being thrown (solution?)
First off I want to say that I don't know alot about electrical wiring but I will try to be as thorough as possible. Here's the problem. My son's room has so much electrical equipment that it throws the 15 amp breaker it's on often. He has a big screen TV, a home entertainment center (Reciever, DVD player, CD player, etc.), several vidoe game systems, a laptop computer, and the big problem-a11,600 BTU window unit air conditioner. When we first got the air conditioner it would throw the breaker about 3 times a week. After a few weeks of this we decided to call an electrician but it seemed to stop throwing it all of a sudden, But it would cause the power in the room to blink every time the thermostat came on (every 40 minutes or so) and sometimes when the thermostat comes on it seems to pull on the power for about four or so seconds almost throwing the breaker (it seems to be in a war with the breaker when it does this though it does this big pull less often, maybe evry two hours or so, don't ask me why). It has been this way for over a year now. Recently though we got him an XBOX 360 which has a huge power brick and when it is on along with the TV and air conditioner it throws the breaker (it usually has to on for about 30 minutes though). Well, of course we are trying to find a solution so we have called about 10 electricians but they all want to come out and look at it and charge $40 for that but right now I just want some answers. One place did say that they would just put in a 20 amp breaker to solve the problem. But I've been looking online and found several places that say doing that is dangerous because it just allows more power to go through an already taxed circuit. So what are my options? First let me describe another problem-My son has OCD and his biggest problemn is germs so he will not let any starnger in his room under any circumstance; So, I need to know if any of the repairs will require going into his room or if they can all be done at the breaker box (which is in a different room). Could they just add another 15 amp circuit and connect it to the 15 amp circuit the room is on to form one 30 amp circuit and could that be done without going into my son's room(remember-limited knowledge, so it might be a stupid question)? Could they just put in a 20 amp or is that really dangerous? Please help and offer opinions. I thank anyone who read this long post.

James from the Burgh 06-28-2006 11:02 AM

You CANNOT combine two 15's to make a 30.The problem is the circuit is overloaded. The only way you can put a 20 amp breaker in to replace the 15 is if it is # 12 wire.(not saying that it will correct the problem though). One thing you could do would be to run a new circuit just for the a.c. unit, that will take some strain off the circuit.

IvoryRing 06-28-2006 11:44 AM

To your specific questions:

1.) two 15s to make a 30? It doesn't work directly that way. You can add another 15 circuit, but that means you have two distinct 15s, not a single 30.

2.) replacing the 15a breaker with a 20a breaker - very likely a bad idea. If the wiring in place is 12awg, then you can do this, but if the wiring is 14awg, you can't. If they (original electrician) went to the expense and hassle of doing 12awg in the entire circuit in the first place, it is unlikely they would have put in a 15a breaker. This is why they (electricians you are calling now) want to come take a look before they tell you a price - to see the actual situation for themselves.

In my (non electrician, just a guy) opinion the right thing to do is to make the outlet supplying the AC into it's own circuit. When you describe 'power blink in the room when the compressor starts', you are really saying 'the wiring in place doesn't have enough capacity to handle all the loads that you are currently placing on it'. Even when the breaker is not tripped, you still have a situation of too much current for the wire to supply (hence the 'light flicker'/'power blink' you are describing) - completely aside from the size of the breaker!

The fact that the breaker trips sometimes means that you are near the edge of what the breaker will actually trip at. You should understand that a 15A breaker is only 'nominally' 15A - which is to say, it is within normal design for a brand new 15A breaker to allow 16A to pass for a short period of time.

Depending on the existing wiring, as well as the route the wiring takes, you may be able to do this with just one new length of wire - and the majority of the work might be doable outside your son's room. As for the concern about a stranger entering the son's room... If you hire someone, you likely want them to do the best job they can - not just a hack that will cut corners. In the BEST case, someone good will enter the room twice: Before the work is done to examine the situation and then again at the end of the work being done to confirm that everything works correctly.

Do not be surprised if your constraint of 'keep out of the room as much as possible' significantly adds to the total time and therefor labor cost.

Your requirements and local codes may vary, but if it was me, I'd do the following:

1.) leave it to your son to decide "fewer devices (and/or smaller AC - is the room such that it REALLY needs a 11.6k BTU unit? - might want to check to get an idea of a smaller unit might work ok)" or "let someone come in to do the work" (btw, don't suppose you have any real electricians that are known by your son so he doesn't have the same objection? that alone might be worth a price premium to you)

2.) If it turns out you need to do the work... pull a new 20A circuit for the AC. Depending on your local code & locally adopted NEC version, you may need to make the new circuit AFCI.

JH7800 06-28-2006 01:33 PM

I appreciate the help guys. IvoryRing, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your in depth post. To answer your question the room is quite large (about 430 sq. ft. so I really couldn't move down a considerable amount). I do have a question about pulling the 20 amp circuit if you're still checking. Does that mean to add a 20 amp breaker and run a 12 awg wire from that to the outlet? Or do I need to add something else besides the breaker? Thanks again.

IvoryRing 06-28-2006 03:55 PM

Painfully simplistically, yes, it's a matter of adding the breaker, running the wire and connecting it to the existing outlet that you've got the AC plugged into. Having said there, there are a couple of possible gotchas: if the outlet is currently 'midstream' in the circuit (as opposed to the end of the circuit) you may be better off just adding a second outlet right next to it. If getting the wire from the panel to the room is a hassle you may find letting an electrician handle it to be a lot less messy/dirty/sweaty. In any case, you'll need to use safe precautions when adding the breaker & circuit in the panel - if you don't know for sure, it's much safer to let an electrician do it.

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