Noise at breaker


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Old 11-19-08, 01:31 PM
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Noise at breaker

I've been trying to solve this mystery-- buzzing noise at one of the circuit breakers in our 4 yr old condo. Brightness of the dining room ceiling light controlled by this breaker keeps changing constantly. I changed this 15amp lighting circuit breaker with a brand new one this morning because sparks were seen from underneath. Replaciing with a new one apparently did not solve the problem entirely.

This problem seems to be tied with the kitchen GFI circuit. Our refrigerator is connected to this circuit. I also replaced the GFI outlet with a new one. The circuit works fine for a while but the power goes off frequently and I have to reset the breaker. When this kitchen circuit breaker is off, the above lighting circuit breaker is quite--no buzzing.

Please someone help me with this puzzlesome problem.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 03:03 PM
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Circuit breakers buzz when they are overloaded and about to trip.

The refrigerator should have its own circuit and breaker.

And the kitchen countertop outlets should be on their own circuit.

Might want to ask what the electrical code requirements were at the time your condo was built. If this was not built to code, get someone to pay for doing things the way they should have been done in the first place!

Maybe this was allowed in your area at the time? I don't know?

Anyway is the refrigerator plugged into where it should be plugged in?

I would have an electrician install a separate 20 amp outlet and breaker for the refrigerator if possible.

Or discuss options with you. It might be a royal pain to run an additional wire to where the refrigerator is located. It might be easier to run an additional wire to the kitchen outlets. Or perhaps the light.

If you can offload something from that circuit, it should help.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 03:21 PM
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Hello

Agree with the last post on adding additional capacity. Not sure what appliances are in the kitchen, but there may be another circuit already that you could switch some load to. Also, you indicated that you changed the circuit breaker. Did you check the neutral conductor (white wire) in the panel for the circuit? Make sure this is a tight connection as well. Be careful.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 04:24 PM
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Thanks for both responses.
I did check the white wires--they are secured tight.
The refrigerator circuit is pretty much dedicated to the fridge --no other appliances are attached to this circuit. However, it does not take five minutes before the breaker goes off whenever I connect fridge to this circuit. This circuit is 20amps. So I ran an extension cord from an outlet in the kitchen of another circuit and use it to power the fridge. Now the other breaker is quiet.

Fairfax County has pretty strict code so this condo complex was built to code.
Someone advised me to check all outlets, which I did and found more than a dozen had loose wire connections and made corrections.

I am miffed by this mystery and wonder what to do with the fridge power problem and the buzzing breaker.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 04:48 PM
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Also, I disconnected the fridge from the 20amp GFI circuit and connected a coffee maker to this circuit. Within seconds the circuit breaker was tripped and no power. What does this tell me? Wrong connection somewhere? But the GFI outlet shows a green light when power is ON, indicating proper connection there. I checked all outlets in this circuit and wiring seems okay on all of them but then I am not an electrician.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 05:16 PM
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I would replace the breaker and go from there.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 06:02 PM
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So wherever you plug in the refrigerator, that circuit has the problem with breakers tripping?
 
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Old 11-19-08, 06:22 PM
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That is right. I rechecked my wiring of the GFI outlet and everything is pat.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 06:26 PM
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The breaker of this kitchen GFI circuit was replaced only two days ago.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 06:29 PM
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Perhaps there is a problem with the refrigerator and your wiring is fine?

Try plugging other things like a space heater, vacuum cleaner, microwave, etc. into the circuits the refrigerator is NOT on like the dedicated refrigerator circuit. Each of these would draw about the power a refrigerator would (at least my refrigerator).

If one of the above works on these circuits, then maybe the circuits are ok.

Tell us about your refrigerator... Any weird things going on? Old model? New?
 
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Old 11-19-08, 06:34 PM
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Fridge works fine as it is connected to another outlet of a different circuit via an extension cord-- all functioning well and it is only 4 years old. Again, I plugged in a coffee maker, which draws much less power than a fridge, and the circuit breaker tripped almost instantly.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 06:44 PM
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Then if everything is wired to code, you have a dedicated outlet for the refrigerator which has its own circuit breaker, and the refrigerator is working ok, then you should be able to plug the refrigerator into the dedicated refrigerator outlet and this would have no effect on your lights!

(As your lights would be on another circuit and breaker!)
 
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Old 11-19-08, 07:09 PM
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Hello

This may be one of those things where you need an Electrician to pay a visit. Given that it appears that one circuit breaker is having an effect on an adjacent one makes me think of phase bucking. Hard to say though. But don't feel bad you may even stump the sparky that comes to visit you. In the meantime, be careful about using an extension cord for your frig. If it's not a suitable gage it can be more than just a tripping hazard. It can shorten the life of your frig and may be a fire hazard. Good luck.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 07:10 PM
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Now that I exchanged the two GFI breakers for two kitchen circuits, the fridge circuit works fine. It does not trip the breaker when I connect the fridge to it. Perhaps the new breaker itself was a problem. However, it works fine with the other circuit.

Now back to the breaker noise and flickering light problem in another circuit. This problem is still there. I even see some sparks at times beneath this breaker. It does not act up all the time but quite often enough. By the way, this breaker and the GFI breaker share the same bus on the distribution panel. My thought was problems in one circuit tend to be transmitted to another through the common bus, although surge in one circuit may not trip the breaker of another circuit.
 
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Old 11-19-08, 07:25 PM
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Re the lighting breaker: Could be damage to the bus at that point. Do you have an open slot you can move the breaker to?
 
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Old 11-20-08, 03:10 AM
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Yes, there are several of them. I'll try to relocate this breaker to another fresh one. In fact, I think the vertical porion of the bus where this breaker is installed, I noticed, was heavily corroded due to the spark generation. Your idea of using a fresh bus position may work.
 
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Old 11-20-08, 03:29 AM
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I just relocated both troublesome breakers to new bus slots and that solved all problems. My refrigerator works fine and there is no spark or noise at either breaker. The lights do not flicker either. Thanks for the guidance of everyone. The lesson learned --when you experience spark generation or noise at breaker, first inspect the bus surface condition and try relocating it to a fresh, clean position.
 
 

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