Breaker switches randomly tripping. Best Advice ?

Reply

  #1  
Old 06-21-16, 10:07 AM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Breaker switches randomly tripping. Best Advice ?

House is relatively new, as in built in 2009. I do have a lot of electronics. Looking for ideas on how to narrow this down.

Recently in the last few months, i've had random tripping of the breaker switches (actually just two of them) and for no apparent reason. Like i had one last night, for no apparent reason. I did have a TV on, PS4, ceiling fan and a computer on, and boom it just went off. The rest of the house stayed on.

In my den, i may have this happen 2 or 3 times within the space of an hour or so. Then nothing for days (maybe weeks) on end. I will say in my den, i do have three gaming computers, (my young boys love internet gaming) so the 15amp circuit maybe getting a little tight. Machines are all on APC battery backup with surge protection. Actually most of my electronics if not all are on surge protection.

I'm no electrician, i'm not even sure how to start troubleshooting this. It just happens a little too often for it to just be coincidence. I also appreciate its probably very difficult to give a diagnosis over the internet.. Just would like some pointers on what to perhaps start looking at, to start dividing and conquering. If i was to call an actual electrician, what's the first things he'd be looking for? I do have a multimeter and even a kill-a-watt. But fully understanding electrics is not my forte. I understand the basic concepts, the difference between an amp and volt, and what not... Could it just be a couple of weak breakers that may have gone bad? or most likely something more sinister. Just really looking for some rough idea's even if some are going to be wild !
 
  #2  
Old 06-21-16, 10:22 AM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 60,853
Received 1,335 Votes on 1,234 Posts
Are these standard circuit breakers or a GFI or arc fault type with a yellow or white button on them ?

I would doubt weak breakers. What brand are they ?
 
  #3  
Old 06-21-16, 10:25 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,583
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Recently in the last few months, i've had random tripping of the breaker switches (actually just two of them) and for no apparent reason.
Has anything new been added to the circuit? Do you use a laser printer?

Terminology: It is a breaker not breaker switch,
 
  #4  
Old 06-21-16, 10:29 AM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
yes white button.. perhaps co-incidence but the two that seem to have the problem sit next to each other in the panel.

 
  #5  
Old 06-21-16, 10:35 AM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
We do have a laser printer upstairs in the master bedroom closet, that only ever gets used once in a blue moon, but that's been there for 3yrs.. Nothing really new other than an additional computer in the den, for my youngest. All these computers have strong gpu's though, as they like to game.
 
  #6  
Old 06-21-16, 10:50 AM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 60,853
Received 1,335 Votes on 1,234 Posts
Square D makes a good product. Can't tell if that's a QO or a Homeline panel.
Early arc fault breakers were known for premature trip issues.

I would replace those two arc fault breakers with brand new combination ones.
QO Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters - Schneider Electric USA
 
  #7  
Old 06-21-16, 01:38 PM
I
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,943
Received 44 Votes on 42 Posts
...and if you give Square D (Schneider) a call they may replace these on warranty. They're pretty good about standing behind the product.
 
  #8  
Old 06-21-16, 02:13 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
So the general consensus is that its probably just a couple of faulty arc breakers ?
 
  #9  
Old 06-21-16, 02:40 PM
I
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,943
Received 44 Votes on 42 Posts
If not faulty, at least sensitive AFCI breakers. The first generations were more prone to nusience trips. They have updated trip parameters to be more tolerant of normal household loads after the roughly 10 years in service in the field.

Whenever diagnosing AFCI problems it's always a good first step to try it with a new/known-good breaker.
 
  #10  
Old 06-21-16, 04:28 PM
Tolyn Ironhand's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 13,802
Received 252 Votes on 220 Posts
FYI - Those are Square D Homeline breakers/panel.
 
  #11  
Old 06-22-16, 10:20 AM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
funny someone mentioned a laser printer below. Today, with very little on the circuit, (laptop, LCD, some home audio and a fan) my wife turned on her laser printer, which is on the same circuit, and three times in a row, after she sent something to print, it tripped the switch.

First time its done that, three times in a row like that.

Anyway huge nuisance.
 
  #12  
Old 06-22-16, 11:09 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,583
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
A laser printer has a heater for the fuser and it can draw substantial current if a circuit is already border line it could trip it. That is why I originally asked about a laser printer.
it tripped the switch
No, it tripped the breaker. Adding a circuit may be a good idea even if new AFCI breakers help.
 
  #13  
Old 06-22-16, 11:34 AM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,223
Received 103 Votes on 89 Posts
Move the printer to another circuit and see if the problem moves with the printer. You also need to see if the breaker is tripping on overload or is the afci tripping.
 
  #14  
Old 06-22-16, 12:34 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
just did it another 2 times when trying to print. The only thing on the circuit is a couple of inexpensive alarm clocks and nothing else, and a laptop on a docking station. Turned off the laptop & dock / LCD and this time it printed without tripping the circuit. i can move the printer. Just getting concerned of what could possibly be causing this. When you say 'need to see if the breaker is tripping on overload or if its the afci tripping. How does a DIY do this ? a clamp presumably ? in which case i may be spending more on a clamp then getting an electrician out. Unless there's another way that's doable with a multimeter ?
 
