15A GFCI breaker keeps turning off! - HELP!

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  #1  
Old 02-01-07, 10:41 AM
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15A GFCI breaker keeps turning off! - HELP!

15 A GFCI circuit


I recently moved my TV to our office/bonus room in the house and when I went to turn it on, the circuit breaker flipped…I’ve tried everything I could think of to figure out what’s wrong, but am still puzzled. I have a Mechanical Engineering degree, and feel comfortable with electrical stuff, but my knowledge is limited, especially with home wiring.

1) The circuit breaker that flipped was a 15A GFCI. It powers 1 bathroom, 1 bedroom, and a small office/bonus room.
2) The TV is a Sony 42” plasma, power rating ~ 500watts (4.2 amps)


Here’s what I’ve done so far to try to narrow down the problem:

1) Reset the circuit breaker, turned off all other components on that line (lights, CD player, sound system, alarm clock..) and then turned on the TV  circuit breaker turns off again.

2) Reset circuit breaker, then turn on all of the components I have on the circuit breaker that had been turned off (lights, CD player, sound system…). I added up all the components and they sum up to more than 7 amps…power is not interrupted. (the circuit breaker appears to be able to handle the power load that the TV would require)

3) I ran an extension cord from our master bedroom (which is on a different 15A GFCI circuit breaker) and turned the TV on  TV works fine. (so the TV is okay)

4) I ran the same extension cord to an electrical socket within the office (thinking that the extension cord might have changed something). Turn on the TV  circuit breaker flips off. (confirms that there’s something going on with that circuit)

5) I switched the 15A GFCI circuit breakers (the 1 from the bedroom/office to the one from the master bedroom) within the circuit breaker panel. Turning on the TV while plugged into the bedroom/office circuit flips that breaker. Running the extension cord to the master bedroom allows the TV to work fine. (so the circuit breaker is not faulted)

At this point, I’m not sure what’s going on…I’m kinda tempted to just get a 20A GFCI unit and see if that works – but I have a feeling that it won’t and even if it does, I don’t want to run the risk of pulling more current than the house wiring can handle.

My best guess is that it’s something to do with the GFCI wiring on that circuit – I’ve checked the circuit breaker wiring for the bedroom/office and compared it to the master bedrooms’ GFCI, they look the same. Do you think that the bedroom/office circuit was never grounded properly within the house?

Thanks for any help!
 
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  #2  
Old 02-01-07, 10:51 AM
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I can tell that you're an engineer. Your testing is flawless and methodical.

Don't try a 20-amp GFCI breaker. That's obviously unsafe.

Instead, try these experiments.

(1) Plug a lamp into the place where the office TV is. Turn it on. If it trips the breaker, then there is a ground fault in the house wiring, perhaps even at that outlet.

(2) TEMPORARILY replace the office 15-amp GFCI breaker with a 15-amp regular (non-GFCI) breaker. If this also trips, then the trip is due to an overload rather than a ground fault. There might be more on the circuit than you think. Be sure to put back the GFCI breaker when you're done with this experiment.
 
  #3  
Old 02-01-07, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
I can tell that you're an engineer. Your testing is flawless and methodical.

Don't try a 20-amp GFCI breaker. That's obviously unsafe.

Instead, try these experiments.

(1) Plug a lamp into the place where the office TV is. Turn it on. If it trips the breaker, then there is a ground fault in the house wiring, perhaps even at that outlet.

(2) TEMPORARILY replace the office 15-amp GFCI breaker with a 15-amp regular (non-GFCI) breaker. If this also trips, then the trip is due to an overload rather than a ground fault. There might be more on the circuit than you think. Be sure to put back the GFCI breaker when you're done with this experiment.


thanks for the tips!

forgot to mention that I've tried (1) - I used the extension cord to plug the TV into 3 differen outlets on the same circuit...all flipped the circuit breaker.

I'll try (2)I...should I just leave the extra wire unnconnected? (I believe that there's an extra grounding wire for GFCI circuit breakers vs. non-GFCI, correct?)

thanks again for your help!
 
