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Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems

Electrician Working on Circuit Breakers
A tripped circuit breaker can be a sign of trouble with wiring, and may require a trained professional to get to the root of the problem. This guide is about troubleshooting circuit breaker problems.
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May 23, 20110 found this helpful

I have a Crouse Hinds 2 pole 30 amp breaker. It will trip, but the room it's to will still have power to it. Why?

By Lonnie B.

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May 24, 20110 found this helpful

A 2 pole breaker is only supposed to be on a 220 appliance. Your room is wired improperly. It is possible that part of the room is on another breaker.

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Questions

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By 0 found this helpful
February 2, 2005

I recently purchased a house, and it is clear that the previous owner had not always done things correctly. My present concern is that there seems to be 14 gauge wire running off a 20 AMP breaker. I believe this is a code violation, and more importantly a fire risk. I would rather not open up the walls to replace the wire. Assuming the circuit would be OK on a 15, can I just have the breaker replaced? Is that an adequate solution?

Thanks,

Concerned

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February 2, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

Yes, that is a code violation and a fire risk.

And it invalidates the insurance.

To fix the problem,

1) get a breaker from the same brand and series but with a 15 Amp rating

2) turn the 20 Amp breaker off and pull it out.

3) swap the wire, that goes to it, over to the 15 Amp breaker

4) Make sure the 15 Amp breaker is turned OFF

5) insert the 15 Amp breaker

6) make sure the 15 Amp breaker is inserted fully and looks level with the other breakers

7) turn the 15 Amp breaker on and test the appliances or outlets that are fed from it.

If you forget point 4), there will be scary sounding arcing and sparking that could startle you into falling off your ladder or chair.

Have FUN!

DearWebby

http://www.webby.com/humor/

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 16, 20050 found this helpful

I have a similar question. In a recently purchased home, I have realized that all my 15 amp outlets and light switches etc. and pretty much everything else for that matter, seems to running off of 20 amp breakers. I don't know how to tell what size the wires are. Are the 20 amp breakers cause for concern?

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February 17, 20050 found this helpful

Yes, that definitely would be cause for major concern.

A 20 Amp breaker does not adequately protect a 15 Amp outlet.

The breaker is supposed to pop instead of, or before the house burns down.

Even in the very unlikely event that you have 20 Amp wiring, the appliances plugged into the 15 Amp outlet need to be protected with 15 Amp breakers.

Your fire insurance would not have to pay in case of a fire, since your house is not up to code. It would be a good idea to get an electrical inspector or experienced electrician to check out your house and tell you what needs to be done to bring it up to code.

Have FUN!

DearWebby

http://www.webby.com/humor/

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 30, 20050 found this helpful

Hi , my breakers are all of 10 amps, I need to hook up an amplifier with a recommended current supply of 20 amp, can I simply replace the rooms breaker into a 20 amps or do I need to replace the whole wiring system in this room ?

Thanks

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July 30, 20050 found this helpful

"Eliav GovAri (Guest Post) 2005-07-30

Hi , my breakers are all of 10 amps, I need to hook up an amplifier with a recommended current supply of 20 amp, can I simply replace the rooms breaker into a 20 amps or do I need to replace the whole wiring system in this room ?

Thanks "

Eliav, if you use bigger breakers than what the wires are rated for, then you are invalidating your insurance. They will not pay, only laugh, if you have a fire.

You most definitely need 20 Amp rated wiring FIRST, and a 20 Amp breaker after the wiring has been installed or upgraded.

If you put a 20 Amp breaker onto 15 Amp wiring, then you might as well replace the breaker with solid wire.

There is no cheap alternative. You have to upgrade the wiring, either after the fire, or instead of a fire.

Have FUN

DearWebby

http://webby.com/humor

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 27, 20080 found this helpful

I have 1 1/2 HP pool pump wired for 115, No. 10 gage wired to a 15 amp breaker used for a 24/7 waterfall. Manufacturer recommends 30 amp breaker. The pump can be wired for 230 using a 15 amp breaker if the wire is upgraded to 14 gage. Two questions: Is there a cost benefit in KW usage to upgrade to 230 and if there is no KW benefit could the 15 amp breaker just be upgraded to 30 amp breaker to end the breaker tripping?

