Circuit breaker keeps tripping

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by paintedlady1, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. paintedlady1

    paintedlady1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Hi, new here and don't know a bunch about electricity but will try to be concise.

    Background:1890's farmhouse. Looks like homeowner did wiring. We have lived here since 2000 with no major wiring problems but now this: One circuit breaker tripped a few times, we went and reset it, worked for a few days then tripped again. Now, about 1 week ago it would trip; we would reset it and it would trip as soon as it was reset. So, not knowing if it would cause a fire we left it tripped.

    Strange circuit: Living room and den and front foyer and upstairs master BR.
    We occasionally have the light switch in the downstairs foyer not work but we went upstairs and that switch would work the lights ( neighbor said that was just due to the lights not being wired properly???)

    It appears as if most rooms have 2 circuits ( so you would always have some power?)

    House is all plaster and lath so for the upstairs they ran all wiring up to the attic through the chimney chase? and then sent the wiriing to the individual rooms through the attic floor.

    Where do we start: add up all the amps drawn by things plugged in to see if the breaker is too small?

    No mice now but have had them in the past; could the wiring have been chewed?

    Thanks for any light you can shed on this. ( pun intended!
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Well, this will require considerable Dick Tracy talent, given the unknowns.

    Before you call in an electrician, see if you can narrow some things down.

    First, just in general, you should always know exactly which circuit breaker controls what. This is a good time and a good excuse to get that done. With a helper, go around to every light switch, every recepacle, using a little tester, every appliance. Verify and mark the breaker panel. I actually have little number dots which I put on each switch and receptacle identifying the breaker number.

    Anyway. If you have not already figured it out, this will now reveal which switches and receptacles are fed by the tripped breaker. ( Leave it tripped while you are checking everything else.)

    NOW, unplug anything plugged into the tripped circuit, and turn off all the switches. Now it is time for the electrician, if you are not comfortable or knowledgeale about working inside the panel. I would put a clamp on ammeter around the wire from the tripped breaker, and turn it on. There should of course be zero at this time. Turn things on and plug things in to see what the current goes up to. If there was a bad "something" like a toaster with a shorted cord, it will now show up.


    If this testing fails to reveal a problem, the next step might be to replace the breaker. They can get "weak" or marginal, so just do it.

    Given your description of the property and the electrical work, I would remain alert to problems. I might even recommend replacing the breaker in question with an arc-fault model. This way, if there is a marginal or intermittent wire problem, such as from the moust or a nail through the plaster, the AFCI should prevent a fire.


    If you are not very comfortable with this, I would definitely recommend getting an electrician, who has more sophisticated test equipment to locate a faulty cable, etc. But as I said, if you do some of the "narrowing down" first, you will not be paying him by the hour for that simple task.
  3. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Have you bought a new TV recently and this is on that circuit?

    New TVs use more power than old.

    Or anything else new on the circuit? (An additional load...)

    That's a lot of rooms for one circuit.

    If overloading is the problem, what you can do in a situation like this is run a new circuit to just one energy hog like a new TV, then that gets it off of the circuit. So just one wire to run and one outlet to install (and additional breaker).
  4. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,569
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Here in lies enough information to say leave everything alone and call an electrician.

    If the breaker trips as soon as it is reset there is a ground fault somewhere in the circuit even if the breaker is weak so to speak.

    If you don't know much about current flow then please for the sake of your Mother let someone take a chance on doing something wrong as one little mistake and your Mom and other family members will be very sad for some time to come. Does the letters R-I-P have any meaning to you at all?
  5. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    Unplug everything on that circuit (to eliminate posible fault sources) and turn off alll switches (to eliminate them as fault sources). Try one more time to reset the breaker then call someone.
  6. paintedlady1

    paintedlady1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Thank you all for the good suggestions. I think we will see what we can come up with this weekend.

    A tiny little suggestion, if I may? Could you send an email with a link when a question on the forum is answered? I waited and waited, hoping I would have an answer and then finally had to find my way back here to see that I had 4 responses.
  7. thassler

    thassler New Member

    Messages:
    106
    Location:
    Tennessee
    -From the top menu bar choose "User CP"
    -Then under "Settings & Options" choose "Edit Options"
    -There is a place to choose to receive email notifications of your subscribed threads.

