Breaker tripping once a day, just sparked


Old 06-21-14, 07:21 AM
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Breaker tripping once a day, just sparked

My house is a small bungalow built in the 40's. Most of the wiring is still the original knob and tube wiring (soon to be replaced). It has a newer GE breaker panel. The living room, bedrooms, hall, and bath are all on one 20amp breaker. It's been this way since I bought the place about eight years ago.

I've never had any issues to speak of until a week ago. We had several rainy days followed by a pretty heavy storm, and everything was very damp. The night of the storm the 20amp breaker powering most of the house tripped. I attributed it to moisture and left it off until the next morning. The next morning I pulled the cover and inspected everything, and everything was completely dry. I reset the breaker and everything seemed fine. Then about 24 hours later it tripped again. This time I immediately tried resetting it and an orange glow briefly shot out of the top of the box, directly above the breaker, and of course it simultaneously tripped. I shut off the main, pulled the cover, pulled the breaker, inspected everything and could see absolutely no visible damage anywhere. The one thing I didn't do was attempt to tighten any wires, which I probably should have done. I waited a couple of hours, flipped it back on, and everything seemed fine. Then by the end of the day it tripped again. It's since done this all but one day in the past week. Last night it tripped, and this morning when I went out to reset it, it sparked again.

Needless to say I'm pretty freaked and open to any suggestions.
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Old 06-21-14, 07:37 AM
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Does your roof leak? Do you have wet wiring in the attic?
Old 06-21-14, 07:58 AM
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As hard as the wind blew during that storm, it's possible some water could have leaked in. But it's been very hot and dry this past week. I would assume if anything did get wet in the attic it would have dried by now, but I could easily be wrong. I just shut off the main power and thoroughly inspected everything. There's still no sign of the flash that's occurred twice now inside the panel. Nothing appears discolored and there is no electrical burnt smell on the contacts or wire connection on the tripping breaker. I snugged up the screw on the wire, but it definitely wasn't loose. It's now back on again, so far with no issues. I should probably also note that I've unplugged everything that was previously plugged into that circuit, though I've had multiple lights on and my tv on during the week with no immediate problems. My biggest concern, not that a daily tripping breaker isn't a major concern, is why it has sparked twice inside the panel.
Old 06-21-14, 08:27 AM
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How do you know it "sparked" in the panel? One scenario would be an outside receptacle getting wet and tripping the circuit. Another would be overloading the circuit. You have the potential of doing that with so many rooms on one breaker.
Old 06-21-14, 10:06 AM
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Because both times it shot an orange glow and sparks out of a hole in the top of the panel and made a sound similar to blowing through a steel pipe. There are no outside receptacles. There is currently nothing plugged into any of the receptacles, and I haven't done anything any different in the past week to overload a circuit that I haven't done without any problems for the past eight or so years.
Old 06-21-14, 11:25 AM
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It sounds like a dead short has developed. You may need to get someone to look at this.
Old 06-22-14, 03:48 PM
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Might be time to replace that breaker,not that they normally go bad or at least swap the wire to a known good breaker in the panel and see if the samething happens.

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