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 10, 20090 found this helpful

The National electric code book for 2008 says that for 20 amp branch circuits there must be 12 gage wire but the receptacle rating can be of 15 or 20 amp rating, in a residential situation only. In a business or school situation, most branch circuits are 20 amps and the NEC says they must be 20 amp receptacles installed. The most common way to tell if a receptacle is rated for 20 amps is the wider blade neutral slot will have a sideways slot off to the side of it. These plugins are rarely seen in residential situations.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 21, 20090 found this helpful

I'm glad I found this forum and I'm also glad I have an electrician coming this afternoon to check things out. If you don't know what you're doing, get someone who does.

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 11, 20090 found this helpful

Do not ever hookup or put things that you have to think twice about. If you know for positive, then hook it up! Everything electrical has a code! If you want it done right, and no! You can not put 20amp breakers where 15amp breakers go! For some that do not no 20amp breaker is rated for #12 wire only, and a 15amp breaker is rated #14 wire.tip:(home depot) has books on electrical and codes and you can look it up for free!

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By 0 found this helpful
February 16, 2006

I plugged in a vacuum cleaner in the living room and had other things going (TV, etc.) and blew the circuit. I unplugged everything and tried to re-set the circuit breaker (switch to off then back to on position). However, the switch will not switch completely to the off or on position. I can move the switch in either direction, but not enough for it to stay there. It goes right back to the middle. Can someone tell me if there is anything else I can try, or does thia mean I have to pay to have an electrician come in and repair this? Many thanks in advance!

Frazzled in Mass from Needham, MA

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February 16, 20060 found this helpful

Dear Frazzled

Sounds like the circuit breaker has died. They are available at hardware and building supply stores.

To change a circuit breaker, turn off the main breaker on top. Then, with the largest flat screwdriver, that just fits into the slot on the screw, that attaches the wire to the breaker, loosen that screw, but don't remove it. Just loosen it and pull the wire out, but not too far away.

Then use the flat screwdriver to tilt the dead breaker back, away from the center. Then it's easy to pull it out.

With the dead breaker in hand, go to the hardware store and buy a replacement 15 (fifteen) Amp breaker. Do NOT get one with a higher rating!

Then shove that new breaker into the slot in the panel, and after making 100% sure that the main breaker is off, attach the old wire to it. Then, with the largest flat screwdriver, that just fits into the slot on the screw, tighten that screw until you hear it squeak.

Turn the main breaker on and turn the new breaker on, and everything will be fine.

You may be curious about why I harp on using a big screw driver. There are two reasons for that:

1) it is less likely to slip off and cause an injury or damage expensive parts 2) a small screwdriver will mess up the screw

before you have tightened it enough.

Have FUN!

DearWebby

http://www.webby.com/humor/

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 16, 20060 found this helpful

Dear Webby has it right.However,if you don't feel comfortable from the directions go to a electrical supply store and ask then to show you how or go over to your local trade school and talk with the electrical teacher and have him show you how to change the breaker.BE SURE TO TURN OFF THE MAIN SWITCH BEFORE DOING ANY WORK ON THE PANEL>

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 16, 20060 found this helpful

Call your electrician!! It is easier and a whole lot safer, speaking from experience!!

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 20, 20060 found this helpful

First make sure you are letting the breaker cool down- it might take a few minutes- then try- if that did fix the problem cal a qualified electian

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February 24, 20060 found this helpful

I had this happen to me, only it was the main breaker, so I called the electric compnay. I paid $50 to see a guy stand on a step ladder and push it really hard. I was embarrassed and then mad because that costed me $50!!

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 3, 20070 found this helpful

1 - Can I turn the main switch back on after the faulty circuit has been removed (so the family can still watch TV while I run to the hardware store)?

2 - If I have a circuit breaker, that is the same model as many of the others, but has lost most of its tension by comparison (it still holds its place in the on and off position, but it takes the slightest nudge to move it), does that infer it is going bad and needs to be replaced?