    Seems like it defaults to not sending a notification. Same thing happened to me when I first joined; I posted a question and never got an email, went back to check and had a number of responses wondering where I was ... :)
  8. paintedlady1

    paintedlady1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Thanks for the replies.

    To Thassler I appreciate your taking time to tell me how to do this. All the other forums I am on, I never had to reset anything, it was automatic.

    To Cookie- I guess I should have said I am a 60 YO female who has installed a few ceiling fans and lights so know the bare basics ie; black to black, white to white and ground to metal and have changed out a breaker before and it worked but trying to find where the direct short is I needed some advice. Sorry for not explaining.

    To Jimbo the breakers are marked; such as Living room but not further, front foyer, den... Had never heard of that arc-fault model; will see if I can find one.
  9. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Even if you would had it just isn't enough. Knowing as you put it, " that you don't know bunches about something as serious as electrical is just crazy. Do you really realize what you are saying? I am not trying to be rude to you, but I am trying to tell you it is above your skill level. You are not even close to the basics. You have no idea what could be wrong and what could happen. It is a horrible way to get a tan, I prefer a tanning bed.
  10. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,653
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    I think you forgot to acknowledge jwelectric. His was the best advice given because he does this for a living.



  11. paintedlady1

    paintedlady1 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Yes, I agree I was seriously remiss in not thanking jwelectric so, a big thanks jwelectric!!!

    Edited to add:

    In re reading some of the posts to me, it seems like a few of you are the cave man type that think women cannot do things like electrical work. This is the very first time I have used the "cave man" angle but:

    I did not burn my bra and I am certainly not a libber but I did start work in the early '70's in a male only profession and retired from that work in 2000 so I am a capable person plus my husband is here to give me guidance but he cannot climb ladders so I am his legs.

    All I asked was a simple question and I got the "little lady" attitude. Sorry I asked...
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 5, 2009
  12. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

    Messages:
    294
    Location:
    Brooklyn NY
    She said it trips as soon as she resets it, so obviously everything you said can't be true. It has to be a hot wire touching metal somewhere.
  13. Alectrician

    Alectrician DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    689
    I have nothing more to add.

    I just wanted her to get an email notification and come back :cool:

    No that you are back, when the issue is resolved, please let us know what the problem was.
  14. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,653
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    I seriously do wish you the best, but please do not insult us, or I will speak for me.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2009
  15. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    Why is it that people here seem to automatically say this is not a DIY issue?
    This is a DIY site last time I looked, she wouldn't be here if she wanted to hire someone
    I'm on other sites where there is MUCH more traffic then this site
    Why? Because pople actually HELP with basic DIY & then go from there. I had a breaker tripping, turned out it was defective light plugged in
    So no-one thinks unplugging everything from the circuit might narrow it down???
    No-one wants to help her because she is a female :mad:

    If a switch occaisionally doesn't work then that should be fixed
    Could be a loose wire, failing switch, back stab connection

    Any new pictures nailed up?
    Any recent work - drywall or other completed
    Many people will try to assist you here
    If not do not give up
    There are some other sites out there where people are more then happy to assist everyone

    I really expected more from you too Cookie
    But on this site I guess I shouldn't
    Which is one reason I very rarely ask for help here
    And why I point people towards other sites
  16. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
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    Dave, please don't tell me you expected more of me because I am a woman. What this person wants to do takes more knowledge than this PERSON, has;, man or woman, if you don't have it and if it is very noticeable the best action is exactly to be honest with them. I know this is a DIY site, but that does not give anyone the right to let a person injure theirself. Dave it is just the right thing to do. I would not anyone to get hurt. You can also say on a DIY to seek the correct help...an electrican or some one skilled enough. Who will do the actual work. You can't possibly not understand that.

    I remember when you came aboard and Frenchie was giving you a rip-roaring hard time, I spoke up for you because it was very noticeable the wonderful work you were doing on the pictures, and you seemed to be perfect in knowing what you were doing.

    I was honest, and I dont expect to be insulted for it.

    I would not want to see this person add a dedicated line reason..... the reason? Read what was said first line,,,"Hi, new here and don't know a bunch about electricity but will try to be concise." Should this person be in a circuit box/panel?
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2009
  17. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    Shutting them off & telling them they can't do it without knowing anything about them is wrong

    I've learned thru DIY sites (not this one), research & my NEC code book
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