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Old 07-20-2012, 01:42 PM   #1
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breaker keeps tripping


One of the bedrooms in an apartment I rent has outlets that run on separate circuits. This turned out to be a good thing... There is some problem with 3 outlets that are connected to one breaker. Very soon after a tenant moved in around 3 months ago, she reported that her bedside lamp, alarm, and a fan shut off. I went over and took her down into the basement where the service panel is located for this apt. The 15amp breaker had tripped. I asked her if she had used anything like a hair dryer, etc. She said no. I wrote if off as a 'strange event'. After she got off work the next day, I get a call and find out the breaker had tripped again. I reset the breaker and took a 1500 watt heat gun upstairs. Ran it, a fan, and a lamp for 15 minutes without a problem. I shrugged my shoulders and told her to call me if it happened again. Next day, I'm over there again. This time, I replaced the breaker with another 15amp breaker.

For 3 months, I don't hear a peep out of her. Then about 4 days ago, she called and said that her window unit air conditioner went out in the middle of the night. Twice, she reset the breaker and twice it tripped. I went over and reset the breaker then started up the air conditioner. Sure enough the breaker tripped. Then, I replaced the 15amp breaker with a 20amp. The breaker still tripped. Thinking that maybe the air conditioner had a dead short or an intermittent short, I jerked the air conditioner out of the window and put another unit in its place. It ran fine for the 20 minutes or so I hung around. Problem solved, I thought. Next morning I get a text msg. from the tenant that when she arrived back to her apt. after working her 2nd shift the air conditioner was off and the other two outlets were (of course) dead too. She went ahead and put her original air conditioner in the right side window and plugged it into an outlet that is hooked to another breaker. She's happy as a clam since now the air is working. But I'm not happy because I am stumped. Maybe it's the outlet that has a short in it? I plugged a receptacle tester in each outlet. They all show that everything is 'Correct'. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Old 07-20-2012, 02:35 PM   #2
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breaker keeps tripping


A TDR device may show where this intermittent short is located.

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Old 07-20-2012, 02:46 PM   #3
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.... Then, I replaced the 15amp breaker with a 20amp....

!!!!!! Well that isn't a very good solution. Here's the scenario. The breaker is too large for the wiring. The wiring heats up and leads to a fire. Your insurance coverage denies claim because of improper repairs that you have performed and now immortalized on the WWW with your posting. Your renters sue you for their losses. Now you declare personal bankruptcy but not before you lose all your lifetime assets. Hopefully no one dies in the fire.

Maybe you better get the 15A breaker back in its place ASAP...
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Old 07-20-2012, 02:52 PM   #4
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Call an electrician!
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Old 07-20-2012, 02:53 PM   #5
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!!!!!! Well that isn't a very good solution. Here's the scenario. The breaker is too large for the wiring. The wiring heats up and leads to a fire. Your insurance coverage denies claim because of improper repairs that you have performed and now immortalized on the WWW with your posting. Your renters sue you for their losses. Now you declare personal bankruptcy but not before you lose all your lifetime assets. Hopefully no one dies in the fire.

Maybe you better get the 15A breaker back in its place ASAP...
I've got 12-2 running up to the apartment. I think it will handle a 20amp breaker. Obviously, I was looking for an easy way out of the problem and the proper solution isn't to put in a bigger breaker. My next step wasn't gonna be to drop a 30a in there... Now, you wanna take a stab at what else I might try in order to solve the problem?
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Old 07-20-2012, 02:54 PM   #6
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A TDR device may show where this intermittent short is located.
Uh. Can I get one of these testers at Home Depot?
As best I can gather you are just having a bit of fun at my expense? Here is what I found out about a TDR device quote: Time domain reflectometers are commonly used for in-place testing of very long cable runs, where it is impractical to dig up or remove what may be a kilometers-long cable. They are indispensable for preventive maintenance of telecommunication lines, as they can reveal growing resistance levels on joints and connectors as they corrode, and increasing insulation leakage as it degrades and absorbs moisture long before either leads to catastrophic failures.

I'm not deal with underground cable.
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Old 07-20-2012, 03:04 PM   #7
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Uh. Can I get one of these testers at Home Depot?
As best I can gather you are just having a bit of fun at my expense? Here is what I found out about a TDR device quote: Time domain reflectometers are commonly used for in-place testing of very long cable runs, where it is impractical to dig up or remove what may be a kilometers-long cable. They are indispensable for preventive maintenance of telecommunication lines, as they can reveal growing resistance levels on joints and connectors as they corrode, and increasing insulation leakage as it degrades and absorbs moisture long before either leads to catastrophic failures.

I'm not deal with underground cable.
A TDR is a very expensive technical instrument used to find cable problems in coaxial and other high bandwidth cables. Its has no use here and the suggestion was absurd. But that seems to be common from this source. Disregard.

I am happy to hear you have 12-2 wiring but I hope you are positive about that and can confirm it for every leg of the circuit.

