need help with breaker problem

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  #1  
Old 07-14-02, 08:20 PM
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Mom2twins97
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need help with breaker problem

Hi,

Well, I have posted on the A/C forum and found great advice........but now my a/c problem has developed into an electrical one.

Last week, our a/c outside unit would run but would not blow cold air. Had the a/c man out to repair, he replaced the contactor and the capacitor. Worked great for the first cooling cycle, but then when it started back up to cool again, it flipped the breaker in the garage. When I would flip it back on it would run fine until the next cycle when it would flip off again. Had the a/c guy back out, he checked the amps and said that we needed a hard start kit because we were starting up the a/c unit with about 60 amps. Added the kit and that took the start up down to 18.1 amps. He went and checked the circuit in the garage and discovered that the wires had not been tightened in and were extremely loose, matter of fact, before he even was able to check them, the breaker had flipped even running at 18.1amps. So, he tightened the wires on the a/c breaker and on any others that were loose, including the breaker directly above the a/c breaker that controls the oven and the dryer. They evidently were loose also. We had been having problems with the dryer and oven - whenever we used them at the same time, they would flip the breaker and even sometimes when we didn't run them at the same time they would flip the breaker, especially the dryer. Well, went to dry clothes later on that evening and the breaker had flipped and would not flip back. My husband put in a new circuit breaker today and while it will stay on, it makes a buzzing noise when the dryer runs. Not when the oven runs. And we have now had one incident of the a/c breaker flipping again.

The a/c had worked great for two days until the breaker was replaced today. It is still working fine, we have just had one time that if flipped. Could it be all related to the two breakers being next to each other? Does the dryer possibly have a capacitor that we might need to replace, since evidently they can be blown by having a breaker blow a lot?

Please help.......any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 
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  #2  
Old 07-15-02, 04:48 AM
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I don't think that a household clothes dryer generally has a capacitor. As I was reading your post, I was wondering if your home has aluminum wiring, which is known for loostening at the terminals?
 
  #3  
Old 07-15-02, 05:29 AM
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Nickkkkkkkk
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It is unlikely that the problem is related just because the breakers in question are next to one another, unless the buss (the part that is behind the circuit breaker that the circuit breaker plugs in to) is overheating or damaged. That is something that I think a licensed electrician would have to determine.

I can't be sure, but if your breaker for the A/C keeps tripping I would suspect that the compressor is bad. If that keeps happening I suggest you get at least 3 estimates for the repair.
 
  #4  
Old 07-15-02, 08:19 AM
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Sparksone42
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Mom,
You don't say in your post if the oven and dryer breaker are two separate breakers, I am assuming they are.
Yes, you are correct when you wonder if the other breaker for the a/c could contribute to your problem. Your a/c breaker was tripping and was causing heat inside of the panel, this affects other breakers as well, especially the ones above the a/c breaker as heat rises.
You mentioned that the a/c repairman tightened all of the breakers for you. This is a good thing however, did he tighten all of the connections in the panel. The a/c circuit is a 240 volt circuit and has no neutral or white wire. You oven and dryer are 240 volt circuits as well with one exception, they have a neutral or white wire. The noise that you describe usually comes from a loose neutral or loose equipment grounding conductor.
Inside of the panel there should be a neutral bar where all of the white wires go and a grounding bar where the green of bare conductors terminate. All of those will probably need to be tightened as well. If you have a main breaker of fuse on the outside panel at the meter or one main breaker in the inside panel you can turn that breaker off and check for voltage in the panel, as long as everything is off you can go in and tighten all of the screws on those two bars.
Back to the breaker, the heating caused by the a/c could well have caused the nearby breakers to prematurely have started to fail. Just like the breaker for the a/c those breakers may have suffered that fate. I would make sure all of the connections are tight first and see if that eliminates the problem. If not those two breakers may also need to be replaced.
MOM send money...LOL
 
  #5  
Old 07-15-02, 08:25 AM
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Nickkkkkkkk
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With all of this talk about tightening connections, I feel obligated to point out that all connections are supposed to be tightened to a specific torque.

If the wiring is aluminum, it is not supposed to be "TIGHT," but rather torqued to proper specifications which are listed on the circuit breaker itself. Overtightening an aluminum connection can damage the wire and cause possible overheating as well.

Please be aware.
 
  #6  
Old 07-15-02, 09:00 AM
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Sparksone42
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Ok, I went back an reread your original post at the top. The oven and the dryer are supposed to be on separate circuit breakers. You say that your husband replaced the breaker. If you have only one ciruit breaker for both of these appliances I reccomend two things: 1. Don't even try to run the oven and the dryer at the same time!!!! 2. Call an electrician. As I stated these two appliances are REQUIRED to have speparate breakers!! If they have been shared with one there is a violation of code and a definite fire hazard. Correct this situation as soon as possible.
The correction will be to run the two loads to two separate circuit breakers, in that way each appliance will have a breaker of the correct size. Usually, the breaker for the oven is a 60 or 50 amp and the breaker for the dryer is a 30 amp. If you have been running the two at the same time this is probably what has caused this breaker to fail.
Again I have to assume here as you have not said if the dryer or oven are gas. If they are gas this is a whole different story, they still require electric just not near the same amount.
Hope this helps.
 
