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Old 07-20-2012, 04:39 PM   #16
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breaker keeps tripping


Arcs put out AM.
An AM radio will detect these arcs.
Once the fault appears, you could put 1A through the shorted cable (ask B or Poulton how to do this) and scan the outlets.

Your strategy in troubleshooting this should be
the time spent on the technique
vs.
what your time is worth
vs.
likelihood of success.

Mr. B and Mr. P: So far your respective behaviors have not resulted in anything actionable.
That's good.

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Old 07-20-2012, 04:40 PM   #17
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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.
Gotcha, around here, landlord or tenant cannot do their own electrical work.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:41 PM   #18
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Why are you even touching this? Call your landlord with the issue and have him hire a licensed electrician.
He is the landlord!
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:44 PM   #19
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He is the landlord!
I got that... He still may not be legal to do his own electrical work.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:47 PM   #20
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I got that... He still may not be legal to do his own electrical work.
Does troubleshooting count as electrical work? Your answer may affect many DIYers.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:49 PM   #21
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Does troubleshooting count as electrical work? Your answer may affect many DIYers.
If he adds or changes anything, IMO that would be doing electrical work. He may create more issues, code violations and not even realize it.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:52 PM   #22
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Does troubleshooting count as electrical work? Your answer may affect many DIYers.
He's already changed the breaker, so we are over that hump in the road!
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Old 07-20-2012, 09:59 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
Mr. B and Mr. P: So far your respective behaviors have not resulted in anything actionable.
Funny. So far your recommendations is to get a laboratory grade TDR and learn how to use it. Then interface to romex cable (a TDR is a device intended for coax or twisted pair wiring) and then figure out the cable run (behind the walls) so you can get your micrometer out to see where the fractional foot comes to in the cable run where the fault is.

Failing that you suggest an AM radio to detect a signal. Oh brother. Maybe exhume Guglielmo Marconi from the grave to assist in the measurements.

Who giving the useless advice here?!?!!!

My point is still valid. Buy a $20 Kill-a-watt and find out the current of the AC. Breakers aren't exactly calibrated and ACs don't have the same surge each time they turn on. If the surge is close to the breaker trip point then occasionally it will trip it. Maybe not every time but as a random distribution it may be enough to be annoying.

Since the outlet tester shows the wiring is correct and the breaker doesn't trip when the AC isn't running it stands to reason there is no hard cable fault shorting the hot wire. Shorts are typically hard faults not variable loads. This then a magnitude of load problem.

I suspect the answer will be the AC uses close to 15A or even slightly higher when the compressor just fires up. That is tripping the circuit randomly. The problem is compounded because other items are on the same circuit. They are not always on at the same time leading to apparently more randomness.

A dedicated 20A outlet at the window (12-2 cable) would be my recommendation should the kill a watt readings confirm my theory.

That seems pretty actionable to me. But if you feel surfing the AM band is productive work have at it.

Another idea. Get a 12-2 extension cord and run the AC from a known dedicated outlet somewhere in the apartment. Maybe a bathroom GFCI, maybe an outlet on the stove, maybe a kitchen counter plug. Just find something not shared with other loads. Then see is the AC runs fine on that circuit. If so then start pulling wire for a proper dedicated outlet at the window.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:13 AM   #24
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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.
I'm well aware of the local laws and abide by them. Nothing ends up good when you try and get over on the inspectors in this city. An owner (which I am) can do his own electrical work. Now on a complete gut, you have to have a master plumber pull a permit although I've known many investors who put butcher paper over the windows and do as they please...

That said, there have been numerous time where I have had a licensed electrician pull a permit for a major upgrade to a building that I own. I am not allergic to electricians.

You know, I thought this was a DIY forum not the Contractors Forum where I was prone to get my head bit off for even daring to suggest that I do my own work. FYI, I recently sold a buy/fix/flip where I personally replaced @1150 feet of knob & tube on 3 floors with 12-2, 14-2, etc. I hired an electrician to jam with me for two days where it took 2 guys. And, I paid him to act like an inspector before I scheduled my finals. So, I'm having what I think is a small problem here with a breaker tripping and a few people are going off the deep end.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:31 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by curiousB View Post
I suspect the answer will be the AC uses close to 15A or even slightly higher when the compressor just fires up. That is tripping the circuit randomly. The problem is compounded because other items are on the same circuit. They are not always on at the same time leading to apparently more randomness.

A dedicated 20A outlet at the window (12-2 cable) would be my recommendation should the kill a watt readings confirm my theory.

