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kkf 06-14-2007 12:57 AM

Main Breaker Trips Repeatedly
On Saturday, we lost power three times in a 2-hour period. We found that the breaker immediately below the meter outside had been tripped (a 125 amp breaker in a box by itself, immediately below the meter out by the street, separate from the panel on the outside wall of the house and the panel in the garage). Each time, we reset the breaker. My spouse saw a slight smoking and smelled something burning (but I did not). After the third occurrence, we have had no other problems up to now (it is Wednesday). I don't think the load at the time was unusually high, though we had the AC, dishwasher, and a few lights running. I called the power company and the representative said he was almost sure the main breaker was weakening and needed to be replaced.

I would like to know:
1) Does this sound like the main breaker needs to be replaced, and what are other possible causes of the problem? Is it likely I might need to replace the entire box? What steps should I take to verify the cause of the problem?
2) How difficult should the repairs be for me to do myself, since I can get the power company to cut power while I make repairs (and thus don't need to deal with hot wires while I work)?
3) If you strongly recommend a licensed electrician, about how much should I expect the repair to cost?

As a side detail, Monday evening we noticed a red LED in the meter had turned on (may have been on since Saturday, don't know). I have spoken to four different power company reps and none have a clue what that LED means (I've been told four different things, including the meters aren't supposed to have LEDs :wink: ). They have issued a service request, but a power company serviceperson has not been out to check it yet, because they are backed up and it is low priority. Anyone know what the LED means? I am guessing an error of some kind (duh).

Thank you for your time.

Mike Swearingen 06-14-2007 01:17 AM

A. I am NOT a pro electrician, just a long-time DIYer.
B. If a breaker keeps tripping, it is most likely just doing its job (protecting), although it could possibly be failing. If it's the main breaker tripping, it may be any of the circuit breakers after it that's failing and not the main itself (much more expensive to replace than a single circuit breaker).
C. If you have anything with an LED at or near your meter base, it might possibly be an emergency generator connection hub and not the meter itself. (I have a power company whole panel emergency generator connection hub adjoining and connected to my meter base. The hub is the only thing with LED.)
D. Based on your questions, please call a pro electrician. You're dealing with two legs of 120v (240v total) at the meter, and either (and certainly both) leg can kill you. A pro will not necessarily need to have your power cut off to evaluate and correct your problem.
Good luck!

kkf 06-14-2007 01:39 AM

"If you have anything with an LED at or near your meter base..."

The LED is inside the meter (inside the glassed in portion).

kkf 06-14-2007 01:40 AM

And thanks for such a quick reply, Mike. I'd still like to hear what others have to say, esp. if anyone can tell me what that stupid LED means. :)

jwhite 06-14-2007 04:18 AM

It sounds like you may have a loose connection at the breaker. Either where the wires screw to the breaker, or where the breaker connects to the panel that it is installed in. This will cause the breaker to get hot, go bad, and start tripping. (doing its job)

You will probably need a new breaker, and may need a new panel to install it in.

While you could do this yourself , with the power off, if you want it done in one day, you may consider having it hired done. A pro will be prepaired for unseen problems.

BigJimmy 06-18-2007 03:26 PM


Originally Posted by kkf (Post 49025)
And thanks for such a quick reply, Mike. I'd still like to hear what others have to say, esp. if anyone can tell me what that stupid LED means. :)

You've peaked my interest here. Is this an electromechanical meter (i.e. with a rotating disk) or an electronic version? Can you tell me who the manufacturer is (i.e. ABB, GE, etc.) and what the model is?


kkf 06-18-2007 03:38 PM

It's electromechanical, IMT-3 by DCSi ( You can see a spec sheet at After corresponding repeatedly with the electric company, the best they could tell me was that they didn't think it was a big deal, but they still had no idea what it was for. Three days (Thursday) after I noticed the LED was on, it was off again. I do not know if it went off by itself or if a power company worker came by and did something (the power company is not sure if someone came by or not :wink: ).

Mike Swearingen 06-18-2007 04:31 PM

LED = Light Emitting Diode (I think).

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