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Old 07-15-02, 10:40 AM
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Mom2twins97
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Okay, more info on the situation........we do not have aluminum wiring. The oven and the dryer are definitely on the same breaker - but does it make any difference that the oven and the stove top are on different breakers? They are seperated in our kitchen and are on seperate breakers. All of the appliances are electric.

I have been checking the breakers today as the a/c and the dryer are working (not turning on the oven at the same time at all) and I have noticed that when the dryer is running, the breaker hums, but it is in cycles. I timed it and it is pretty much exactly 60 seconds humming and 30 seconds not. Neither breakers have flipped so far today and I have been running both the a/c and the dryer pretty much all morning.

Any more ideas on what should be done? I sure do appreciate all of the help so far.
 
  #8  
Old 07-15-02, 10:50 AM
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Sparksone42
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Hi Mom,

Those appliances should definitely have separate circuits.
Where is the panel located? Is it in a spot that has been unusually warm in the last few days??
Haven't seen the money I asked for either LOL Western Union maybe?
 
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Old 07-15-02, 11:09 AM
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Mom2twins97
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One more thing to add about the breaker that the oven and dryer are on: the breakers in the breaker box have been referred to as "doubles" in that there is only one set of wires in, but there are two black switches. Don't know if that makes a difference. The breakers also attach to each other on the top and bottom with a metal piece that slides into a metal receiver. We moved into this house about three years ago, it was built in 1976. I can't believe that they would wire it that way with it being against code. Well, if they did, I guess I can. I am just confused as to why on earth they would do it. There are plenty of open spaces on the board to add a breaker.

Anyway, again, any ideas would be most helpful. And the sooner I can get the this dryer situation fixed, the sooner I can finish laundering the money to send you..............
 
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Old 07-15-02, 11:22 AM
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Sparksone42
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Ok then let's get that dryer working!!!!
Since you say that there is only one set of wires in I would still say that you have two appliances on the one breaker. The type of breaker that you are referring to is one where two single breakers are being used to operate a two pole appliance.

More than likely that breaker controlled only the oven when the house was built and a previous homeowner added the dryer to that circuit at a later point in time.

This breaker can be replaced with a two pole breaker.

Here's your major problem: If I am right that breaker is sized for the oven as I stated earlier. The dryer will most likely take a breaker of a smaller size, commonly a two pole 30 amp breaker. Breakers are sized to protect the load they serve and the wire that's run to that load. One thing you haven't told me is what size that breaker is, that would be most helpful! And you didn't answer my question about the panels location and whether or not it's been subject to more ambient heat lately.

As for the buzzing!!! Still not sure about this....I suspect that the breaker is going bad and that what you are hearing is the arching that is taking place either inside the breaker or between the breaker and the bussbar.

The temporary fix is probably to replace that breaker..... this is just a stop-gap measure though. Those two appliances need to be on two separate circuits period.
 
  #11  
Old 07-15-02, 11:40 AM
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Mom2twins97
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Okay, in answer to your questions.......the breaker box is located in our garage and we are in Texas - so you betcha, it has been hot in the garage. The breaker is a 30amp breaker, same size as the a/c breaker. We just replaced the dryer breaker yesterday........the one that was in wouldn't flip back over, so we replaced it. Now it stays on and works fine, just hums in cycles. So really as far as the annoying things go, all that is wrong now is the humming. Everything else is working.

When I feel the breakers that control the a/c and the dryer they are not hot at all, so I am assuming that even though the breaker is humming, it isn't heating up too much.
 
  #12  
Old 07-15-02, 11:55 AM
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Sparksone42
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Mom,

Sounds like you have it under control. Many times the ambient temperature plays a role in breaker tripping. If it's unusually hot or the humidity is high a breaker may not hold the current it's supposed to.
As for that humming, you said that it hums in cycles. Not sure why it's doing this but I will again say that I would shut off the main power and tighten all of the screws. If the house has pipe coming into the panel then I would even go so far as to tighten the locknuts on the pipes. When conduit or pipe is used it is usually used as the ground.
I will hazard to say that it is not the dryer that is causing the humming but the circuit breaker for the a/c that is doing this. You said that you had the hard start kit installed so it's obvious your compressor is drawing more current than normal. This may be the cause, I live in Florida and have heard this many times. As long as the breakers remain cool and are not tripping you should be ok.

I strongly advise you to separate those circuits for the oven and dryer!!!

Since the dryer is working ok now I will assume that you are laundering my money as I write this.
 
  #13  
Old 07-15-02, 01:13 PM
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I just wanted to encourage you not to think: no breakers are blown, I must be OK.

I would suggest seperating the circuits as Sparks' suggested. Make sure the breakers for all three large devices are sized the way they should be. And last but not least, call an electrician and ask him to come out and take a look. You may be able to talk someone into coming out for a free estimate if all they have to do is look inside the panel. They should be able to tell you what that humming is all about too. It may cost a small investment to get things working right... but you wont have your house burn down either.
 
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