  #4  
Old 02-01-07, 11:06 AM
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You say that you tried (1), but your description of how you tried it isn't consistent with what I suggested. You must use something other than the TV for this test, a load about the size of a light bulb.

For (2), you will move the circuit grounded connector off the GFCI breaker and reterminate it where all the other grounded conductors are terminated. You can't just leave it unconnected or nothing on the circuit will work.
 
  #5  
Old 02-01-07, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
You say that you tried (1), but your description of how you tried it isn't consistent with what I suggested. You must use something other than the TV for this test, a load about the size of a light bulb.

For (2), you will move the circuit grounded connector off the GFCI breaker and reterminate it where all the other grounded conductors are terminated. You can't just leave it unconnected or nothing on the circuit will work.

sounds good - I'm hoping to get the time to do this tonight!
 
  #6  
Old 02-01-07, 11:19 AM
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Do you really mean GFCI breaker, or do you mean AFCI breaker?

No, there is no extra ground wire. A GFCI (or an AFCI) circuit is wired with the same three wires as any other circuit.
 
  #7  
Old 02-01-07, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by racraft View Post
Do you really mean GFCI breaker, or do you mean AFCI breaker?
I believe that the circuit breaker says "GFCI" on it..the house was built about 5-6 yrs ago, and I think AFCI is a relativley recent addition to home circuit breakers, right?

Originally Posted by racraft View Post
No, there is no extra ground wire. A GFCI (or an AFCI) circuit is wired with the same three wires as any other circuit.
Good to know - it should be a fairly simple swap then.


thanks!
 
  #8  
Old 02-01-07, 12:00 PM
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It would be very unusual for the receptacles you mention to be GFCI protected. While AFCI breakers are relatively new, depending on where you live they may have been code in the early 2000's.

Bottom line, it seems like your television has a problem.
 
  #9  
Old 02-01-07, 12:03 PM
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It's pretty rare for anybody to use a GFCI breaker these days. GFCI receptacles have almost completely replaced them, except for things like hot tubs.

Furthermore, I'm surprised to learn that the house is only 5-6 years old. Based on some of your descriptions, I had assumed it was much older. Some of the things you mentioned were not code-compliant 5-6 years ago.

Was this house built in an area that enforces the National Electrical Code of the United States?
 
  #10  
Old 02-01-07, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
It's pretty rare for anybody to use a GFCI breaker these days. GFCI receptacles have almost completely replaced them, except for things like hot tubs.

Furthermore, I'm surprised to learn that the house is only 5-6 years old. Based on some of your descriptions, I had assumed it was much older. Some of the things you mentioned were not code-compliant 5-6 years ago.

Was this house built in an area that enforces the National Electrical Code of the United States?
I'm fairly confident that it's a GFCI breaker...there was at least 3 GFCI breakers within my breaker panel. It's simlar to this: http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS/EN_US/diy_main/pg_diy.jsp?CNTTYPE=PROD_META&CNTKEY=misc%2fsearchResults.jsp&[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@&BV_EngineID=cccfaddkdgffdhdcgelceffdfgidgll.0&MID=9876

I would assume that the house would be compliant with all electrical codes b/c it was built in a new developement by CamWest (a fairly well know and reputable developer in the Seattle area) and it's in a nice area. what's not up to code?

thanks!
 
  #11  
Old 02-01-07, 12:30 PM
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You said: "It powers 1 bathroom, 1 bedroom, and a small office/bonus room."

That is not code-compliant if by "bathroom" you are including the bathroom receptacle. If it doesn't include the bathroom receptacle, then it didn't really need to be GFCI in the first place.

The reason nobody uses GFCI breakers is why spend $50 on something that can be done for $8?

AFCI and GFCI breakers look almost identical. You need to read the fine print.
 
  #12  
Old 02-01-07, 01:24 PM
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Further, AFCI breakers have some element of GFCI protection to them, although not necessarily enough to be considered as code compliant GFCI breakers.
 
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