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-   -   Unique problem - House main trips, but nothing else - only when dryer is on (http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/unique-problem-house-main-trips-but-nothing-else-only-when-dryer-13712/)

s0lidgr0und 11-24-2007 09:51 AM

Unique problem - House main trips, but nothing else - only when dryer is on
 
I'm not an electrician. i figured I'd get that out there. I know some stuff about it, I have run it throuout my house. I don't know code, the mathematics behind it, etc.

That being said, here is the problem I'm having.

In the last couple months my 150 amp main breaker has been tripping. It started out with a slight burning smell in the basement. I sniffed and traced it to my circuit breaker panel. One of the the two legs that come into the panel box gets very hot. I couldn't figure out anything that could be wrong at first. I made sure the lugs were tightened down.

One day I noticed that it only seemed to happen when my dryer is running. So one day I touched the black leg going into the breaker box and it was cold. I walked over to my dryer and turned it on. Within the 15 seconds it took me to walk back over to the circuit panel, the one leg was already warm to the touch. Within about 10 minutes it was too hot to even touch. Then as had been happening, the 150 amp main breaker tripped.

Does this sound like anything that any of you have heard of before? In my experience the smaller breaker will trip first if there's a problem. I spoke to my local Wolberg and they told me there's a thermal trip in the main, so the heat is what is making it trip in the forst place. They told me that replacing the 150 amp breaker was an option, but I fail to see how that would keep the incoming leg from getting so hot.

Oh, and this circuit isn't one that I installed or otherwise altered in the three years that I've lived in this house.

Thank for any help that any of you can give me.

Bill

Andy in ATL 11-24-2007 09:59 AM

This ain't good. Turn the dryer breaker off. Confirm with a tester the dryer breaker is ACTUALLY the dryer breaker. Pull dryer receptacle out of the wall and check connections. Replacing the breaker won't fix this problem. Post back.

Andy

HouseHelper 11-24-2007 10:24 AM

You've got a bad connection between the main breaker and one of the hot buses or a loose connection on one of the incoming hot wires to the main. If you have an outside disconnect, you can kill power to the incoming hot wires and check for tightness. If there is no outside disconnect, then pulling the meter is your only option (NOT a DIY project). If the breaker/bus connection is bad, you will probably need a new panel. My guess would be an old Westinghouse or Zinsco panel.

Call an electrician.

Andy in ATL 11-24-2007 10:29 AM

I wonder if it does it when the oven is on "broil". If so, then Househelper is correct. There is a small possibility it is a POCO problem to.

chris75 11-24-2007 11:13 AM

Sounds like a bad breaker to me, the wire will get warm, the heat is just expanding so to say... after you replace the breaker, smash the old one open and you will see what is happening...

as a side note, may want to fix this before it ruins the bus...and that needs replacing also...

What brand main breaker is it? Push-o-matics a.k.a. Bulldog & Federal Pacific are notorious for this...

Andy in ATL 11-24-2007 11:24 AM

Chris, I suspect you are right and I screwed Fido in post # 2. Still wonder if another 240V load affects the main. That is my biggest question here.

Andy

s0lidgr0und 11-24-2007 01:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andy in ATL (Post 75840)
This ain't good. Turn the dryer breaker off. Confirm with a tester the dryer breaker is ACTUALLY the dryer breaker. Pull dryer receptacle out of the wall and check connections. Replacing the breaker won't fix this problem. Post back.

Andy

I traced the line from the 30 amp breaker to the dryer receptacle and it's the only thing on that particular circuit. I will confirm that all connections are tight later on tonight, but I believe I already have checked them all.

s0lidgr0und 11-24-2007 01:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HouseHelper (Post 75848)
You've got a bad connection between the main breaker and one of the hot buses or a loose connection on one of the incoming hot wires to the main. If you have an outside disconnect, you can kill power to the incoming hot wires and check for tightness. If there is no outside disconnect, then pulling the meter is your only option (NOT a DIY project). If the breaker/bus connection is bad, you will probably need a new panel. My guess would be an old Westinghouse or Zinsco panel.

Call an electrician.

I was sort of hoping to avoid this, but it's looking like I may have to.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andy in ATL (Post 75851)
I wonder if it does it when the oven is on "broil". If so, then Househelper is correct. There is a small possibility it is a POCO problem to.