  #15  
Old 06-22-16, 01:26 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,583
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Here's one cheaper than an electrician: Digital Clamp-On Multimeter
 
  #16  
Old 06-22-16, 08:02 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 10,758
Received 97 Votes on 87 Posts
I am leaning a bit more toward overloading of the 15 amp receptacle circuits. Do you have a means of checking the loading on the circuits that keep tripping? I'd be interested in what a snap around meter (aka amprobe) would tell us.
 
  #17  
Old 06-30-16, 10:02 AM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Finally rec'd my clamp meter, and still trying to figure out what the hell is going on here.

So today, while working, on a computer, with the fan on, the breaker tripped twice within 10min.

I took my panel apart today, and clamped on the two problematic breakers.

I turned everything on and including fan and lights and for the computers, i put them under load, as in made them run game benchmarks in loop. The clamp registered around 5amps.

In the master bed, i turned a few things on, like the fan, computer and when i went to turn on the laser printer it tripped. Yet today, the laser printer was off, and it tripped twice without any real loads on.

I checked to make sure that the wires were tight and not loose in the breakers, and they're as tight as my screwdriver will turn... I couldn't tighten them anymore than they were already.

I'm really not sure what else for me to try? Should i just replace the breakers? should i get an electrician? should i be pulling apart my sockets and see if there's something loose somewhere? could it be one particular electrical device in each room causing the problem? If i was to call an electrician, and pay the high cost that i'll be charged, what exactly would his next diagnostic steps be?

Here are some pics on my panel, and my clamp attached.





Under the max load turning everything on in the room.



Any advice would be really appreciated. I know its not the laser printer, as today, the printer was off, and the master bed tripped twice in the space of 10mins.

Just really looking for idea's. I'm a noob, i'll admit it, i have never used a clamp other than the first time today... I clamped against both the white and black, i'm assuming that being its AC it doesn't matter which wire you clamp against? as long as its not both... The readings stayed the same roughly for both.

I don't think i have an overload... if i do, its not obvious to me..Certainly not from the LCD of the clamp.
 
  #18  
Old 06-30-16, 10:16 AM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 60,853
Received 1,335 Votes on 1,234 Posts
When you use a clamp meter..... you clamp it around one wire only. In your case preferably the black wire..... so you did the right thing.


I would have replaced at least one of the breakers with a new one at this time as a test.
 
  #19  
Old 06-30-16, 12:43 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Would you know if i can buy two of these ? Will they fit my panel ?

https://www.amazon.com/Square-Schnei.../dp/B004Z4XAOK
 
  #20  
Old 06-30-16, 01:20 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,223
Received 103 Votes on 89 Posts
I suspect the AFCI component is tripping.
 
  #21  
Old 06-30-16, 03:42 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
does that mean there's a bigger issue at hand ? Should i get the builder involved?
 
  #22  
Old 06-30-16, 04:32 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,223
Received 103 Votes on 89 Posts
If the house is under warranty I would try and get the builder to have the electrician look for the problem. It might be something as simple as a loose connection.
 
  #23  
Old 06-30-16, 05:14 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
well technically its not, i've lived there for 5yrs, and its only supposed to be one yr warranty. The builder has been good to me though, for things that have really helped me out in the past and fixed, tho i'm out of warranty, example....sinking pavers, leaking pipe in ceiling that involved pulling half the ceiling down and repainting, fixing the tile floor cos of upward pressure due to heavy rains.

All stuff they could have said no to.. So don't want to push my luck, for something that could be a simple $60 fix, as a DIY.

Something to take into consideration, that's not been mentioned here... HEAT.. I live in SW FL and this really has only started happening, recently. Maybe cos its getting hot? i'm wondering because from what i've recently been reading, people say, don't install them next to each other, cos heat can cause them to trip.. So maybe, i'll stick a fan on them, and see if it still trips if i turn on the printer. (seems the printer trips it 4 out of 5 times !!!)

Another thing, is i've installed hardwood floor, so did a lot of banging. Maybe worked something lose ? actually causing the arc ? probably not a bad idea to just take apart a few receptacles and double check everything is tight.
 
  #24  
Old 07-09-16, 03:39 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Just wanted to add to this thread. Kudos to Schneider Customer Service. They recommended based upon my description, to go to Home Depot, buy two new AFCI 15amp DP-3640 breakers, and replace the two that are tripping. He said, Home Depot will give you your money back when you return the old used ones as there's a limited lifetime warranty on them. So today, spent $80 on two new ones, switched them out, and after quite a bit of testing, i was unable to make either trip. Ran everything, turned the printer on and off multiple times, and not a single trip. Took the old ones back and got my $80 back !!! So all in all, a happy ending.
 
  #25  
Old 07-09-16, 04:34 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,583
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
Excellent! Thanks for letting us know the outcome.
 
  #26  
Old 07-10-16, 09:31 AM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 10,758
Received 97 Votes on 87 Posts
Took the old ones back and got my $80 back
I am more than just a little surprised by that. Home Depot is a retailer and not a distributor and retailers generally cannot honor manufacturer warrantys. I am also suprised you were told there was a limited lifetime warranty on them. Homeline breakers and panels carry a 10 year warranty.
 
  #27  
Old 07-11-16, 02:48 PM
T
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Yes as told to me by Schneider CS. He said, go to Home Depot buy new ones, then take the old ones back, and by contract they have to take them back. If they question it, have the returns person call Schneider. Cos they don't always know that... did exactly that and it fixed my problem !

Perhaps it was 10yrs, eitherway my home is only 5yrs old.
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: