Breaker Tripping


Old 08-31-08, 06:38 PM
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Breaker Tripping

We own a 2 year old house, have done very little to the electrics, installed a couple of ceiling fans, changed lighting fixtures and moved a couple of receptacles.

I always make sure I use the appropriate rated cable and always use tape and wire nuts when installing fans/lights etc.

A couple of weeks ago I changed a couple of light fixtures in the master bathroom. Everything was fine, although a couple of hours later we noticed that the Master Bedroom tripped.
Didnt think much of it, reset the breaker and it didnt happen again.
The Bathroom and Bedroom are on seperate circuits.

Today, the breaker started tripping constantly. I unplugged everything and reconnected to see if I could identify the source.
I have the following on the 15amp circuit:
Nightstand Lights x 2 (on receptacle 1a)
Modem, Router, Alarm Clock, Phone base charger on a surge strip (on receptacle 1b)
Flat screen TV (on receptacle 2a)
DirecTV box (on receptacle 2b)
Ceiling Fan with light
Closet Light

I believe I have narrowed it down to the ceiling fan light, all other items work on their own and together including the ceiling fan motor.

When I switch the ceiling fan light on with nothing else connnected the breaker trips.

I removed the remote control module but this made no difference.

I will see if I can get a new light wiring kit for the fan.

One thing I was interested in however, is that when I disconnected the fan completely from the circuit, I put my meter on the fan and it gave me a reading of around 130v.
I couldnt understand this as the fan was completely disconnected, is it likely that the fan has a capacitor in it which holds the voltage after it has been disconnected?

I have disconnected the light from the fan for the time being until I can find a replacement.

Is there anything else I should be looking at?

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Old 08-31-08, 09:13 PM
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Since your house is only two years old, it is very likely that the breaker is an AFCI breaker. Is it? Most AFCI breakers also trip on ground faults. My hunch is that you have either an arc fault or a ground fault, related to some recent wiring change. It's a workmanship issue. If the wires are appropriately routed, not damaged during installation, and the connections are well done, this shouldn't happen.

I also guess that you are using a digital multimeter. Do a google search on "phantom voltage" and you can read a lot about how these are vulnerable to false readings.
Old 08-31-08, 09:36 PM
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John.,, I agree with your hunch with the AFCI but If the OP did stated the location I can able dail down the info if that bedroom circuit do have AFCI or not but that house is pretty new so pretty much it should have AFCI in there.

Sound like the AFCI doing the job to prevent any damage to the wire but I know some AFCI breaker have some issue with it.

I pretty much figured out that if you check all the receptales , switches make sure there is no wire touching each other or nicked wire I know it can cause the AFCI to trip.

And you did disconnected the ceiling fan wiring and after you disconnected it and the AFCI stay on ? if so then you have something in the fan motor cause to trip the AFCI try get a diffrent fan to see if that clear up if not then somecase it do happend that you got a bad AFCI breaker.

{ what brand breaker you have ? I know some are fine and some have issue with it }

Old 09-01-08, 07:38 AM
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Thanks to both of you for your comments.

John - Should I be looking at recent wiring changes on the same circuit? No other breakers are tripping so can I assume that my recent work in the Master Bathroom is good?
Just trying to understand how to diagnose the issue.

last night I switched on everything, including the two lamps, light in the closet and the ceiling fan. It all worked fine.

Thanks again for your advice
Old 09-01-08, 08:07 AM
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So right now the breaker is staying on with the fan removed?

That would indicate that the problem was either internal to the fan or where the fan wiring joined the house wiring.

My next step might be to reinstall just the fan and see if the problem returns.
Old 09-01-08, 08:30 AM
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Last night, all it took to trip the breaker was to switch the fan light on.

I disconnected the fan and re-wired it. This time though I did not connect the light.
Everything seemed to work fine without the light connected.

Then this morning, I plugged in another lamp and sure enough the breaker tripped.

Im going to check the wiring on the bathroom light fixtures as that is the only recent work done.
Although I am confused as to how this would impact the bedroom circuit...

Last edited by sdj1704; 09-01-08 at 09:20 AM.
Old 09-01-08, 05:12 PM
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Did you ever determine if this is an AFCI protected circuit? The breaker in the main panel would so indicate.

It sounds like an overly sensitive AFCI breaker. It seems to trip randomly and with all kinds of different loads. It is usually tripping at turn on of something is that correct? AFCI's detect arcing. This could also be a bad wall switch, portable light switch, outlet or contact in an outlet not making a good connection. This is based on arcing not excessive current draw. The current draw could be minimal. When something arcs it creates a noise pattern. The AFCI looks for this. If the AFCI were malfunctioning it could sense a switch closure as something arcing and trip.

If this is an AFCI circuit you could swap the breaker with another AFCI circuit and see if the problem follows.
Old 09-01-08, 05:25 PM
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Problem Resolved......

So after re-wiring the ceiling fan, I found that the fan light worked fine, however the light in the closet was still tripping the breaker.

I then took a look at the light switch to find that both wires had almost pulled out of the switch (the builder uses the push in connectors) As there was about 10 inches of ground wire, the hot and ground wires were touching.

I re-wired the switch using the screw connectors and all is now fine.

Thanks to all for your very helpful comments.

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