Unsure on source of wiring problem...

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Old 08-26-14, 06:58 AM
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Unsure on source of wiring problem...

I woke up this morning to 2 buzzing noises and immediately thereafter, the breaker for this particular section of the house tripped. I also noticed a burning smell. Investigating the area, the smell was strongest a few feet away from one of the light switches. The receptacle for this light switch has had a history or tripping the breaker, so the light switch was replaced a few years ago, but hardly ever used. To be sure it wasn't any other equipment, I unplugged any loads and still the breaker would not reset. Next train of thought was that this must be the switch, so I removed the switch and put wire nuts on the wires for the time being, being sure they weren't touching. Still the breaker will not reset. I'm unsure of where to go with this one. I set the breaker to fully off before I left for work and am working on getting some photos for the wiring.

On other side of the wall of this switch is a second switch on the same circuit that upon removing the cover seems a little dirty / dusty. I read on a separate thread that it was the source of a short, however this was for an outside outlet. I didn't get a chance to get in and clean anything this morning but is this a potential source for a short? Or is it likely something in the walls? I haven't added or replaced any light fixtures or loads on this circuit.
 

Last edited by kkamin; 08-26-14 at 07:20 AM.
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Old 08-26-14, 07:19 AM
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Did you flip the breaker fully to off before you tried to flip it back to on?

Did the breaker make a loud click when you tried to flip it back on, suggesting that it did reset and then trip again immediately?

You might open up the outlet box of the suspect receptacle (that seems to tirp the breaker a lot) and check for anything burned inside.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 07:19 AM
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What loads were on the circuit at the time you heard the noise? A loose connection can have an arcing or buzzing noise.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 07:30 AM
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pcboss,

The window unit A/C I've got was likely the largest load, followed by a power strip that supplies a tv and modem etc. I unplugged anything and everything from the wall before retesting, but still getting it to trip. My fear is I'll head home today, find nothing burned or singed anywhere, and have to dig in the walls.


Allan,

I did make sure to flip the breaker all the way off as far as I could get it to go. But every time it would click and trip the breaker. I got as far as taking the light switch cover off and checking inside for anything burned but didn't really notice anything in terms of singed wire or strong odor for that matter.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 07:33 AM
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The AC is a large load. I suspect it has caused a failure in a connection where you had the strong smell.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 07:36 AM
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Would that cause the breaker to trip with the AC unplugged? Also, the smell was noticed maybe 20 ft from the AC unit. Is it likely for damage to be dealt to the wiring far from the unit?
 
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Old 08-26-14, 07:50 AM
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If the short in the wiring still exists the breaker will continue to trip.

The smell is not from the unit. It is from a problem upstream of where it was plugged in.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 07:59 AM
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Should this be the case, (god willing it isn't) is there a non-invasive way to check the wiring?
 
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Old 08-26-14, 08:10 AM
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All the connections should be in accessible junction boxes or behind the switches and receptacles.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 08:23 AM
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Oh ok. I was misunderstanding you for a minute. My brain was on the track of "wires becoming exposed and fraying in the walls" for some reason. Thank you a lot for all the input. GREATLY appreciated. I'll have to do some more investigation when I can get home.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 11:34 AM
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LOOK IN THE outlets for burned wiring..or switches

tighten all connections

if you fine the wires are stabed into the back of the outlets

replace with new outlets and connect the wires under the screws on the sides.i

if the outlets are backstabed..........look in the outlets between the A/C and the panel.

if one is burned up ...the others on that circuit need to be replaced.

buy a better grade of outlet....2 or 3 $..it will last...........put the wires under the screws.
 
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Old 08-26-14, 01:01 PM
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Thanks John, I'll have to take a look. I know the major one in question that gave me trouble in the past wasn't backstabbed, but I really don't know about the rest of them. Either way I'll take a look at all of them on the circuit and likely buy a couple new ones just because.
 
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Old 08-27-14, 06:37 AM
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Found the problem. Was a bad outlet behind a dresser down circuit from everything I thought it could be. And I'm also pretty fortunate that I caught it when I did without incident. There were some burn marks on the back of the dresser from the sparking of the outlet. I think I dodged a hefty bullet here. Thanks for all the help, guys.
 
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Old 08-27-14, 06:52 AM
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Glad you found it while it was still a small issue and not something much worse.
 
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