Eaton Dual-Purpose breaker keeps tripping

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Mary Ann Wessel, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    We built a new house three years ago. Everything has worked great. Last week, one of our Eaton breakers tripped. I tried to reset it but it tripped immediately. This circuit has some kitchen lights and some outlets that we never use.

    I called an electrician and he was able to get the breaker to reset by turning the breker OFF, holding down the test button, and then turning ON the breaker. YAY!! We had lights. I turned the lights off and didn't think about it again. Until I tried to turn on the lights at night. Nothing. Breaker had tripped even with nothing turned on or plugged in. I reset the breaker using the technique the electrician used and the breaker set and the lights came on. Again...after dinner I turned the lights off and some where in the next two hours, the breaker tripped again. I just left it off.

    This AM I went to reset the breaker again but today - nothing. It won't reset, I can get no test code. Nothing.

    So before I have the electrician back what should I look for? Could the breaker be bad? Could there be some sort of ground fault even though NOTHING is on?

    Any ideas are welcome. I'd just like to make sure I (and the electrician) are looking in the right direction.

    Thanks
     
  2. Stuff

    Stuff Active Member

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    Probably a bad breaker. I assume yours is one without the status LEDs that would display an error code. Next best way to test is to remove the wires attached to the breaker itself and see if it turns on.
     
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  4. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    Thanks Stuff.

    One time the error code showed "ground fault" (five blinks) and other times it's shown nothing. Not sure what to think.

    If it's truly a ground fault, what pre-troubleshooting can I do before the electrician is called again? As I said - we never use the 2 outlets that are in the circuit and the breaker will trip even with all of the lights off.

    Again - open for ideas.
     
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    You could disconnect both wires from the breaker. Get your multimeter out.

    I might say just check resistance between a ground and each of the two detached wires. And that is probably OK. Infinity would be the right answer.

    However checking for voltage to ground first is a good idea, but if you read say 10 volts, what would that mean? It would actually mean that the wire is capacitively coupled to other wires, and into a high-impedance voltmeter that could be normal. I am not sure what the safest effective thing to do is. Measuring voltage is certainly safe, but it is not meaningful. So let's get other opinions before Mary acts.... read ohms to a ground, or what?
     
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  6. Stuff

    Stuff Active Member

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    One more thing - not just turn off but unplug everything on that circuit. Check for loose receptacles and switches. If it's not the breaker then it can take a lot of time to find the problem.
     
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  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    You probably DO have a ground fault somewhere. Those can be difficult to find. I had a similar problem. By tracing the wiring, after finding the first device, I disconnected the rest on the daisy chain. That worked solid. Then, I kept moving down the line, adding one new section of wiring/components at a time until I found the section of wiring that, when in the circuit, caused the GFCI to trip. I never did find out what on that branch was the issue...I ran a new wire to that last device. It could be a pinched wire, a staple, a nail, a bare connection in a box, etc. It can be intermittent, like mine was, or if constant, never allow you to reset. Expansion due to heating or pinching caused by movement (even say the wind blowing) could cause that intermittent problem.

    FIrst thing is to disconnect the wires to the breaker and verify that it does reset and hold. IF that works, then you have to work your way downstream until you find the offending item which could be a wire, a connection, or a device. In my situation, there was nothing plugged into any receptacles, either. Sounds like yours involves a lighting circuit, too, which may be harder to trace.
     
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  8. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    Thanks for all of the ideas. I think I'll start tomorrow and look for loose switches and or any wires that might be causing an issue.

    I did a mini-test today and tried one switch (can lights)for four hours. The breaker did not trip. Then I added another switch (pendants) and left them both on for another four hours. The breaker did not trip. I then turned off the can lights. The pendants stayed on for another two hours before the circuit tripped. I tried to reset the breaker and I am unable to get it to stay on.

    Again - not sure what this all means but figure I would let you know what I tried in case someone has an idea.

    Again - thanks for all of the help!
     
  9. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    Breakers trip because of heat, not only with over current. You’ll need to remove the cover of the circuit breaker panel and check the wire at the breaker. Should be black, maybe red if a 14-3 or 12-3 wire was used. The wire connection at the breaker must be tight and no indication of over heating. If over heating occurs the insulation will usually be burned and the copper would be discolored.

    Does this breaker have arc fault interrupter and ground fault interrupter. If there is another identical breaker, swap the two out. If the same breaker trips, then it is a bad breaker. If the same circuit trips then there is some bad wiring, switch, outlet or a bad connection. Arc Fault interrupter can detect bad a connection due to arcing. Some arc fault breakers do go out of calibration after years of no problems.
     
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  10. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    I had one like that too, it ended up being a cable pinched in a cable clamp going into a can light. The NM cable looked fine on the outside, but was apparently leaking current between conductors when there was a load on the circuit. Not a fun problem to track down.
     
