Breaking Circuit With No Appliances

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  #1  
Old 11-06-04, 07:16 PM
elecnovice
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Question Breaking Circuit With No Appliances

Here is my problem guys: In my basement I have a circuit that manages only the lights. It does not manage anything else. Over the last three days it has been tripping repeatedly. I reset it and it immediately trips again. To make sure that its only the lights, I have unplugged everything else in the basement and it still keeps tripping. I think there may be an exposed cable on one of the sockets.

My questions are:
Could it be something else?
If I want to check the sockets, is there a product that I can get that will tell me if there is anything wrong with the socket?

Any suggestions that you may have will be greatly appreciated.
 
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Old 11-06-04, 07:35 PM
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Look inside the light sockets for anything obvious, but do not stick your fingers in them, even with the circuit off.
Many times the tab in the middle will shift and come in contact with the shell.
Also look for any black marks from shorting out.
 
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Old 11-06-04, 08:16 PM
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It is unlikely that the electrician wired an entire circuit to serve a few basement lights. Check around to see what else is dead. It's probably not even in the basement.
 
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Old 11-07-04, 05:34 PM
elecnovice
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Something Found

Thank you for your advice guys.

John, you were right. There were a couple of other things hooked to the circuit. One was the washer and the other is the basement water pump.

I unhooked the pump and everything ran ok, that is the circuit did not break. Going with the strong assumption that the pump is the thing that trips the circuit, how do I set things so that the pump is running but the circuit does not trip.

Should I change the circuit? Is that a stupid question?

Thank you for all your help everyone.
 
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Old 11-07-04, 05:43 PM
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This obviously is not a new pump install, so I would guess that there is a problem with the pump. It might not be a bad idea to leave it on the circuit with the lights. That way you know if the pump is off.
 
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Old 11-07-04, 06:19 PM
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I guess I was off due to the fact I do put basement lights on a separate circuit. Sometimes over ten lights with the possibility of 100 watts each. This is to avoid the scenario found here.


elecnovice - Glad you found it.
 
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Old 11-07-04, 06:50 PM
elecnovice
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Thanks Joed. I'm gonna have the pump checked out and see if that's the problem.

Petey, actually you weren't that far off. On the main level the light circuit just controls the lights.

Its amazing what one finds when one goes looking.

Thanks all.
 
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Old 11-08-04, 05:36 AM
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I hope that you realize that the time to go looking was when you bought the house, not now.

Everyone should, at a moments notice, be able to identify which circuit breaker or fuse controls each and every receptacle, outlet or appliance in their residence. This is true whether a renter or an owner.

You don't want to have to guess what circuit something is on. Guessing leads to mistakes, which can kill or cause a fire.

Since you didn't completely map out your electric service when you moved in, I strongly recommend that you do so now. Not doing so would be a big mistake.
 
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Old 11-08-04, 10:44 AM
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Elecnovice,

Here's a thought. Check the horsepower on your pump. If your lighting circuit is 15 amps and your pump is larger than 1/4 HP it is tripping because the breaker is inadequately sized for the motor load. A 1/3 HP motor requires a 20 amp breaker, a 1/2 HP needs a 25 amp breaker, 3/4 HP needs a 35 amp breaker and a 1 HP needs a 40 amp breaker.

If your pump is 1/3 or larger and on a 15 amp breaker, the breaker is tripping because it's supposed to. If this is the case then either get a 1/4 HP pump or find a 20 amp circuit to plug it into. If your pump is greater than 1/3 HP I doubt you're going to find a 25 amp or 30 amp 120v (1-pole) circuit in the house to plug it into. Most homes, though not all, will have 220v (2-pole) 30 amp breakers for electric dryers, HW tanks and A/C units. But they ordinarily do not have 30 amp 120v circuits.

Personally, if this seems to be the problem and there is room in your breaker panel, I would install a breaker to match your pump HP and run a dedicated circuit just for that pump.

One further note: some residential grade sump pumps don't list the horsepower. But all motors are required to have a nameplate that lists either the HP or the "FLA", which is full-load amps. If only FLA is listed, choose the breaker size according to 2.5 times the FLA and round up to the next standard breaker size. Example: a 1/3 HP motor has an FLA of 7.2 amps. 7.2 * 2.5 = 18.0 amps. Rounding up to 20 amps gives you the value I listed above for the 1/3 HP motor. The other sizes were calculated the same way.

Hope that helps.

Juice
 
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Old 11-08-04, 12:13 PM
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Juice, I think it's just a little more complicated. Otherwise my 3/4 HP garage door opener on a 15 amp circuit would have blown the breaker, as well as my 1 HP garbage disposal that's on a 20 amp circuit. We won't even talk about the vacuum cleaner. To keep this simple, let's just say amperage increases with load. If elecnovice has had this pump for a while and it's worked before, in it's current (pun intended) configuration, without problem, it's now either jammed or shorted out.

Doug M.
 
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Old 11-08-04, 12:35 PM
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Doug,

Perhaps my head is stuck in industrial. I am an electrical designer for a large engineering firm, and this is the way we design motor circuits. Perhaps I am Tim Tayloring this issue, given its residential nature. The key to my retraction would be when you said the pump worked fine once (didn't pop the breaker) and now it doesn't. Which means it probably is the pump and not the circuit. I guess if it were me, I'd start shopping for a new pump and hopefully be done with it.

Thanks for the perspective check.

Juice.
 
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Old 11-08-04, 03:05 PM
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I'd say a new pump AND a new circuit.
 
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Old 11-08-04, 04:24 PM
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Juice, LOL. I'm deffinately non-industrial in this area.

Boulted Fault, Probably a good idea. I would move the washer to it's own circuit. If "the pump" is a sump pump I would leave it alone. If it's a pump for the house water supply, I'd move it to it's own circuit too.

Doug M.
 
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Old 11-08-04, 07:07 PM
elecnovice
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so the pump is disconnected, the circuit ran fine all day and when i went to sleep (hence my optimism) BUT when i woke up it was down again. so there is something that runs at night that blew it again.

the question is ... what?

the investigation continues.
 
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