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5 circuits went dead on main circuit breaker panel - what is going on?

5 circuits went dead on main circuit breaker panel - what is going on?

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  #1  
Old 04-05-11, 10:17 PM
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5 circuits went dead on main circuit breaker panel - what is going on?

I've lived in this older house for 3 years and never had trouble with the circuit breaker panel until two weeks ago. That's when the electric hot water heater started tripping its double-20 amp breaker. When I checked the heater out I couldn't see anything wrong so I just pressed the heater's reset button and reattached the covers. But then when I turned the power back on at the Main (unfortunately there was no sub-panel between the Main and the heater), a spark occurred where the electric comes into the Main panel from the outside and there was a wisp of smoke so I turned all of the power off at the main switch and called an electrician. He assessed that there was a surge back from the failing water heater (which as a result of the surge back cracked the glass tank inside the heater). But the worst was that besides the water heater's double-20 amp breaker, two 15-amp and one 20-amp breakers also had to be replaced because they went dead when the surge back happened. The breaker slots are numbered down the left column and then down the right column; the ones that failed were #6, #8, #10 in the left column, and the double #11&12 at the top of the right column.
We haven't been using the double-20 amp breaker because we're in the process of converting to a propane tankless heater; it's taking some time just to arrange with a plumber. But in the mean time the two 15-amp and the one 20-amp circuits have been working just fine until this evening.

This evening 5 circuits just stopped working, and I don't understand it at all. The house wasn't using much power at the time -- just some regular lights and the refridgerator, though I had been using a power saw on circuit #7, a full 5 minutes before. I noticed when it happened because the overhead light where I was went off, but there was no noise or spark or anything that I know of. When I checked what was working and what wasn't, I found that the same single circuits that had had their breakers replaced were all dead, plus two additional ones --altogether #6, #8, #10, #16, #18. The double#11&12 may also be dead but didn't try to test that. None of these breakers were tripped; I tried turning them off and then on again -- nothing. So I just turned them all to off.
I should mention that this is an older house and some of the wiring in this house leaves something to be desired. Having no subpanel between water heater and the main, for example.

I fairly sure I'm going to have to call the electrician back, but would really appreciate some idea of what's going on first. I don't think that this is an emergency right now, like when the surge-back occurred. But it's very worrisome. I just don't understand why all of these circuits are now failing.
Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-05-11, 10:45 PM
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I think it will be wise to call back the electrician to check out why 5 other circuit fail either at the meter socket or POCO connection or breaker box connection there are few spots and call the POCO first to check out their side first if not then you have to get the electrician out and get this fix asap.

Merci,
Marc
 
  #3  
Old 04-06-11, 03:54 AM
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Thanks very much, Marc.

Thank you Marc. It can be confusing when electric just fails. I will give your suggestions to the electrician.
 
  #4  
Old 04-06-11, 06:40 AM
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I wouldn't make suggestions to the electrician. He might be a bit touchy about that.
 
  #5  
Old 04-06-11, 10:29 AM
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hi guys Ė

dwalker I know nothing about electricity, but I had a strange kind of problem which I think was kind of similar. The folks on this forum figured it out immediately.

I had circuits all one side of the breaker panel that stopped working- but the breakers were not tripped. Some other circuits in the house worked. I was baffled. Turns out the service wire to the house was rubbing on a tree branch. One of the wires (I guess that would be one of the two 120ís?) was broken - but the other was intact.

Got the advice here on the forum, logged off and called the POCO, and all was good (and free, thatís really good) in no time.Hope your problem turns out to be simple as that.

Good luck!
 
  #6  
Old 04-06-11, 02:11 PM
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Did you notice how it is the even circuts not working? It sounds like one of the hot feeder wires died.
 
  #7  
Old 04-06-11, 02:44 PM
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Just a thought....when the fellow replaced those breakers he should have had the main turned off. Not the first time a main failed when switched off and on, if it is old. One side might be in the tripped position or froze but you can't see inside it. A tester would tell if that is the case. Might reset the main and see what happens.
 
  #8  
Old 04-06-11, 03:03 PM
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Just a thought....when the fellow replaced those breakers he should have had the main turned off.
I do not do that.


I have also heard of mains catastrophically failing to the point where they catch fire.
 
  #9  
Old 04-06-11, 03:41 PM
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You should definitely power off the main when changing breakers in the panel. It's a major safety problem to do that live; it only takes one slip, one sneeze, one butterfingers on the screwdriver to have a life-changing accident. If you have a concern about an older main breaker failing then flip off the branch breakers first so the main is opening under no load and give it a few flips to exercise the mechanism. If the main does fail when you throw it, then congratulations because you just discovered a latent hazard before it burned your house down. You should never have to treat a breaker like egg shells, because if you do it's already past its useful life and must be replaced.

Depending on who you work for, getting caught working a live panel will get you a write up or dismissal.
 
  #10  
Old 04-06-11, 07:43 PM
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I turned all of the power off at the main switch and called an electrician. He assessed that there was a surge back from the failing water heater (which as a result of the surge back cracked the glass tank inside the heater). But the worst was that besides the water heater's double-20 amp breaker, two 15-amp and one 20-amp breakers also had to be replaced because they went dead when the surge back happened.
Are you sure this guy is a real electrician?
 
  #11  
Old 04-06-11, 09:23 PM
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To expand on Casual Joe's question unless this was a very small water heater it probably should have had a 30A breaker. There is no glass tank in a water heater to break. It is a steel tank with a glass like vitreous coating.
 
  #12  
Old 04-07-11, 03:10 AM
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many thanks

Many many thanks for all of your comments. They are much appreciated. The problem is now being taken care of -- by better hands and minds than mine.
The heater that failed was a 30 gal, and after the problem at the electric breaker panel water began trickling out underneath it. That's why I thought a glass lining had cracked, but either way, it was a goner.
 
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