Another idea. Get a 12-2 extension cord and run the AC from a known dedicated outlet somewhere in the apartment. Maybe a bathroom GFCI, maybe an outlet on the stove, maybe a kitchen counter plug. Just find something not shared with other loads. Then see is the AC runs fine on that circuit. If so then start pulling wire for a proper dedicated outlet at the window.
Your suggestions once again are appreciated. However somehow my previous response has once again gotten overlooked. The tenant took the original air conditioner and placed it in another window. She plugged it into an outlet that is on a completely different 15A circuit. This circuit is not tripping.

Anyway for those of you who think I need to diagnose this problem with an AM radio and/or believe that I have violated local and perhaps federal laws let me reassure you that I have a plan. Last night, I went to my favorite hole-in-the wall bar. I needed to ponder all of the valuable suggestions that were generously provided by the members of this list over a drink or two. Low and behold sitting right there was one of my favorite electricians. He may not remember the conversation that we had... but I did discuss the problem with him. I'm still going to inspect all 3 outlets first. Then call him if I get stuck. I think he has one of the fancy TDRs on his truck. Uses it all the time. Can't wait to see it in action.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:40 AM   #26
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If that AC draws say 10A and you plug it into one circuit and it trips, there is a good chance that there is more than 5A of other stuff on that circuit.

If that AC draws say 10A and you then plug it into another circuit and it doesn't trip, there is a good chance that there is less than 5A of other stuff on that circuit.

People usually assume the worst, its probably just an overloaded circuit. If you have issues, have your drinking buddy use his clamp on meter and measure the circuits at the breakers. That will tell you how much room you have to work with. Then plug the AC in and meter the circuits again. Subtract the two numbers, and you have how much the AC is drawing. Don't forget to wait long enough so the compressor on the AC is allowed to start.
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Old 07-21-2012, 03:29 PM   #27
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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?
Ha... 12/2 running up to the apartment ah! (Ask yourself this: Why did the electrician who did the installation put a 15 amp breaker on #12 AWG conductors? Is the wire aluminum, or is any part of the circuit wired using #14 AWG...?
Here's what I find in the field. You could have a bad connection, and if...due to that connection, the insulation has burnt back, and exposed bare copper on the energized conductor...and if that conductor is crossing a ground wire, or is missing a grounded metal "J" box, then when a large load is drawn for an extended length of time, the burnt wire will again get very hot -- hot enough to actually glow! The hot wire will expand and could easily touch a ground causing a short circuit. The breaker trips, and the power is out. The wire cools down - contracts - and the short is removed again. You come along, plug in the load, and the circuit operates without a problem...but you probably didn't wait long enough for the above scenario to develop. Look for a burnt branch circuit phase wire.
(Tip): Take the regular breaker out, and install an "AFCI" 15amp breaker. With a bad connection and burnt wire, one minute arc will trip the AFCI breaker. Then, just trouble-shoot as if you had a constant "dead short"
(I ought to be getting paid for this... You can't learn this stuff from a book ya know...)
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Old 07-21-2012, 03:42 PM   #28
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Ha... 12/2 running up to the apartment ah! (Ask yourself this: Why did the electrician who did the installation put a 15 amp breaker on #12 AWG conductors? Is the wire aluminum, or is any part of the circuit wired using #14 AWG...?
Here's what I find in the field. You could have a bad connection, and if...due to that connection, the insulation has burnt back, and exposed bare copper on the energized conductor...and if that conductor is crossing a ground wire, or is missing a grounded metal "J" box, then when a large load is drawn for an extended length of time, the burnt wire will again get very hot -- hot enough to actually glow! The hot wire will expand and could easily touch a ground causing a short circuit. The breaker trips, and the power is out. The wire cools down - contracts - and the short is removed again. You come along, plug in the load, and the circuit operates without a problem...but you probably didn't wait long enough for the above scenario to develop. Look for a burnt branch circuit phase wire.
(Tip): Take the regular breaker out, and install an "AFCI" 15amp breaker. With a bad connection and burnt wire, one minute arc will trip the AFCI breaker. Then, just trouble-shoot as if you had a constant "dead short"
(I ought to be getting paid for this... You can't learn this stuff from a book ya know...)
Thanks. I'll run through your list and report back what I find. You ought to send a bill for information like this ya know.
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Old 07-21-2012, 11:53 PM   #29
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Thanks. I'll run through your list and report back what I find. You ought to send a bill for information like this ya know.
Just kiddin'... Hope it helps.
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Old 07-22-2012, 09:53 AM   #30
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