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Old 02-12-2009, 04:30 AM   #1
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Breaker keeps tripping


The foreclosure I'm buying has no power in the 2nd unit. The power is on but none of the lights or outlets work. One breaker, not the main, trips whenever turned to on. I push it to on, it makes a noise in the box, and trips to off.

Is the breaker worn out? Any ideas?

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Old 02-12-2009, 05:40 AM   #2
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Breaker keeps tripping


I'm not an electrician but breakers do wear out, sometimes when use as switches, however for your own safety assume that it is working correctly and try to isolate the circuit and check out all items on the circuit.
I would start by unpluging heavier items such as appliances if there is anything in a receptacle or any extension coeds etc.Then work your way along.

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Old 02-12-2009, 07:15 AM   #3
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Breaker keeps tripping


Noise in the box, what does it sound like?

When was this place built?

Is the panel federal pacific?


If the outlets and lights don't work, I suspect its that breaker that feeds them and a short happened. This could be from overheating from arcing. Do not turn the breaker on anymore. You might have damaged it already.

Its probably where the "sound" is being made. If you take a peek in the panel, be sure to shut the main off.
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Old 02-12-2009, 08:54 AM   #4
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Breaker keeps tripping


Quote:
Is the panel federal pacific?
Funny how many times I've seen that question.
I used to have a FP panel and understand exactly why the question keeps coming up.
Now have CH.

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Old 02-12-2009, 10:21 AM   #5
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Breaker keeps tripping


With the breaker off, confirm there is no voltage at the breaker's screw terminal when measured with respect to neutral, then measure the resistance from this terminal to neutral.

If you measure less than 6Ω (for a 20A breaker) you've found your reason for the breaker to trip.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 02-12-2009 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 02-12-2009, 10:37 AM   #6
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Breaker keeps tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
With the breaker off, confirm there is no voltage at the breaker's screw terminal when measured with respect to neutral, then measure the resistance from this terminal to neutral.

If you measure less than 6Ω (for a 20A breaker) you've found your reason for the breaker to trip.
Not necessarily. Inductive loads will always read a much lower DC resistance than the calculated value.

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Old 02-12-2009, 11:43 AM   #7
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Breaker keeps tripping


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Originally Posted by KE2KB View Post
Not necessarily. Inductive loads will always read a much lower DC resistance than the calculated value.

FW
I stand corrected.

After switching off the breaker and confirming that there is no voltage on the breaker output terminal with respect to neutral, do A or B.

A
Inject voltage from the secondary winding of a bell xformer into the wires under test. Measure voltage in volts across the wires and the current in amps from the xformer.

B
Inject 120vac through a 100W to 500W incandescent lamp into the wires under test. Measure voltage in volts across the wires and the current in amps though the lamp. The surge current through the lamp for a few dozen milliseconds may be as high as 8A to 40A so select a suitable range on your ammeter or use a shunt.

For either case, if V/I < 8 there is a high probably that the problem is downstream.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 02-12-2009 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 02-12-2009, 12:47 PM   #8
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Breaker keeps tripping


What is it about federal pacific panels?

The house was built in 1903.
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Old 02-12-2009, 01:34 PM   #9
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Breaker keeps tripping


Google problems with federal pacific panels?
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Old 02-12-2009, 01:47 PM   #10
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Breaker keeps tripping


Federal pacific panels had breakers that did not want to trip. They would "stick" and become a very big fire hazard. If you do have the stab-lok federal pacific breakers, it is likely an overload caused melting of insulation, which caused a short.

Otherwise, turning the breaker off and testing may be a good idea.

A multimeter is an important tool in this situation.
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Old 02-12-2009, 02:40 PM   #11
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Breaker keeps tripping


I just went by the place to have a look and it's not a FP panel. The buzz is coming from a black box that is separate from and sits above the panel. What is this?
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Old 02-12-2009, 04:27 PM   #12
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Breaker keeps tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by jrdamien View Post
I just went by the place to have a look and it's not a FP panel. The buzz is coming from a black box that is separate from and sits above the panel. What is this?
What's connected to this box? Does it connect to the panel, or to a junction box?
Does it connect to telco or CATV lines?
Is there a label on the black box?

FW
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Old 02-12-2009, 04:30 PM   #13
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Breaker keeps tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
I stand corrected.

After switching off the breaker and confirming that there is no voltage on the breaker output terminal with respect to neutral, do A or B.

A
Inject voltage from the secondary winding of a bell xformer into the wires under test. Measure voltage in volts across the wires and the current in amps from the xformer.

B
Inject 120vac through a 100W to 500W incandescent lamp into the wires under test. Measure voltage in volts across the wires and the current in amps though the lamp. The surge current through the lamp for a few dozen milliseconds may be as high as 8A to 40A so select a suitable range on your ammeter or use a shunt.

For either case, if V/I < 8 there is a high probably that the problem is downstream.
Not to start an argument, but injecting a low 60Hz voltage into a motor designed to run on 115/220V will not cause the impedance to read normally.
The motor will not start, and while you will get the true impedance of the windings, the motor will still draw more current than it is supposed to because it is not running.
I think it would be like a stalled motor, which draws very heavy current.

Why not just clamp an ammeter to the hot wire coming out of the breaker?

FW
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Old 02-12-2009, 05:26 PM   #14
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Breaker keeps tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by KE2KB View Post

Why not just clamp an ammeter to the hot wire coming out of the breaker?

FW
Try it.
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Old 02-18-2009, 12:24 AM   #15
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Breaker keeps tripping


I read through the other replies quickly and didn't see this mentioned but I thought I might throw it out. If it is a forclosed house, it could be some sort of sabotage from the previous owners.

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