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Old 09-26-2011, 02:31 PM   #1
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


I have 2 lights on the outside of my detached garage that are controlled by a switch. The way it's wired up is a UF 12/2 line goes between the switch and the garage. Power from the garage subpanel attaches to the black wire, which travels underground into the house, through a j-box where it's connected to NM and to the bottom of a switch. The white wire then goes from the top of the switch, back to the j-box and onto the white wire of the UF. In the garage it goes to the black wires of the outside lights. The white wire of the lights goes to the subpanel neutral bar.

Every time I turn the switch on the breaker trips. The lights never come on. Today I took my multimeter and put the black lead on the ground of the switch and the red lead on the bottom/hot of the switch. A bright greenish blue flash of electric shot out, blackening the multimeter lead and tripping the breaker.

What is going on? Should I get power from somewhere else for the lights? I traced all the wiring, there's no nicks in the insulation or anything, and it was working fine for powering outlets earlier.

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Old 09-26-2011, 02:42 PM   #2
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


Disconnect the wires from the lights and reset the breaker.
If it holds, you have a problem underground wire.

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Old 09-26-2011, 02:55 PM   #3
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


Yea but how the hell did it fry his meter? Unless it was on continuity I thought even a harbor freight brand would not cause an arc or dead short.
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Old 09-26-2011, 05:04 PM   #4
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by matt151617 View Post
Today I took my multimeter and put the black lead on the ground of the switch and the red lead on the bottom/hot of the switch. A bright greenish blue flash of electric shot out, blackening the multimeter lead and tripping the breaker.
Did you have your meter set to measure AC Volts and the proper range with leads plugged into the correct jack?

Almost sounds like you had the meter set to measure Amps or Resistance instead of Volts.
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Old 09-26-2011, 05:46 PM   #5
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


Quote:
Almost sounds like you had the meter set to measure Amps or Resistance instead of Volts.
Agree
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:00 PM   #6
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


Everything was set right and the leads were plugged in to the right spots. All I can think of is the current jumped from the lead to the ground of the switch next to it, but I've never seen that happen before.

I guess I'll try tapping into the switch next to it for power and have only of the wires carrying power.

The switch was originally powered in the garage with a switched neutral and a 3 way switch, one switch in the garage and one in the house.
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Old 09-26-2011, 07:50 PM   #7
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


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The switch was originally powered in the garage with a switched neutral and a 3 way switch, one switch in the garage and one in the house.
This isn't how you previously explained the wiring and why do you say it had a switched neutral? To have a three way switch, one in the garage and one in the house, would require a 12-3 cable between the two switches.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:37 PM   #8
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


It did have 3 way wiring and previously was wired with a switched neutral.

Ok here's what I previously had: a 12/2 cable that provided power to the garage. There was 2 switches, one in the house, and one in the garage that controlled the exterior lights. They were connected by a run of 12/3. I didn't like everything running off of one circuit so I took the 12/3 and made it into 2 circuits off the main panel. Then I made the 12/2 the new light control and got rid of the switch in the garage, so the lights are only controlled by the switch in the house. The original wiring was half-assed and instead of using jumper cables to power other stuff, they just placed the switches on the neutral wire.

The strange part with everything is the 12/2 cable worked just fine to power the hole garage prior to me rewiring. I'm not sure where it's shorting but it must be somewhere.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:40 PM   #9
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


So, has it worked after you rewired, or did you just rewire it?
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:51 PM   #10
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


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I didn't like everything running off of one circuit so I took the 12/3 and made it into 2 circuits off the main panel.
This 12-3 is now supporting a multiwire branch circuit to the garage. Do you have the red wire and the black wire on adjacent breakers so you read 240 volts from one breaker to the other? The white wire goes to the neutral bar?
At the garage, did you bring this 12-3 into a junction box and then branch your circuits from this point. The three neutral lines would be wire nutted together in this box.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:58 PM   #11
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


I'm going to say one step ahead of you.
From your garage j box you would bring a 12-2(power) to the light along with the 12-2 from the house.
The white wire from the power feed will connect to the light.
The white from the house switch leg will connect to the black power feed.
At the house the white and black will be connected to the switch.
At the light the black wire from the house switch will connect to the light.
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Old 09-26-2011, 09:28 PM   #12
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


Easier to show a diagram: here's what I have now. Didn't include grounds to make it cleaner.




There's plenty of other lights on that same circuit. Nothing else has a problem when the switches are flipped.
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:38 AM   #13
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


I am sure you are aware you have switch loop now and what you have to do is get the ohmmeter but S.V.P turn the breaker off before do this !!! once you verify the power is off then seperated all the conductors.

But make a note which one is supply and what from the luminaires this what you will have to do is ohm it out when the switch in the house is off it should show inflnty or needle not move on the ohmmeter then turn the house switch on then it will swing the needle or show to near zero on digital verison of ohmmeter that is your switch loop so take the white conductor to the black supply wirenut it together also grab a electrique tape and remark or use the marker to remark that conductor so you know it is not netural.

Now for the black conductor from the switch loop that will wirenutted to the black conductors from the luminaires then the rest of unmarked white conductors will be wirenutted that should slove the issue.

Also double check your house switch make sure nothing touching out of the ordrany like bare ground wire touching either switch screws or nick in the conductor that useally is the other common cuprit. { also make sure you do not have netural crossed if you have two switches in there if so that can cause the breaker[s] to trip }

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Old 09-27-2011, 07:11 PM   #14
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


The wires are hooked up properly and there's no nicks in the wires. Box is plastic and has 2 separate switches on separate circuits. I'll check the wires but I can't imagine what it could be. A short would cause the breaker to trip as soon as I applied power at the panel, not when I turned on the switch.
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Old 09-27-2011, 07:54 PM   #15
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Breaker Keeps Tripping


If your drawing is accurate then tripping the breaker when the switch is turned on means the problem is with the white wire that goes from the switch back to the fixture j-box.

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