Breaker tripping at random times

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Old 01-14-17, 05:17 PM
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Breaker tripping at random times

I'll try to give as much detail as I can here.

Our home is pretty old. We purchased it about 4 years ago now. The front wall where the door is, is where we originally had our entertainment center (TV, satellite box, Pioneer AV receiver, Xbox One/PS4 and powered subwoofer)

Never had any issues.

This circuit also shares an outlet upstairs on the same wall, which is our bedroom and the coldest room of the house so we occasionally run a small fan space heater. Again, no issues. We re-arranged our living room opposite ways and all the stuff was on a different circuit. Never any issues.

We recently moved it all back against that front wall. Well recently, being about 4 months ago now. No issues until now.

About a week ago we were sleeping, and I noticed our room was cold and no fan could be heard. Breaker tripped. I immediately pointed fingers at the space heater, but tried again, and again it tripped shortly after. (That space heater is no longer with us, obviously)

But even without that space heater, the breaker is randomly tripping. Sometimes it goes for a week or more no issues, other times it's over and over.

The plugs that our entertainment center are on are switched by an illuminated switch at the door. I replaced most of the outlets when we bought the house because they were the fugly cream color or painted over. The switches are all pretty old though. It's a much bigger, heavier duty feeling switch than a normal small light switch but it's "'mushy" feeling.

By mushy, I mean there's no like spring type feel or action when you move it. It doesn't snap into the off or on position, it's just like mush pushing it up for on, or down for off.

I don't want the switch to be honest. We don't use it for lights, most of our lights are the GE Link or Phillips Hue. So the switch is just there waiting to be accidentally turned off, cutting power to my electronics.

Do those switches typically go bad? Do breakers ever go bad? That specific breaker is newer than all the other ones, I can tell because it's the modern style whereas the other ones are all an older style.

When it trips, it's warm to the touch whereas every other one is cool.

Also, the lights start to flicker when it's getting ready to trip, I noticed it today for about 5 minutes our LED bulbs were slightly flickering every 30-45 seconds or so ever so slightly.

Then they did one big flicker which was enough to make my Pioneer receiver shut off.
 
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Old 01-14-17, 05:28 PM
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A "soft" switch, such as you describe, can have undue resistance and heat up causing a breaker to trip. Breakers go bad, too. If you want to eliminate the switch, and there are only two wires connected to it, remove the power from the circuit, remove the wires from under the screw heads, straighten out the shepherd's crook and cap them together with a bcap. You can buy a switch eliminator plate to go under your cover plate or install the switch, leaving it a mystery forever
Leviton Blank Insert for Toggle Switch, White-R02-80700-00W - The Home Depot
 
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Old 01-14-17, 05:45 PM
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I doubt a switch is causing your problem.

What type of breakers...... GFI.... AFCI.... something with a test button on it ?
If you have arc fault breakers then a defective switch could cause an arc.
 
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Old 01-14-17, 10:13 PM
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I'm honestly not sure what type of breakers they are. I'm fairly knowledgeable about wiring, but mainly messing with DC. The breakers have no buttons, just the ON/OFF switch.

So after posting that, I left the breaker off to let it cool down and I was going to try a process of elimination type thing. See what I was running that was causing the issue.

(When my TV is on, the TV, Xbox One, DIRECTV box, Pioneer receiver and powered sub are on) those are the big draws on this circuit. There are 2 lamps running LED 60w equivalent bulbs. I also used to have the space heater on upstairs quite often while all this was on. Never had issues.

Back to my process of elimination. I turned the switch I suspected was bad off. Turned the breaker back on (All that would be coming on was one of the lamps mentioned above, and then my chandelier in the dining room, which has 2 CCFL 40w equivalent bulbs. As soon as I turned the breaker on, the dining room light/lamp came on for a split second and turned right back off. Repeated this a few times, same results each time.

The breaker was NOT tripping though. (Breaker was still fully in the ON position, not halfway as it is when it trips)

No idea why I thought to do this, but I just kind of thumped my hand on it, lights came on, stayed on.

So then I turned the switch on in the living room, and JUST the TV/Xbox and satellite box. Everything is fine.

Turned the Pioneer receiver on, and within a minute or two, could see the lights lightly flickering again. Didn't leave it on long enough to trip the breaker again, turned it off and the flickering stopped.

The receiver is a Pioneer VSX-1023 with zero issues but is pulling enough power to start messsing with the breaker.

The flickering is the weird part to me, though. It doesn't just trip the breaker, the lights lightly flicker and then flicker pretty bad until devices turn themselves off from the lack of power.

I'm not familiar with breakers and breaker boxes, but is is possible that the breaker itself isn't making a good connection or something? I'm not gonna dig into that without doing some research first or call a family member who's comfortable with that stuff because I know that voltage isn't anything to mess with.
 
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Old 01-14-17, 11:02 PM
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Another update. Just got back home, remembered I had a drawer full of new switches and outlets from when we moved in, so I replaced that old switch. This thing seriously looks like it's from the 60's-70's. So old, so outdated, so brittle and fragile.

Just powered everything back up, so I'll post back and let you guys know if that fixed the issue. If not, then a new breaker is next. I popped the breaker panel cover off, that's simple enough and I know not to touch anything behind it, obviously. Everything *looks* fine, and secure, so if this switch doesn't fix it, then I'm really leaning towards a bad breaker.
 
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Old 01-14-17, 11:23 PM
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If you just had a flickering light problem.... then I'd say you might have a breaker problem.
A defective breaker will not trip off by itself. Something is causing it to trip.
 
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Old 01-14-17, 11:45 PM
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So far after replacing the switch in the wall, we're having zero issues. No flickering, and everything's working as it should.
 
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Old 01-15-17, 04:53 AM
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I'll still fall back on my original statement that a soft switch will not make a complete connection and can cause heat buildup. Switches can cause the problems you attest to. Hopefully you have it fixed. Let us know how it goes over a few days.
 
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