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Old 01-10-2011, 02:56 PM   #16
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


Chrispy short hole to the round hole. Meter set to lowest setting or 200.

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Old 01-10-2011, 03:24 PM   #17
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


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Chrispy short hole to the round hole. Meter set to lowest setting or 200.
Perfect....will try that tonight....

My wife would get a chuckle about my "which probe in which hole" issues...
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:13 PM   #18
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


As you have two AFCI circuits, if they are rated for the same ampacity, if you are able to turn off power within the panel where they are located, and if you are comfortable that you can safely do so, you could try reversing the circuits between the breakers, and determine if the fault follows the breaker or the circuit.
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:54 PM   #19
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


If the receptacles were wired wrong the circuit would be predictable.

Heres my take on AFCIs. They are an absolute PAIN IN THE BUTT.

as far as "shared" neutrals go, any electrician that wired a house with AFCIs would NOT share neutrals. Again, it would be a predictable trip.

Inductive loads such as motors almost ALWAYS trip AFCIs. Also, electronics and transformers will trip it regularly. (Computer have power supplies)

Heres my recommendation:

get a power strip that has SURGE PROTECTION on it and put it on everything that is on that circuit ESPECIALLY electronics, motors and the like.

If that doesnt work, remove the AFCI and replace with a standard breaker.

If you keep tripping that AFCI it wont be worth a darn in a year. (worn out)


AFCIs work by detecting current spikes from Arcs. Thats it.
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:55 PM   #20
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


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As you have two AFCI circuits, if they are rated for the same ampacity, if you are able to turn off power within the panel where they are located, and if you are comfortable that you can safely do so, you could try reversing the circuits between the breakers, and determine if the fault follows the breaker or the circuit.
Make ABSOLUTE SURE that IF you decide to do this, you move BOTH the Circuit NEUTRAL AND HOT wires.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:03 AM   #21
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


The symptoms you describe sound like the result of an intermittent fault from neutral to ground. When the neutral and ground make contact on an AFCI (or GFCI) protected circuit, applying any load on the circuit will cause a trip fairly quickly because some of the load current returns on the grounding conductor and the AFCI senses an imbalance. This will only happen when a load is applied, not just when the neutral and ground contact each other.

My advice would be to wait until the problem is really bad (breaker won't reset), then open the panel and disconnect the circuit neutral from the breaker. Check for continuity between the neutral and ground. If your meter shows anything other than an open circuit, you've identified the problem. You may need to keep testing for awhile to catch the problem in action - intermittent connections can be hard to diagnose.

Be careful working in the panel. Though your circuit will be turned off, the rest of the panel is still hot. If you are not comfortable with this, hire an electrician. Troubleshooting a frustrating problem like this is not a friendly first electrical project.
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:28 AM   #22
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


AFCI's have such a bad rap its not funny. However so did GFI's when they first came out. Due to what I believe two factors, one new tech, two poorly manufactured stuff that by that time had become standard. It was common practice to allow some current to leak to ground and nobody cared. Enter GFI. Any well designed electrical appliance even a motor will not leak current under normal operation.

AFCI's are (in theory) to detect arcs at current levels way to low to cause a overload and wake a breaker. These arcs are the most dangerous quirk of electricity as they create way more heat than necessary to ignite the always surrounding flammable material. (cause most home fires) Now I am willing to apply my two previous rules to AFCI's. Part and I suspect a large part is faulty tech rushed too quickly to market. (I refuse to install them) The other part is a lot of stuff has low budget design. Switching power supplies(read computers), is I suspect a common culprit as well as extremely poor design and efficiency(transients and noise). So apart from their failures we must also consider that they might be doing their job. I have been told, and have no reason not to believe, that wiring stapled too hard will cause damage to the wire which might arc. This could be hidden, intermittent, and not show up for some time. Which makes these all the much harder to troubleshoot.(gonna need a scattergun)

I hesitate to denounce the practice of ohming out a trouble some circuit with a multimeter, but I suspect that our chances of catching a high resistance short is next to a game of craps. I also hazard to say that any problem would not be between neutral and ground, but between hot and neutral. Unless it was the GFI portion of the breaker upset, which could be tested by installation of a GFCI breaker or plugging in a s GFI extension cord.
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:57 AM   #23
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


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Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
As you have two AFCI circuits, if they are rated for the same ampacity, if you are able to turn off power within the panel where they are located, and if you are comfortable that you can safely do so, you could try reversing the circuits between the breakers, and determine if the fault follows the breaker or the circuit.
I already switched the breaker in question out for a new one.....and the new one is still tripping (albeit less frequently).

Would you still suggest trying this?
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:21 AM   #24
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


Thanks for all the help so far guys! I did check all the outlets (with everything unplugged) with the ohm meter (circuit off) and they all read zero. To be sure I plugged a couple things in (circuit still off) and I could get a 14 reading on the outlets.

