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tonymull 03-29-2005 08:41 AM

Breaker Problems
I have an older house with mostly 15A circuts. We have occassional problems with the breakers kicking. I understand that just going to a bigger breaker would be dangerous with the #14 wiring that is in place. Are there any ways to reduce the problem or at least to localize it? Whatever kitchen circut the microwave plugs into seems most prone.

Mike Swearingen 03-29-2005 09:21 AM

Microwaves should be on a dedicated circuit, which is required by code for new electrical in most places. A 15 amp/14-2-with-ground circuit is usually adequate, but if I were running a new one, I would run 20 amp/12g-with-ground.
Do NOT put any breaker higher than 15 amps on a 14g circuit. It's against code and a fire hazard.
Your best solution is to wire another 20a/12-2wg circuit to the kitchen for the microwave.
Also, if you have a grounded wiring system, you can install a GFCI receptacle in the first outlet of a kitchen circuit, and it will make all of the outlets past it in the same circuit "GFCI" for kitchen safety.
Good Luck!

tonymull 03-29-2005 11:04 AM

It appears that we moved the microwave and it now is on a circuit with the main lighting, a 15a circuit. Even though its mostly light bulbs and a tv or two, the microwave eats up most of the amps by itself so i guess that is the problem. We do have gfci's here and there. would installing a gfci in the outlet where the microwave plugs in at least limit the problem to that outlet?

pipeguy 03-29-2005 02:09 PM

Short answer - no. GFCI's do not have any over-current mitigation properties.

tonymull 03-29-2005 03:56 PM

Thanks for the help. I'm still a little confused. If the microwave is plugged into a GFCI outlet it will kick off there instead of at the breaker box, right? If it does will the other outlets in the circuit work or will the GFCI have to be reset first? :confused:

Teetorbilt 03-29-2005 05:39 PM

No. The GF in GFCI means Ground Fault. It's to keep you from becoming toast if you manage to get involved with the line/load and ground.
Like Pipe said, they do not act like a breaker. You need to get a seperate recpt. for the micro or find another circuit with less load on it.

tonymull 03-29-2005 05:47 PM

Thanks again. I'm not confused now. That circuit has not kicked off since, even when i turned on everything and then started the microwave. Do you know why it would have kicked the first time and not now? Is figuring out how much a circuit can carry as simple as just adding up the amps for all the things plugged into it? It seems like there are times when a couple of 15 amp appliances share the same circuit and don't cause trouble. Guess I'm confused again...

Teetorbilt 03-29-2005 06:01 PM

A lot of appliances use more power on start up than when they run. It sounds like your wiring is marginal and you will have to figure it out. The micro may cause a trip if the coffee pot is on, it may only go if the light over the sink is on.
I'm currently writing a book called 'Life on 30 Amps or Less'. It's about living on a boat with a 30A service, something that I did for almost 6 yrs. The boat has all of the amenities, you just can't use them all at once. The book is actually about marina life, all of the people encountered and some truly unbeliveable episodes.

tonymull 03-29-2005 07:55 PM

Good luck with the book! Looks like I'll save my money and have some dedicated circuits put in. Might as well get two or three once the guys are under the house. The wall oven is coming out and probably has its own circuit, maybe it can be revamped for the refrigerator which does not have its own. How would one go about changing a 220 to a 120?

Teetorbilt 03-29-2005 08:12 PM

All you need to do is drop one leg and change the breaker, you also need to keep the system balanced. Your electrician will know how to do this. Good idea to go with a pro, this is a bit above DIY.

Mike Swearingen 03-30-2005 02:17 AM

To answer your question abut GFCI receptacles in more detail, yes if you have something plugged into a GFCI receptacle it should trip first, but the breaker may trip as well. If a GFCI trips, all other things on the circuit beyond it will not work until that GFCI is re-set.
You will probably be able to jump off of the oven wiring up to a dedicated circuit for the microwave. All that the electrican needs to do is change the breaker and wiring connections for a 110v circuit from a 220v circuit, as Teetorbilt said.
A 110v circuit needs one hot, one neutral and a ground wire on a single-pole breaker. You can use a 20 amp with the oven wiring. A 220v circuit normally has only two hots and a ground, but no neutral, although the oven should have both for clocks, timers, controls, etc.
I recommend that you have an electrican do it, too. Plumbing just leaks, but electricity is unforgiving and dangerous if done improperly.
If you're going to have the kitchen re-wired, the things that need dedicated circuits in a kitchen now include the oven and range, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, and microwave.
Good Luck!

pipeguy 03-30-2005 10:54 AM


Originally Posted by Teetorbilt
I'm currently writing a book called 'Life on 30 Amps or Less'. It's about living on a boat with a 30A service, something that I did for almost 6 yrs.

Teetor, sounds like one of my favorite songs:

"Now I now this Joe down in Mexico
He went there to work on his tan
For years he's been plugged into blenders and songs
They call him the Twelve Volt Man

He don't need no charge card
Just give him a Die Hard
And he'll makes sparks fly 'round your head"

-Jimmy Buffett

Twelve Volt Man

tonymull 03-30-2005 04:11 PM

Thanks again for the help guys. I found I have a 20A circuit that has only a blender and the garbage disposal on it, even though it is labled refrigerator at the box. So if I can figure out how to use that circuit for the microwave it should work OK. That microwave shared a 20A with the frig and a some outlets for years without kicking off. By the time I have that 220 switched to a dedicated for the frig, the circuit it's on now, another 20A will work fine for the wife's new Advantium and the electrician costs should be minimal. Never would have figured it out without your advice. thanks again.:)

My early experience with electrical was working for a month as a helper for an electrician who had lost his lisence related to drinking, which he had not stopped. He did owe my uncle some money, so we did the wiring and another electrician who also owed uncle money or favors, checked it off, did the box hookups and said he did the whole thing. Anyway there are definite gaps in my training so to speak. The scary thing is that I know way more than most of my buddies.:eek:

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