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Old 06-09-2009, 12:00 PM   #1
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Breaker problem


Last night while using a microwave + toaster oven on the same circuit in the kitchen, we managed to trip the breaker. I found the tripped breaker and turned it back on, but the sockets still weren't working. Also, for some reason, the breaker above won't go all the way to the off position, and switching it on doesn't turn on it's respective circuit.

I have attached pictures of the breaker box. This is the first time I am attempting to muck around with the electrical, so I wanted to get any feedback before I hurt myself! I'm an electrical engineer, so debugging electrical issues is not exactly new territory, but that obviously has limited application when dealing with the house.

I was planning on shutting off power to the panel and then checking continuity through the breaker. Is this a good start to find out if the breaker is faulty? If that checks out, I was going to measure the AC voltage directly on the breaker bolt. So...

1. Any suggestions?
2. Anyone know this type of breaker? I think it starts with a Z, and they are notoriously bad for not tripping when they are supposed to (according to the home inspector)

PS: In the picture, the 2nd from the top breaker is what was tripped when I checked the panel. For some reason, the top one is now stuck in that position (won't go off), and turning the 2nd one on doesn't turn on their respective sockets)
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Breaker problem-dscn4181.jpg   Breaker problem-dscn4182.jpg  


Last edited by jdhar; 06-09-2009 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 06-09-2009, 12:06 PM   #2
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Breaker problem


Switching the breaker to OFF is sometimes required to reset them. To test the breaker simply measure for voltage on the screw where the wire is attached. If there is voltage the breaker is good.
If it won't switch on after switching off then the fault is still present or the breaker is defective. Remove the wire from the breaker and see if it resets. If it does not then it is defective.

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Old 06-09-2009, 12:15 PM   #3
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Breaker problem


I believe those are Zinsco breakers.

http://www.inspect-ny.com/electric/Zinsco.htm

Your home inspector was right..

The second breaker from the top may have overheated, causing the top one to trip. If they've cooled down and you can't reset the breaker, then it's probably bad. Or they're both bad.

Usually I'd just tell you to replace the breaker, but I've heard very bad things about Zinsco (no personal experience though). If one breaker did overheat, it could have damaged the adjacent breaker(s), or the buss. That could be dangerous..

Call an electrician ASAP to take a look.
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Old 06-09-2009, 12:19 PM   #4
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Breaker problem


Thanks guys... so I guess as a short term solution, replace one (or two) of the breakers if they are bad.

Long term, get the whole panel replaced? Any estimates on how much this typically costs?
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Old 06-09-2009, 12:46 PM   #5
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Breaker problem


Don't take this the wrong way, but don't they teach you basic troubleshooting in the 4 years of electrical engineering classes?
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Old 06-09-2009, 12:50 PM   #6
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Breaker problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
Don't take this the wrong way, but don't they teach you basic troubleshooting in the 4 years of electrical engineering classes?
lol.. as was suggested, pretty much the only thing to check was measuring the voltage on the breaker, which is what I already said in my original post.

I posted the question just to be sure from a safety standpoint, to see if there are alternate suggestions, and also to find out what kind of breaker it is. All of which have been answered.
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:04 PM   #7
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Breaker problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by jdhar View Post
Long term, get the whole panel replaced? Any estimates on how much this typically costs?
If it were mine, I'd replace it..

It doesn't look like it would be horrendously expensive; You've only got 6 (?) circuits in there, and it's a small panel. But I don't think anyone can give you a solid ballpark without seeing what's feeding the panel, and what code violations, etc. might need to be fixed.

And of course electricians' rates vary..
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:05 PM   #8
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Breaker problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
. . .basic troubleshooting in the 4 years of electrical engineering classes?
More than half the engineers I worked with were just biding their time until they became managers.
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:40 AM   #9
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Breaker problem


So it looks like one of the breakers may be shot... I can't seem to find the main shutoff switch to the panel. I have attached a picture of what I thought would be the main switch, but there's no switch there. The metal bar in the middle does nothing.

This used to be the main panel in the house, and when an extension was added, the meter was moved to another panel outside, and now this is a sub. That one has a main shutoff... is there no way to shut this one off separately?
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:57 AM   #10
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Breaker problem


I think (LOL) you grab that handle & pull & you remove a fuse holder that interupts power to the panel.
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Old 06-10-2009, 01:09 AM   #11
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Breaker problem


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Originally Posted by KeithM62948 View Post
I think (LOL) you grab that handle & pull & you remove a fuse holder that interupts power to the panel.
haha! Have no idea why it's labelled on and off then...
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Old 06-10-2009, 01:18 AM   #12
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Breaker problem


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Originally Posted by jdhar View Post
haha! Have no idea why it's labelled on and off then...
Because when the word "ON" is at the top, the fuses are connected. If you pull it out and flip it over, it will re-insert, but no connection will be made, and the word will read "OFF".

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