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Old 10-23-2011, 10:28 AM   #1
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


I have halogen ceiling lights in my bedroom. They have worked fine for 10+ years. All of a sudden the circuit breaker has started tripping as soon as I turn them on.

I have changed nothing other than plugging a larger plasma TV into a receptacle on the same circuit. However, I have tried unplugging the new TV and turning everything else on the circuit off and the breaker still trips instantly when I turn the light switch on. There is only one switch for the bedroom lights

Any thoughts as to what might have happened to suddenly cause this problem?

Thanks in advance

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Old 10-23-2011, 10:37 AM   #2
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Somehow two wires touched or the insulation wore through where a wire rubbed against some metal object that should not have happened. You will have to find where that happened, maybe at the light switch, maybe up in one of the light fixtures. In the latter case one of the lamp sockets might have developed a short circuit.

Try removing the light bulbs (lamps), first all of them then put one back at a time to see if the breaker trips for one light location. Don't touch the glass bulb with your hands or fingers, if you do accidentally, wipe it with alcohol before turning it on again.

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Old 10-23-2011, 10:44 AM   #3
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Thanks for the prompt response Allan.

I wondered about the receptacle as that is the only thing that "changed" when I plugged the new TV in (even though I never moved the receptacle. However, if the short was in the receptacle why is it only the ceiling lights that switch the breaker when switched on? Everything else in the room (e.g. TV, clock radios, ceiling fan, table lamps) works fine.
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Old 10-23-2011, 10:49 AM   #4
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Thanks again Allan. I am going to go and try removing all of the lightbulbs and replacing them one at a time. I assume I should put each one in and then try the switch and see if it trips the breaker. Would you remove each bulb again after testing it (assuming it doesn't trip the breaker) or leave them in until you find the one that trips the breaker.
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:04 AM   #5
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


I removed all four bulbs from the ceiling. However, as soon as I flipped the switch on the breaker tripped (with no bulbs in the ceiling).
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:30 AM   #6
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Perhaps the act of plugging in the TV caused two wires to touch that should not be touching.
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Old 10-23-2011, 11:49 AM   #7
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Thanks Jim.

There was a tv plugged into the receptacle before as well as a cordless phone. I just bought a bigger TV. Now I have a power bar plugged into the receptacle and the TV and phone are plugged into it.

Maybe unplugging the old tv and phone and plugging in the power bar moved the receptacle enought to have two wires touch.

However, everything in the bedroom works (including the stuff plugged into the recpetacle) as long as I don't turn the ceiling lights on.

Is it possible that the lights are conneceted off the receptacle (i.e. the lights are the last item in the circuit) and the short is in the power going from the receptacle to the lights?
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Old 10-23-2011, 08:53 PM   #8
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


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I removed all four bulbs from the ceiling. However, as soon as I flipped the switch on the breaker tripped (with no bulbs in the ceiling).
Now LOOK into the sockets of those bulbs. Is one of them smoked, or shorted out?

The bottom tab should be clear of the screw shell, and not touching. I've seen bad sockets where the tab came loose, and rotated to the shell and shorted out.
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:12 PM   #9
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


there are many reasons for this. You have a short somewhere. A rat could have chewed through insulation. I have seen situations where silicone was used at the time of intallation and it took many years for the silicone to eat through the insulation. Somebody could have done a crappy installation to begin with and the wires were just barely not touching and now the wind blew on your house and the wires move just enough to now be touching. Bottom line is you have wires touching somewhere and your going to have to track it down.

Im assuming the receptacles aren't switched with the lights? If they are not switched, then the receptacles have nothing to do with your problem.

What you need to do is figure out how your lights are wired. Whether the wiring goes through a junction box or if it goes from the light switch to one light daisy chained to the other lights. If you can figure out how the lights are wired, you can start disconnecting things and figure out where the short is located
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Old 10-23-2011, 10:28 PM   #10
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Thanks gents.

It looks like there is a short somewhere. It is just a coincidence that the problem appeared at the same time I connected the new TV.

I think figuring out how the ceiling lights are wired and then trying to figure out where the short is located is probably beyond my limited abilities. Accordingly, I am going to call an electrician.

I appreciate everyone's advice.

Thanks again.
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Old 10-24-2011, 12:07 AM   #11
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The dead short is either going to be in a fixture or a junction point.
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Old 10-24-2011, 12:37 AM   #12
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The dead short is either going to be in a fixture or a junction point.
Did you see that in your glass ball? Very likely, but not 100%. It's definitely where I would start if they are accessible. There's no definitive reason for a short to suddenly show up.
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:09 AM   #13
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Did you see that in your glass ball? Very likely, but not 100%. It's definitely where I would start if they are accessible. There's no definitive reason for a short to suddenly show up.
No, I only had to read the first posting to know that there is a dead short caused by the plugging in the fixture. Does not take a crystal ball to see that.
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:36 AM   #14
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No, I only had to read the first posting to know that there is a dead short caused by the plugging in the fixture. Does not take a crystal ball to see that.
Plugging in a tv and unplugging it does not cause a short in an unrelated receptacle. Unless maybe its a switched receptacle. If no electrical work has been done recently then there is no telling where the short is. If electrical work has been done recently obviously that is where the short is going to be. At this point, a rat chewing into a cable sounds as likely as some conductors in a box moving themselves and beginning to touch
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Old 10-24-2011, 12:31 PM   #15
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Lights suddenly tripping breaker


Thanks gents.

The receptacle is not switched and no wiring or other electrical work has been done since the house was built in 2001.

For my own edification what is a "dead short"?

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