Circuit breaker keeps tripping all of a sudden

Reply

  #1  
Old 08-17-04, 01:38 PM
travelmad478
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Circuit breaker keeps tripping all of a sudden

In the last several weeks, the circuit breaker for my bathroom has begun to trip for no reason that I can see--no appliances or lights are on at the time, and the only thing plugged in is my electric toothbrush charger. Nothing new is happening in the bathroom, electric-wise. I keep resetting the switch, and a day or two later, it flips off again.

Is this a problem that will require an electrician to diagnose and fix, or are there things I should try on my own first? (I am a complete novice at anything electrical.)
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 08-17-04, 02:01 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Are you talking about a breaker in the main breaker panel? If so, does this breaker have a "test" button on it?

Or are you talking about a GFCI receptacle, a receptacle with "test" and "reset" buttons on it (which isn't a breaker at all)?

If you are talking about a real breaker, and if this breaker is a GFCI breaker with a test button, then it's probably tripping due to a ground fault rather than due to overload. A common cause of ground faults is water. Is it possible that you splashed water around a receptacle, either in one of your bathrooms, or outside on a porch, or in the garage or basement? Have you used a power washer recently? Or have you had a big storm?
 
  #3  
Old 08-18-04, 09:16 AM
travelmad478
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Yes, I mean the main breaker panel--to reset it, I have to open up the box and flip the switch back to the right position. I'm not sure if there's a test button on the panel, but I'll check when I get home. (What am I checking for? Do I push this button and then wait for something to happen?)

Given that the problem is occurring in a bathroom, and I live in a place where it's been raining a lot this summer, there might be a water issue. Still, I don't recall any major splashing going on in there lately, and it's not SO rainy that there is water puddling throughout the place.

Do you think it's worth just giving it some time and waiting for things to dry out? Or, for safety's sake, should I get someone in to diagnose this more definitively?
 
  #4  
Old 08-18-04, 09:24 AM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Tell me whether or not there is a test button on the breaker and we'll go from there.
 
  #5  
Old 08-18-04, 09:29 AM
travelmad478
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Will do...give me a couple of hours! Thanks!
 
  #6  
Old 08-18-04, 01:44 PM
travelmad478
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Originally Posted by John Nelson
If you are talking about a real breaker, and if this breaker is a GFCI breaker with a test button, then it's probably tripping due to a ground fault rather than due to overload.
Just checked the box. This particular switch is indeed marked "GFI Circuit" and it has a test button. So...what does that mean?
 
  #7  
Old 08-18-04, 01:53 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
It means that the circuit is most likely tripping due to a ground fault rather than an overload. You could wait a week to see if things dry out, or you could go around and carefully take the cover off each box on the circuit. Shine a flashlight in there. If you see moisture, you can try to accelerate the process with a hair dryer. If you find a box with moisture, you might consider ways to prevent moisture infiltration in the future.

Depending on when and where your house was built, this circuit might include stuff all over your house. Look especially in the garage, basement, porches and other bathrooms.
 
  #8  
Old 08-18-04, 02:07 PM
travelmad478
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Originally Posted by John Nelson
It means that the circuit is most likely tripping due to a ground fault rather than an overload. You could wait a week to see if things dry out, or you could go around and carefully take the cover off each box on the circuit. Shine a flashlight in there. If you see moisture, you can try to accelerate the process with a hair dryer. If you find a box with moisture, you might consider ways to prevent moisture infiltration in the future.

Depending on when and where your house was built, this circuit might include stuff all over your house. Look especially in the garage, basement, porches and other bathrooms.
Oh Lord. I think I will wait and see what happens. I'm now suspicious that the problem is originating in the bathroom directly underneath this one, where there has been a (guest) dog spilling water all over the floor for the last two weeks. That dog goes home tomorrow.

Thanks so much for your advice on this. I hope I don't need more, but if I do, I'll be back sometime soon!
 
  #9  
Old 08-18-04, 06:50 PM
Homer Simpson
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Another Possibility

Travelmad,

I could also be a defective Gfic breaker. It may trip at much lower than
8 milliamps. That breaker is crammed full of electronics and a capacitor or
solid state component could have changed tolerance. Breaker Gfics are
expensive. You may be able to use a regular breaker and a outlet Gfic with
feed thru for potection. Just a thought. Say goodbye, Homer. Goodbye

PS an after thought, after the drying out, and the problem persists, look for
another gfic breaker in the panel with the same rating and switch them.

Wiring bathrooms together on a 20 amp circult creates havoc when two
people try to use hairdryers and electric heaters, etc. But I guess that
you're having nuisance trips.
 

Last edited by Homer Simpson; 08-18-04 at 07:03 PM.
  #10  
Old 08-19-04, 02:41 PM
dougm's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: The Colony, Texas
Posts: 917
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
We have 3 bathrooms on one 20 amp circuit with GFCI receptacle in the first bathroom. With 6 of us (3 males and 3 females), we've yet to trip the breaker or the GFCI in 6 years. Just luck that those prone to use of hairdryers all have different schedules. My money in Travelmad's case is on either the dog splashing water onto an outlet or an outside outlet that's gotten wet from the rain. Also check for ant invasions. If you live in an area of the country that has fire ants, they will come toward the surface of the soil when it rains and they love electricity. A chain of ants can easily provide enough current flow to trip a GFCI.

Doug M.
 
  #11  
Old 08-19-04, 04:48 PM
travelmad478
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Originally Posted by dougm
A chain of ants can easily provide enough current flow to trip a GFCI.
Wow, that's a pretty interesting theory. I do have about four billion ants frolicking in my walls but I don't think they're the problem right now. I'm putting my money on the dog. She leaves tonight, so let's give it a week and see what happens. It's definitely not an overload because the circuit keeps tripping while there's nothing running at all. The only way I notice it is when I go to plug in my hairdryer and it doesn't turn on.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that I never have to come back for more!
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes