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Old 06-03-2010, 11:06 AM   #1
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


I was awoken the other night by the sound of an outlet shorting (throwing sparks and filling my house with smoke). my first reaction was to kill the power to the house. after i did that, i checked the breakers to see where exactly the short had happened, but none of the breakers were tripped. The outlet that shorted was for my washer, it is the only receptacle on that wall, and has its own dedicated breaker. The receptacle and the plug were both completely destroyed.(all metal parts were found as small balls of metal). Why would the breaker not trip during such a violent short?

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Old 06-03-2010, 11:16 AM   #2
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


Two possibilities one, a defective breaker and two, although it drew enough current to over heat the outlet it wasn't enough current to trip the breaker.

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Old 06-03-2010, 11:17 AM   #3
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


I am not certain but I would replace the fried parts and get a new breaker.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:38 AM   #4
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


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was for my washer, it is the only receptacle on that wall, and has its own dedicated breaker.

all metal parts were found as small balls of metal
Check the washing machine by plugging it into another known-good outlet.

Ditto for #2; apparently your outlet acted as a fuse and so kept the breaker from tripping.

You can also check the breaker if you have its trip curve from the Web, but I would do as #3 suggested.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 06-03-2010 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 06-03-2010, 12:32 PM   #5
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


Where are you located ?
What is the MFg of the breaker panel ?
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Old 06-03-2010, 02:22 PM   #6
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


was it a 20 amp breaker and a 15 amp outlet?

I've found all sort of broken outlets. it would be easy for a small section of metal to short and heat up, but have enough resistance to keep from tripping, could also be a breaker problem.
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Old 06-04-2010, 11:18 AM   #7
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


Just because there were sparks and smoke, it doesn't mean there was a short. This is a good example as to why Arc Fault breakers are now required in new construction.
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Old 06-04-2010, 11:54 AM   #8
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


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Just because there were sparks and smoke, it doesn't mean there was a short. This is a good example as to why Arc Fault breakers are now required in new construction.
Excellent post. You are correct. Breakers see overload and short circuits only. If the wires on the receptacle were loose and resulted in a high resistance connection, it would behave exactly like the OP's did.
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Old 06-04-2010, 12:45 PM   #9
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


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Arc Fault breakers are now required in new construction.
So with arc fault devices keeping watch, maybe the outlet manufs can relax their quality control standards
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_hazard
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Old 06-04-2010, 09:03 PM   #10
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


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So with arc fault devices keeping watch, maybe the outlet manufs can relax their quality control standards
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_hazard
The outlet manufacturers
How about those that don't throw away a frayed extension cord, do their own wiring and try to get two wires under one screw, step on plugs and then try and bend thing back to where they belong, try and fix an old lamp that needs a rebuild with a complete new cord, or don't do a correct job when installing a wire nut?
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Old 06-04-2010, 11:26 PM   #11
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


Was it a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panel? Or a Zinsco, or Sylvania Panel? They have a history for malfunctioning breakers and should be replaced.
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Old 06-05-2010, 09:54 AM   #12
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outlet shorted but breaker did not trip


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Originally Posted by a7ecorsair View Post
The outlet manufacturers
How about those that don't throw away a frayed extension cord, do their own wiring and try to get two wires under one screw, step on plugs and then try and bend thing back to where they belong, try and fix an old lamp that needs a rebuild with a complete new cord, or don't do a correct job when installing a wire nut?
They get Darwin Awards.

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