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Old 02-19-2019, 10:48 AM   #1
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AFCI breaker tripping


This past weekend my sister asked me to come look at a wiring problem in her condo. A Siemens AFCI breaker suddenly and randomly starting tripping repeatedly. The circuit controls 8 outlets between the two condo bedrooms, and none of the lights. I unplugged everything from the circuit, and switched the breaker, only to have it trip again within a few seconds. I took apart each outlet on the circuit and inspected the wiring. All of it was proper. Thinking it was the breaker that had become faulty, I replaced it with a new AFCI breaker, only to have the same issue with that one.

Connecting the problem circuit onto a normal breaker works fine and nothing trips. Through testing and disconnecting various parts of the circuit, I was able to determine that the problem seems to be somewhere in the circuit when it travels from the first bedroom to the second. When I reconnect this part of the circuit, the AFCI breaker trips. Whatís interesting is that in the first bedroom, I connect a black hot wire to the circuit. In the second bedroom, the wire that becomes hot is a red one. Iím thinking I might be having to find a junction point where this black wire provides power to the red one, and that perhaps there is a shared neutral between this circuit and another at this junction point. From my research, it seems this could cause the AFCI breaker to constantly trip.

What Iím wondering Is how could this have just randomly started happening, and not have caused a problem for the last 5 years my sister has lived there. Seems to me if the problem is an improper neutral connection, the breaker should have always tripped and not function fine for the last 5 years. However if the problem is not related to a problem neutral, what else could it be?

I would very much welcome any advice or suggestions at this point. Thank you!
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Old 02-19-2019, 01:52 PM   #2
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


Does she pay any hoa fees? If so, start with the condo association for assistance.

If not, being how you ruled out the breaker, your problem could also be a faulty switch or outlet that has gone bad somewhere on that circuit causing the issue or cable got severed/rodent chewed. Have to investigate a little more. Just my thoughts.

Seems weird for something to be working fine for years and then all of sudden go bad.
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Old 02-19-2019, 01:54 PM   #3
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


I we will guess the second receptacle is switched or half switched. Find the switch.

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Old 02-19-2019, 05:45 PM   #4
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Are you sure no ground wire is touching the neutral at a receptacle? Do you have all switches off when it trips?
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Old 02-19-2019, 05:52 PM   #5
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


If your GFCI is still tripping with no loads, and you have already replaced the GFCI,
that leaves only the wiring in the walls, open all box's and check all splices, look for splices that could be coming together. Or shorting to the j box.
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Old 02-19-2019, 06:00 PM   #6
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


Adding to that, disconnect the outlets & separate the wires that are twisted together.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmon View Post
Does she pay any hoa fees? If so, start with the condo association for assistance.

If not, being how you ruled out the breaker, your problem could also be a faulty switch or outlet that has gone bad somewhere on that circuit causing the issue or cable got severed/rodent chewed. Have to investigate a little more. Just my thoughts.

Seems weird for something to be working fine for years and then all of sudden go bad.

The condo corporation is of no help. Their position is that electrical is the responsibility of the owner.

I removed all outlets during testing, and there is no switch in the circuit that is connected while I’m testing...

I agree it seems weird. I suppose it could be a chewed wire, in which case I feel like I may have to just replace the run from here I know it’s ok to where I know the problem is. That is of course providing I can determine why the colour change in the wiring is happening.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:05 PM   #8
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I we will guess the second receptacle is switched or half switched. Find the switch.

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You’re right that there are half switched receptacles on the circuit. There is one in the second room where the problem is. Are you suggesting the switch may be the problem? I think I removed the switch during the tests but it might be worth checking again.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:06 PM   #9
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Are you sure no ground wire is touching the neutral at a receptacle? Do you have all switches off when it trips?
All outlets are off, switches I believe I removed them all but I will double check. A ground would half to be piercing through the insulation on the neutral wire to cause a problem though correct?
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:07 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
If your GFCI is still tripping with no loads, and you have already replaced the GFCI,
that leaves only the wiring in the walls, open all box's and check all splices, look for splices that could be coming together. Or shorting to the j box.
What do you mean when you say to look for splices coming together?
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:08 PM   #11
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Adding to that, disconnect the outlets & separate the wires that are twisted together.
I removed all the outlets, and I believe the switches although I will confirm this when I go back. Also separating and capping all wires during the tests.
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Old 02-19-2019, 11:57 PM   #12
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemkie View Post
What do you mean when you say to look for splices coming together?

in a tightly filled box,wires can be squashed to the point where they may touch, especially if the splices are not 100%.


I would start by starting at the end of the run, and isolate the last section then see if it holds, if it does then the fault is in the last section, work upstream till you find which section trips it out.


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Old 02-20-2019, 03:08 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemkie View Post
What do you mean when you say to look for splices coming together?

in a tightly filled box,wires can be squashed to the point where they may touch, especially if the splices are not 100%.


I would start by starting at the end of the run, and isolate the last section then see if it holds, if it does then the fault is in the last section, work upstream till you find which section trips it out.


divide and concure!
This is more or less how I began troubleshooting, determining that the issue is somewhere between bedroom 1 and bedroom 2. There’s a junction somewhere that I haven’t been able to locate and that may be where my issue is. When I return I’ll je checking every possible box including lights and switches in the living room which separates the two bedrooms.

I feel a bit silly for trying to confirm what you mean when you say wires can be squashed to the point that they may touch. I assume you mean that a a section of uninsulsted neutral may be touching a ground somewjere and that that is causing the issue?
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Old 02-20-2019, 04:52 AM   #14
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


Quote:
there is no switch in the circuit
How well was the switch wiring?
Yes, a common cause of AFCI tripping is neutrals touching grounds. It isn't like a short between a hot and ground, but the AFCI doesn't know that and it trips.
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Old 02-20-2019, 05:35 AM   #15
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Re: AFCI breaker tripping


Start with the outlet that is closest to the circuit breaker. You missed one of them somewhere if the breaker still trips.
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