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  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Very true, but she said that the failure indication was because the GFCI indication was what was causing her problem...
     
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  12. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    I read that but at times there was no indication as to the fault? Do these breakers give an indication with over current other than the switch lever tripping? When I look up Eaton Dual Purpose everything reads both GFCI and AFCI. I would think GF would be present at all times where arc fault could be an intermittent occurrence.
     
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  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    I've not dealt with them - my home was built before they became a requirement, so all I have are some GFCI (a couple of breakers on newer things, and receptacles on the other, required items). If you read it, apparently there are indicator lights that flash a code...it indicated GFCI, if it was interpreted correctly. While possible, it would be less likely to have arc fault be constant and prevent it from being reset.
     
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  14. kevreh

    kevreh New Member

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    Did you turn off the pendants before resetting the breaker? Also let them cool down before resetting.

    It sounds like you have an afci breaker. ?
     
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  15. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    Thanks for all of the input. It is all appreciated and VERY helpful. This has been an interesting journey....that I don't think is close to being resolved. LOL

    Someone asked about the breakers. They are the Eaton Dual Function (c/AFCI and GFCI) breakers. Someone also mentioned the error code. The breaker blinks a code. IF I get a code, I get five blinks which indicate "Ground fault detected."

    So more of the story. I should write a novel (though I AM keeping a log). Yesterday AM I was unable to get the breaker to stay on. I decided to try looking at one switch. Took it off, looked for any bare wires or loose connections, etc (saw nothing). Put it back into place. Went to turn the breaker on and it switched on and held immediately (I didn't notice if there was or wasn't an error code). WOOT...could I be so lucky? Turned the lights on and off a couple of times. Everything stayed working. Turned off all of the lights on that circuit at about 5:30PM. Nothing is plugged into the two affected outlets. Went to turn the lights on and the breaker had tripped sometime in there. I didn't need the lights so I turned the breaker off overnight. I tried to turn on the breaker this AM and it would not hold. So I repeated what I did yesterday. Took off one switch, looked for issues, replaced it. Went to turn on the breaker and it came on immediately with no error code showing. I now have the can lights and the pendants in the kitchen on. I think I will leave one of the lights on all day to see if/when the breaker pops.

    I have a call into the electrician for an estimate. Hopefully he will get back to me today and we can get this fixed once and for all.
     
  16. Stuff

    Stuff Active Member

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    Good to log it all to help the electrician. Identify all outlets on the circuit.

    Also: Are any outside lights or receptacles on this circuit? They are more likely to cause problems and susceptible to water/moisture causing faults.
     
  17. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    That was the very first thing I thought of since we had that happen at our old house. But no - the outside lights and receptacles are on a different circuit.

    I thought a log would be helpful as well.
     
  18. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    WHen you take that switch out the next time, if it's old, consider just replacing it. Also, see if you can check the clamps where the wires come into the box. If the box is metal, that's one thing, if it's plastic, that might mean another. Had one issue with a box where someone had used screws to anchor it versus nails...the threads on the screw had nicked the wire, causing intermittent problems.
     
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  19. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    A quick question - will a breaker "lose" its error code if it sits in the tripped position for a couple of hours??? I looked at the instructions for the breaker and it says "Turn ON tripped breaker. The breaker will display a blinking LED." The last two nights the breaker has tripped but I've just let it sit it the tripped position over night. When I go to reset it in the morning, I've found that it will reset immediately and there is no error code. I just wasn't sure if it could lose its code.

    Hopefully the electrician will be out early next week. He's been ill. My thoughts for a sequence on the troubleshooting is:

    1) Switch out two breakers in the panel. If the swapped breaker trips, we will know it's a wiring issue. But if the tripping moves to the other room we will know it's a breaker.

    2) If not the breaker, test each switch/outlet. All of them are less than 3 years old but you never know. I don't have the tools to test them otherwise I would do this myself.

    3) Try and figure out what's going on with the wiring. We've done NOTHING on or near this circuit wiring. But I'm sure some wear and tear is possible even in three years.

    If you have any other ideas of steps to take I'd love to hear them.

    Thanks again for all of the help.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019
  20. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Your question is probably best served by calling the manufacturer. NOte, often, the person you talk with isn't really all that technical...you may need to pursue someone in their tech department rather than customer service.
     
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  21. Mary Ann Wessel

    Mary Ann Wessel New Member

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    Update - the electrician was finally able to make it out yesterday. He changed out the breaker and that seems to have been the issue. The breaker has not tripped in over 18 hours (or best before was 7 hours) so we're very optimistic. Hopefully I won't be back with another update later. LOL

    Thanks again for all of the help and ideas.
     

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