Go buy a kill-a-watt meter ($20) at a big box store ( http://www.p3international.com/produ.../p4400-ce.html ) and measure the current of this A/C at start-up and after running. It maybe you need a dedicated 20A circuit just for the window AC if it is a higher BTU unit. If its close to 15A then sometimes it will trip branch other times it won;t but the randomness will drive you crazy.
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Old 07-20-2012, 03:08 PM   #8
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One guy on Mike Holt's Forum used it to find a cabling fault in an ATM machine install. Within 0.1 foot.

You'll have to decide if it's worth it to you and your tenant, assuming you can find a place to rent it to you.

The other chance you have is to somehow induce this fault. Push on outlets, etc..

I'll have to write more explicit and less abstract posts.

BTW, "absurd" = ad hominem. Try to do better.

Avoiding Straw Man arguments is also a good idea.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 07-20-2012 at 03:11 PM.
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Old 07-20-2012, 03:46 PM   #9
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A TDR is a very expensive technical instrument used to find cable problems in coaxial and other high bandwidth cables. Its has no use here and the suggestion was absurd. But that seems to be common from this source. Disregard.

I am happy to hear you have 12-2 wiring but I hope you are positive about that and can confirm it for every leg of the circuit.

Go buy a kill-a-watt meter ($20) at a big box store ( http://www.p3international.com/produ.../p4400-ce.html ) and measure the current of this A/C at start-up and after running. It maybe you need a dedicated 20A circuit just for the window AC if it is a higher BTU unit. If its close to 15A then sometimes it will trip branch other times it won;t but the randomness will drive you crazy.
Thank you for your suggestions. I will go ahead and change out the 20A breaker back to the original 15A since that didn't solve anything anyway. I believe though that my problem with this circuit is not related to needing a dedicated 20A Circuit. As I explained in my previous post, the tenant put her air conditioner in another window and plugged it into an outlet that is on another circuit - a 15A circuit! So, the air conditioner is running successfully on a 15A circuit. This gets me back to a discovery phase as to why the other circuit is tripping. As long as all she is running are bedside lamps and a low voltage alarm there aren't any problems. I think that the power from the panel comes first to the outlet under the window where the air conditioner used to be. Before I bought this building, someone ran wire mold from this outlet and mounted another outlet a couple of feet away. And then ran more wire to an outlet next to the bed. So, I am thinking that the outlet under the window may be the source of the problem.
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Old 07-20-2012, 03:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
One guy on Mike Holt's Forum used it to find a cabling fault in an ATM machine install. Within 0.1 foot.

You'll have to decide if it's worth it to you and your tenant, assuming you can find a place to rent it to you.

The other chance you have is to somehow induce this fault. Push on outlets, etc..

I'll have to write more explicit and less abstract posts.

BTW, "absurd" = ad hominem. Try to do better.

Avoiding Straw Man arguments is also a good idea.
Oh come on. TDRs are great tools for the appropriate applications. I've improvised a TDR using my portable digital oscilloscope on a couple occasions to find faults in antenna cables. But it's a totally useless suggestion here and only serves to confuse the guy. Even using an off-the-shelf TDR requires a great deal of technical knowledge. Even more importantly, the TDR only tells you the distance to the fault. Wires are run all over the place inside a structure. Knowing that the fault is 35.7 feet from the panel is not particularly useful information since you have no idea how to find that point on the cable in the walls.

Most faults occur at devices, not randomly in the middle of a cable run. Start by removing the receptacles that are on this circuit and checking for faults there. Perhaps a hot terminal is touching a metal box, or insulation wore through on a sharp corner in a box.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:03 PM   #11
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breaker keeps tripping


Just keep reseting the breaker!
You will find the magic smoke soon!
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:07 PM   #12
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Oh come on. TDRs are great tools for the appropriate applications. I've improvised a TDR using my portable digital oscilloscope on a couple occasions to find faults in antenna cables. But it's a totally useless suggestion here and only serves to confuse the guy. Even using an off-the-shelf TDR requires a great deal of technical knowledge. Even more importantly, the TDR only tells you the distance to the fault. Wires are run all over the place inside a structure. Knowing that the fault is 35.7 feet from the panel is not particularly useful information since you have no idea how to find that point on the cable in the walls.

Most faults occur at devices, not randomly in the middle of a cable run. Start by removing the receptacles that are on this circuit and checking for faults there. Perhaps a hot terminal is touching a metal box, or insulation wore through on a sharp corner in a box.
That's were I'm heading next in this discovery phase. I going to switch the breaker off and inspect all of the outlets. I can imagine that the 12-2 wire got short out somewhere in the building.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:30 PM   #13
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Just keep reseting the breaker!
You will find the magic smoke soon!
Are you a comedian disguised as an electrical contractor?
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:31 PM   #14
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That's were I'm heading next in this discovery phase. I going to switch the breaker off and inspect all of the outlets. I can imagine that the 12-2 wire got short out somewhere in the building.

Why are you even touching this? Call your landlord with the issue and have him hire a licensed electrician.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:37 PM   #15
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Why are you even touching this? Call your landlord with the issue and have him hire a licensed electrician.
I read his initial post to mean that he is the landlord. Local laws may still require that he use a licensed electrician though, since it's an investment property and not owner-occupied.

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