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Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

I have a breaker that is tripping every couple of days. It services 6 outlets on our family room. Two have nothing in them, two have a single 23w CF fixture, one is used to charge laptops, and one powers our entertainment center (sound system, satellite receiver, DVD player, plasma TV, Xbox).


The breaker is not hot when it trips, and it usually happens in the middle of the night when the equipment (all except the satellite receiver) are off. How often do breakers go "bad"? I'm quite comfortable swapping out the 15A breaker myself, but if the problem persists, I assume it is the result of a short and requires a tone generator, etc. Thoughts?

By JonesyPHD from San Diego, CA


Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

From what I understand, electronics can draw electricity when they are plugged in even when not "on". You are obviously overloading a circuit. Try unplugging your electronics before you go to bed (esp. the phone charger which doesn't have to be reprogrammed) or find out through trial and error what the circuit will tolerate.

FYI plasma TVs are really energy hogs and may very well be enough for overload on an old circuit. And just because the outlets are in the same room doesn't mean they are on the same circuit. In my apartment living room one side is on one circuit and the other side the other. We have run extensions across the room to the other circuit to accommodate AC units. And my hubby is learning not to run a particular AC unit while using the coffee maker and microwave in the kitchen. (10/06/2009)

By pamphyila

Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

It sounds more like the circuit is over loaded. If the breaker was defective is would trip at any time not just at night. I run my computer and other electronics on a dedicated circuit. My air conditioners and other electrical items also have their own dedicated circuits. (10/06/2009)

By foxrun41

Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

Your 15A CB will accommodate 12amps (1440watts) safely. I doubt that your entertainment system and satellite receiver is capable of drawing that much wattage. I'd suspect a bad CB or short. Probing with an amp meter should locate a problem. If your wiring is OK, and is #12AWG, then a 20A CB can safely be installed. There is so much diversity in sizing a residential electrical panel, there would be no reasons to not up size the CB provided all loads have been tabulated and shorts have been addressed.


Yes, if the branch circuit wiring is #12AWG, a 20amp CB is safe and legal, however this doesn't answer why his 15a CB is tripping. Generally #14awg is not installed as branch circuit wiring, but contractors have been known to install 15a CB in lieu of 20a CB for #12awg branch circuits only to save a penny or two. (10/06/2009)

By Cajun62234

Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

First and foremost do not put in a 20amp breaker as suggested above. Breakers don't usually get hot unless they don't trip as designed and go under a long overload. They are usually thermo-magnetic and the pieces of metal inside that trip under an overload condition heat much quicker than the case.

The easiest thing, since you are comfortable making the change, is for the $10 it costs put in a new breaker that matches you panel. If the tripping stops it was the breaker. If not, start looking for something that cycles on during the night that might be on the circuit that you don't know about. Many times something is tied into a circuit that you would never guess was there.

Do you have something that turns on automatically during the night? A freezer, fridge or water softener on a timer can cause the problem. Could there be outside outlets tied into the circuit? Energy theft is becoming more of a problem as people struggle with utility bills in a bad economy.

And another thought, a loose wire at a device-switch or receptacle can cause the breaker to trip. With the breaker off test each receptacle to make sure it doesn't have power. No sense getting zapped by assuming all power is off when it isn't and remove the receptacle and look for damaged or burnt wiring or loose connections.

I've been in wholesale electrical distribution for 23+ years and it scares me when people say you can put a larger breaker in. Breakers are sized to the wire to protect the circuit. If your breaker tripped, be thankful it did it's job and protected you. Even if it is getting weak you have been blessed to not have a more serious problem. Good luck with your problem. At least you didn't lose your heat or food in the fridge. (10/06/2009)

By zoodad

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