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DErnest 09-15-2006 06:22 PM

Breaker keeps popping
I have a breaker that keeps popping. The wiring is all new and everything has worked perfectly for about two months. After a storm, I am not sure if this has anything to do with it or not (all other breakers are working fine). Initially the breaker would not reset. I worked the wiring back resecuring everything and everything seemed to be good...the breaker at least now reset. But after a while the breaker popped again. I unplugged everthing so there is no draw. The breaker still popped after a few hours but I can reset it. Would a short do this???? I tried a new breaker but had the same results. What do I do next??? Thanks in advance for any assistance!!!! Dave

Speedy Petey 09-15-2006 06:49 PM

Is this an AFCI or GFCI breaker?
It would have a little test button if so.

DErnest 09-15-2006 09:52 PM

I am not sure. There is no test button. The breaker states: Type TIPO HOM. AI/Cu 10KA......if this helps.

dougrus 09-15-2006 10:12 PM

Is there anything that you added to the curcuit or have plugged in that could have increased draw? ...I assume a 15 amp breaker? what guage wire is being used? How long is the run?

DErnest 09-15-2006 10:36 PM

There is nothing plugged fact only a couple of lights and switches. There is one plug but nothing is plugged in. It still pops after an hour or so. It is a 20 amp and 14 gauge wire. The big thing that is confusing is that it worked perfect for two months.

dougrus 09-15-2006 10:42 PM

That is strange...I will point out though that 14 gauge is undersized for a 20 AMP...
If this happened after a storm it is possible that a surge disrupted the integrety of the wire.
I am NOT a licensed electrician, but I am fairly confident that undersized wire guage could cause a problem.

redline 09-16-2006 06:07 AM

Did a licensed electrician do the upgrade?
The 14 gauge wire has been compromised with the higher breaker - 20 amp. The wire either has melted thru its plastic cover and is shorting out or there is a loose connection.

Change all the wire on this circuit to 12 gauge for this 20 amp breaker.

hurricaneflyer 09-16-2006 07:02 AM

if there are indeed only a few lights and 1 receptacle on this entire circuit, then it might be easier to change the breaker over to a 15 amp breaker instead of changing the wire over to 12 awg.
depending on what the receptacle is used for it may well be code compliant and safe.

when you said you "worked the wire back" did you just check all connections at the switches etc, or are you able to actually inspect the entire length of the wire?

even with nothing turned on, if the light switches are fed hot from the fixture outlets (switch loops instead of switch legs) you will need to remove the light fixtures themselves and inspect the wiring in the boxes behind (or above) them
it does sound as if a combination of moisture and faulty insulation on a wire could be the problem but I have seen this problem caused by faulty devices (switches etc)once in a while

You could very well have a possible fire hazard here and dont want to waste time having it repaired

dougrus 09-16-2006 07:22 AM

I would proabably redo the run now with 12 guage.

If you still want to futz with it though, I would say you could 1st redo the connections in any switch or J-box...I think you said you already did that but if you didnt check every location where the wire meets a device or another wire then do that because that is where 99% of problems occur. Also if there are any switches, change them out...
If the tripping still occurs replace with 12 guage...

Speedy Petey 09-16-2006 07:31 AM

There is no reason to change the wire. NOTHING was compromised by the 20 amp breaker.
True, #14 is to be used on a 15 amp breaker by code, but it's actual ampacity is 20 amps. There is a special restriction in the code lowering it's OCP to 15 amps.

Also, I seriously doubt moisture caused this problem, unless it is a GFI breaker as I mentioned earlier. I have seen completely submerged NM cable work fine for years. I'm not at all saying to do this, I have just seen it and had to replace it.

You need to trace the wire back from the absolute end of the circuit to the panel. Inspect every box, device and splice. If this is a short you need to find it and correct it.

Doug, what would changing the switches accomplish? I'm curious.

dougrus 09-16-2006 07:48 AM

There was an occasion when I bought my house that I had a short when I flipped the switch at the bottom of the basement would trip the curcuit...I replaced the switch and it rectified the problem...I am not educated in the physics of a short but I would think that switches can become damaged like any other thing..isnt possible that a surge could have damaged the switch or that one of the switches has become damaged or was defective in the first place?
Not being an electrician and not having much money to hire one all the time I have had to go through some rather long arduous routes to finding problems...go down the line repair or replace and try...:yes:

So, you wouldnt change out the wire, Pete? What can happen when wire is undersized like that? Cant overheating occur?


DErnest 09-16-2006 07:55 AM

I guess what I am confused about is why does the breaker not trip right of way. Everything works for a couple of hours then it trips. I would think if there is a short it would trip right of way??????

Speedy Petey 09-16-2006 08:12 AM

Doug, yes the wire can get quite warm, but it will not overheat to the point of damage. Ever see an old fuse service? Ever see one with ALL 30 amp fuses? I have. More than once, way more. Never has this caused damage to the wire.
There are many issues that folks outside the trades "think" are problems, mainly because they have been told this over the years by other folks outside the trades.

I also do not agree that changing all the swithces is a logical fix. If your car is not running right do you change parts until you fix the problem?
Troubleshooting is the key. Track the problem down until you find it.
Fix the problem, not the symptom.
Just like replacing a breaker because it is tripping. A tripping breaker is doing it's job 99.99% of the time.

DErnest, a direct short would instantly trip. This may be a bad splice. A burning wire nut will casue very high resistance and over time will heat up enough to trip a breaker. You say nothing is on but how do you know? Unless you can put an amp meter on this wire you do not.
Something is on and it is bringing this problem to light.

dougrus 09-16-2006 08:37 AM

True Pete.
DIY's certainly do not have the practical experience to recognize what goes wrong in the "real world" of the everyday trade. Thanks for the education. We only the rules that were are given in writing...we are told only 12 guage on 20 AMP curcuits...we ask what happens if we dont? "FIRE FIRE FIRE" when in fact this may not be the case but it is overstated because too many exceptions can be confusing to the typical DIY and compliance, in general, ensures a safer installation.
As for the switches, I would view that as a potental problem in the chain (though in reality they may not be) and would troubleshoot and rule out accordingly as I went down the chain...not necesarily changing things at random...
Thanks for the info. :)

Speedy Petey 09-16-2006 08:47 AM


Originally Posted by dougrus (Post 18331)
"FIRE FIRE FIRE" when in fact this may not be the case but it is overstated because too many exceptions can be confusing to the typical DIY and compliance, in general, ensures a safer installation.

Exaaaaaactly. :thumbsup:

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