Breaker Tripping

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Old 02-01-11, 09:23 PM
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Breaker Tripping

A couple of years ago, with the help of many here, I was able to finish my basement myself, including all the wiring. I'm now having issues with the lighting circuit tripping the breaker. Here's the wiring diagram:



The lighting circuit is the red one and is on a 15 amp AFCI (I think that's the term) breaker. The panel is at the top of the diagram.

There are 8 recessed lights (65 watt bulbs each) on two switched circuits with dimmers in the finished side (on the left) and 4 bare bulb fixtures each with 23 watt cfl bulbs in the unfinished portion (on the right). That's 65 x 8 + 23 x 4 = 612. I had intended to accomodate 100 watt incandescent in place of the cfls, which would be 920 watts.

It should be well within the limits of a 15 amp breaker, but I'm getting a tripped breaker fairly regularly. How do I troubleshoot this?

It seems to trip more often than not when the switch controlling the 4 cfl's in the unfinished portion is turned on. At one point, I wasn't able to reset the breaker. I unscrewed all 4 cfl's and reset the breaker. I then screwed them in one at a time and they all worked, no tripped breaker. I was thinking that I'd find the troublesome fixture by screwing them in one by one.

The only other thing I noticed is that I get a high pitched whine from a couple of the recessed lights.

Thanks again.
 
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Old 02-02-11, 05:03 AM
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Are the cfls the dimmable type?
 
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Old 02-02-11, 05:14 AM
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I don't think so, but that part of the circuit is not on dimmers, only the finished side.
 
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Old 02-02-11, 06:11 AM
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You need to determine if it is tripping on overload or has a wiring fault. An overload can sometimes take quite a long time, depending on the amount of overload, to trip. A wiring fault will be much quicker to trip as an improper connection between hot to ground or hot to neutral exists.
 
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Old 02-02-11, 10:00 AM
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Also with an AFCI breaker a very small current leakage or spark can cause it to trip. Something like a cable clamp too tight or a ground wire touching a neutral wire in one of the light boxes will cause a trip. A bad or loose switch could cause it to trip also.
 
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Old 02-02-11, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
You need to determine if it is tripping on overload or has a wiring fault. An overload can sometimes take quite a long time, depending on the amount of overload, to trip. A wiring fault will be much quicker to trip as an improper connection between hot to ground or hot to neutral exists.
Well, it'll go days and be just fine, using all 3 circuits. Then flipping on one (more often than not the storage area with the CFLs) will cause it to trip. Then the breaker won't reset, but if I turn everything off it will and the lights can be used again.

I'm not sure where to start, I guess, or what to look for, physically, that would indicate the problem. What are the signs of current leakage? How do I know a cable clamp is too tight? Overload seems unlikely, given the wattages of the lights, right? What do you mean by 'loose switch'?

The other problem is that it's usually my daughters who discover it, so all I get is 'The lights don't work again' - no details of what switch, what was already on, etc. :-P
 
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Old 02-02-11, 06:38 PM
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Unfortunately this may turn into an easter egg hunt. I would try to narrow it down as best as you can to save time and effort.

A cable clamp should only be tight enough to secure the cable slightly. it should not crush and deform the cable.

Look for any areas where the bare end of the white wire is too close to the bare ground. Also make sure all wires are firmly terminated on the screws.
 
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Old 02-03-11, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by salguod View Post
What do you mean by 'loose switch'?
A switch that is worn out or damaged so the internal mechanism is sloppy or if it is mounted loose in the box it can move around and accidentally touch some other wire when you flip it.
 
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Old 04-08-11, 06:25 AM
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Howdy. I still haven't figured this out, but it does seem to be tripping less often. I have noticed that it pretty much only trips when all the lights are off and the unfinished side (with the cfls) is switched on. In fact, if it trips, it will repeatedly trip unless I turn on one of the other lights on the finished side. Then it won't trip.

Thought I'd post that in case that points someone to something specific. :-P
 
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