3 - I had a short blow out an overhead light fixture badly enough to melt the plastic and make the wires brittle. This did not blow the breaker...is this a problem, or are fixtures too small a draw to flip the circuit?

Thanks all!

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By guest (Guest Post)
October 16, 20080 found this helpful

I was advised by someone who knows that if a breaker goes bad, and one elects to replace it himself, that a breaker of the same make and model is the best bet. Evidently there are differences. My own problem was something that I did not want to handle and I called a licensed electrician to handle. Good luck!

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 22, 20080 found this helpful

ThriftyFun,

Thanks for your post. I was able to successfully change a circuit (15) by using your directions. It solved my problem. I noticed some people saying you should not do because you could burn your house down and such. But if they follow your instructions and turn off the main. It is relatively simple to do. I just made sure I had rubber handle needle nose to guide the house wire back into the new circuit as well as a big rubber handle screwdriver. Thanks for people like you. Bret

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June 15, 20131 found this helpful

The circuit breakers in all my four bedrooms are tripped and cannot be switched on, but the bathrooms are OK. I don't think the breakers are bad or the circuits are shorted because they are individual, and cannot all be bad at the same time.

By Peter C. from Katy, TX

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By 0 found this helpful
December 20, 2016

I'm trying to figure out why breaker won't reset after overloading the circuit with space heaters. I even replaced the breaker and it sparked when I tried to reset. I'm planning on checking plugs next to see if the wiring is damaged. Is this a good place to start?

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By 0 found this helpful
August 29, 2016

I put in a new breaker box, but all my power is not right. Some of it is weak and sometimes dims and comes back.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 10, 2010

I asked an electrician to fix the circuit breaker in my house because it was tripping. So he connected 4mm wire between the neutral and the earth. All was well for 2 days, then it kept tripping whenever you pull out the wire. What could be the problem? Could it be a floating neutral?

By Justine from SA

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April 10, 20100 found this helpful

I don't know that much about electricity, but call the electrician back to fix the problem. They are supposed to guarantee their work.

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April 12, 20100 found this helpful

You had an electrician fix it and he connected 4mm wire between the neutral and the earth. All was well for 2 days, then it kept tripping whenever you pulled out the wire. What could be the problem? Maybe pulling out the wire is the problem.

If it was fine for two days after he did this, maybe it wasn't meant for you to keep pulling the wire out?

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April 18, 20100 found this helpful

Some where on that circuit there is a bad neutral. You should not have to add the wire to it? Did you nail in something to wall and then it happened (*maybe nicked the neutral)?

Neutral wire could have broken.

Wire nut could have come loose in junction box.

Is the line overloaded? running too much stuff.

Ria

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By 0 found this helpful
November 21, 2008

I just moved into a new house a couple of weeks ago. It was pre-wired for cable. I had my cable installed last week. Ever since they installed the cable my breaker for my bedroom is tripping intermittently. I had the electrician at my house. He said unless something happens when he is there he cannot find the problem. Is there anything I can do on my own to try and solve this problem? I had it trip 3 times this morning and it is getting very frustrating!

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November 21, 20080 found this helpful

My first guess would be you have more than your bedroom on that breaker and the cable box is drawing just enough to make the breaker trip when something else turns on,especially a motor such as a furnce blower. Try turning off the breaker and see what else doesn't work besides the bedroom. Otherwise it has to somehow be connected to the installation. Did the installer add straps and drive a nail or screw into a wire causing an occasional short.

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November 23, 20080 found this helpful

I asked my husband the electronics whiz your question and this is his answer:

If it is a new construction house, the pre-wiring for cable may have been improperly installed but not actually tested until you had the cable service hooked up. That is, if the cable and electrical wires were installed running together in your bedroom, and a nail or staple or other problem inadvertantly connected a conductor in the electrical cable with a conductor in the TV cable (especially the grounded shield), it could have been OK until the cable company connected their service. This is similar to the possible reason in the first responder's post.

Hope this helps.