I actually thought of this and it doesn't affect it at all. When the oven in on broil and/or I have the flat-top stove on nothing changes in the panel box that I can see. Of course those two breakers are on the other leg going into the panel.

Andy in ATL 11-24-2007 01:49 PM

Actually, no. An electric oven (I'm making a big assumption that it is 240V like the DRYER) on broil should produce the same effect as the 240V dryer IF the problem is a loose main lug. 240V power utilizes both legs. Make sense? If no other 240V loads mimic the effect the dryer has then I think I am gonna have to think on this.:huh:

Nap time for Andy....CARRY ON!

s0lidgr0und 11-24-2007 01:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andy in ATL (Post 75879)
Actually, no. An electric oven (I'm making a big assumption that it is 240V like the DRYER) on broil should produce the same effect as the 240V dryer IF the problem is a loose main lug. 240V power utilizes both legs. Make sense? If no other 240V loads mimic the effect the dryer has then I think I am gonna have to think on this.:huh:

Nap time for Andy....CARRY ON!

Good point. I'll check when I get home from work in a couple hours.

It's a QO box, if that means anything to anyone.

chris75 11-24-2007 03:39 PM

My bet is still a bad breaker, but without being there, it's only a guess, so not sure what to tell you except call someone with some experence...

s0lidgr0und 11-24-2007 06:50 PM

I have been toying with this thing all night. I traced it back to the dryer - it's the only item on the circuit. The wires into the back of the dryer are all connected well and tight, the receptacle itself is all wired well and tight, the plug is pressed all the way into the receptacle, and the 30 amp breaker is wired well and tight. The breaker is pressed all the way into the circuit panel.

Here is the whole panel.
http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g1...1242007001.jpg

Here is the top lugs of the two legs going into the box.
http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g1...1242007002.jpg

Here is a closeup with of the leg that gets very hot.
http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g1...1242007003.jpg

When I got downstairs the whole line from the dryer to the circuit panel was cold. I started up the dryer and let it run for five minutes. Nothing from the dryer to the panel was even warm. That section of the leg that goes into the panel was hot. I went outside and nothing from the meter head into the house is even remotely warm. So I can only assume that the problem exists right at or near the lug.

I'm not terribly familiar with the anatomy of a circuit panel, so I don't know what to do, which leads me to believe I'm going to have to call in a professional.

I guess the one thing I'm looking for (other than a clearcut answer) is if it would be worth it to replace the 150 amp main breaker in the box before calling a professional? My father in law is a maintenance guy if 30+ years and has experience installing these types of panels and said he could replace the breaker, but at $110 for just this one breaker I wonder if I should just skip over the DIY repair and let an electrician kill me with his bill. Sure, his bill will be lower than the cost to repair a burned down house, I realize. I have just never owned a home before and it's getting tiresome having people like this (plumbers, electricians, furnace repair, etc) come in here, do what seems to be next to nothing, and then drop a $500 invoice in my hand.

Andy in ATL 11-24-2007 07:09 PM

Don't like the look of that wire one damned bit. And it doesn't happen when you put another high amperage load on it from a 240V breaker? Like puttin the oven on broil?

If it doesn't, then I am officially stumped. That leg shouldn't care if the dryer is running or if the oven is running. A load is a load. What am I missing here?

If it doesn't occur on any other load, then I WOULD NOT run that dryer. It's laudromat time if it was my house. Do you own a meter. I would pull the dryer recp. and the wires from underneath the breaker (turning off breaker of course and checking voltage with the meter, 'cause I ain't trusting the dryer breaker anymore either!!!) and check for continuity between each of the hot legs and the ground.

As far as invoices go...I resemble that remark.:whistling2: :yes:

Andy

Sammy 11-24-2007 07:19 PM

Has there been any other construction including maybe somebody putting up a fence etc between you and the transformer in the last few months?

RichyL 11-24-2007 07:23 PM

I would not change out the panel yet. The best advice I can give you is to keep the dryer off and schedule an appointment with a licensed master electrician,as soon as you can to come and analyze the problem. He will have to come out and fix the problem and HONOR his work, so now responsibility will be on him. We can speculate all day long what the problem may be, but assumption is the mother of all ______ ups. You cannot put a price on the safety of your home and family. There could be a problem on the powercompanies side as well in the meter or elsewhere.


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