I took another close look at the breaker box and the 2 wires going to the 2 AFCI breakers come in the same grommet...and boy is it tight in there. The plastic from the grommet does seem to be putting pressure on the wire. However, the other breaker never trips.....still, it might be worth taking a closer look.

Is it also worth trying to move the AFCI breaker in question to another place in the breaker box? Maybe even move it from left to right?

Last night, I plugged some things in and it didn't trip....but then I plugged in the simple plug tester and all the outlets checked out fine until I got to the last one....the tester caused the breaker to trip when I plugged it in. I reset the breaker and tried it again...same result. Then I unplugged everything and tried just the tester and it didn't trip. Plugged some things back in, still didn't trip....then tried the tester again and it tripped. Then tried it again from scratch and it wouldn't trip no matter what. Went back a bit later and then I got it to trip again with the tester (other stuff still plugged in). The most frustrating thing is thinking I've found a pattern only to have it break 2 minutes later...
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:30 AM   #25
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


LOL it sure is frustrating! But have no fear, we'll get this licked yet!
"Batten 'em down again! We'll teach those hatches!"

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Old 01-11-2011, 10:43 AM   #26
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


Moving the breaker in the box I don't believe will solve anything.

You have tested and proved that there is no short circuit, I am at a loss as to further investigation, short of either installing a standard breaker for short circuit protection, or ripping down all the drywall and replacing the wire, both options I am sure you don't want to exercise.

I guess the next step I would personally try is go out and purchase new recepticles to replace the ones that are in service either that or some magic dust to reverse the AFCI evil spell.

I guess something else to try, just guessing now, is disconnect each recepticle starting with the last on in the chain, and see if you can isolate it to a leg between recepticles.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:53 AM   #27
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


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Moving the breaker in the box I don't believe will solve anything.

You have tested and proved that there is no short circuit, I am at a loss as to further investigation, short of either installing a standard breaker for short circuit protection, or ripping down all the drywall and replacing the wire, both options I am sure you don't want to exercise.

I guess the next step I would personally try is go out and purchase new recepticles to replace the ones that are in service either that or some magic dust to reverse the AFCI evil spell.

I guess something else to try, just guessing now, is disconnect each recepticle starting with the last on in the chain, and see if you can isolate it to a leg between recepticles.
Bad receptacle? I'm willing to try that....that only costs $20 and an hour of my time.

I really hope (for obvious reasons) that I can eliminate wiring as the cause. The house was built in 2004 without there ever being an issue, so I would hope a wiring problem would've popped up before.

As I said, I don't have a problem having an electrician come in....but I really wish I could reliably duplicate the problem so as not to waste time and money. The problem is that there are times where I literally can't get the breaker to trip....and it can go for days without a problem and then act up so bad that I can't even reset the breaker without unplugging everything.

The name of the electric company that did the original wiring is on the breaker box....so calling them in might be a good step. I would hope they would know better than anyone what might be going wrong.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:54 AM   #28
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


Quote:
Originally Posted by chrispy_g View Post

Is it also worth trying to move the AFCI breaker in question to another place in the breaker box? Maybe even move it from left to right?

Last night, I plugged some things in and it didn't trip....but then I plugged in the simple plug tester and all the outlets checked out fine until I got to the last one....the tester caused the breaker to trip when I plugged it in. I reset the breaker and tried it again...same result. Then I unplugged everything and tried just the tester and it didn't trip. Plugged some things back in, still didn't trip....then tried the tester again and it tripped. Then tried it again from scratch and it wouldn't trip no matter what. Went back a bit later and then I got it to trip again with the tester (other stuff still plugged in). The most frustrating thing is thinking I've found a pattern only to have it break 2 minutes later...
If you are going to move the breaker in the panel, I would suggest to move it to the other phase. otherwise I agree with Jack, that it won't make a difference.

Also, I think you found a slight pattern with the last outlet causing the breaker to trip a few times. Pull that receptical out and disconnect it, checking for how well the wires are connected. what i don't recall is if you have done that yet. I know some folks use the push-in way of connecting the wires, which I personally don't like. these sometimes become loose and may be cause intermittent problems.

rod
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:59 AM   #29
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


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If you are going to move the breaker in the panel, I would suggest to move it to the other phase. otherwise I agree with Jack, that it won't make a difference.

Also, I think you found a slight pattern with the last outlet causing the breaker to trip a few times. Pull that receptical out and disconnect it, checking for how well the wires are connected. what i don't recall is if you have done that yet. I know some folks use the push-in way of connecting the wires, which I personally don't like. these sometimes become loose and may be cause intermittent problems.

rod
Thats a real good point, something I was hoping chrispy would find when testing with an ohm meter, not the test the removal of the recepticle from the Jbox and wire from the recepticle.
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:46 AM   #30
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HELP - Strange AFCI Tripping Issue


Another good reason to hate back-stabbed outlets/switches....

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