Susan in Omaha

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Anonymous
November 24, 20080 found this helpful

I think you need a new electrician !!! Any electrician who knows their stuff doesn't need to 'wait for the problem to occur' in order to have a clue what the problem is ... Being this is a new home I suggest whoever did the installation find and fix the problem at no charge with threats of the Better Business Bureau, etc if they hum hah around about it !!!

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By 0 found this helpful
July 19, 2005

We recently purchased an old home (105 years old) and one day half of the lights on a circuit stopped working. They stopped when I turned on a sconce and it shorted and blew the circuit breaker. Half the lights on the circuit went out, not to be seen again.

I have checked all of the old outlets and replaced them as I thought I might be shorting back through the common. I am stumped as to what I should do. I had an electrician come out and take a look and he is stumped as well. Any advice?

Rick from Iowa (in an old home)

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July 19, 20050 found this helpful

Hi Rick

One of the ancient wires or connections blew faster than the breaker.

You need a "tracer". That is a tool that you can get at electrical wholesalers and tool suppliers for tradesmen. It emits a tone when it is near a cable under power. You just follow along the cable, guided by the tone. Where the tone stops, that's where the break in the wire is.

Don't be tempted to just bypass that section. Dig it out and repair it properly. Otherwise, an intermittent contact could make contact again during a storm or any slight movement of the house and could cause it to burn down.

Have FUN!

DearWebby

http://webby.com/humor

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 20, 20050 found this helpful

I had the same type of thing happen to my home. It turned out to be the ground wire had melted. The old homes used aluminum and with todays load it is common for it to melt and break away if something causes a short. The electrician I had come out was resently repairing all the schools in our area with the same problem due to overloads in the classrooms now with computers and such. Anyway his solution was to put a grounding rod (lighting rod) and ground the entire home to the rod. Ask your electrician of this posability.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 13, 2017

I wired a new room addition to my house. I'm using the 30 amp breaker and 12-2 wire. Every time I turn the power on power comes to the room, but when I flip the light switch it trips the breaker. How come?

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By 0 found this helpful
April 17, 2017

What could cause the wiring in my house to maintain a low voltage current when the main breaker is turned OFF? We have unplugged all of the surge protectors, cable boosters, computers, microwave, etc. that may have a capacitor allowing for potential bleed-back. We have even turned of the external breakers for the HVAC unit and still have a low voltage current (<20volts) running through the lines.

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By 0 found this helpful
March 10, 2017

I have a 220 breaker that hums when turned on. It goes to a second breaker at the AC. Then that breaker feeds my well. I replaced both breakers. When the AO 200 a60 breaker is on at the AC box that feeds the well, it makes the breaker in the main box hum for a few seconds and then it trips the main box breaker. Any help please!

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By 0 found this helpful
August 8, 2016

I turned off the breaker to fix a lighting fixture. After the repair, we went to turn the breaker back on. It's a double one, and when we flipped it, the bottom one goes all the way on, but the top one gets stuck in the middle and sparks. We unplugged everything on the breaker (it's a heavy load - all the upstairs, stove, washer, and outdoor lights) and let it rest a while. The same thing happened. We tightened the connections; same thing. We replaced the breaker, with the same thing happening, it still keeps sparking and the top one won't reset. Guessing it's time to call an electrician?

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By 0 found this helpful
July 2, 2016

I have a circuit breaker that tripped last week. The backyard lights and dinning room light run off it and everything was off when it tripped. It would not reset even after pushing it all the way to off. I thought maybe it overheated so I left it off over night, but then the next day it still did not reset.

I waited until today when I am off work to go to Home Depot to by a new breaker and see if that was the problem. As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to test the breaker again just in case and lo and behold it reset and everything works just fine again. What would cause a breaker to not want to reset for several days?

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By 0 found this helpful
June 23, 2016

We live in a 10 year old home. The main breaker in our box has shut down our power two days in a row. We have been able to re-set it and get power back, but we are concerned. Any advice? We haven't been operating anything new in our home, so our usage should be the same as it's always been.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 4, 2016

We have been experiencing a "hot" smell whenever we use the clothes dryer. We have cleaned all possible lint and dust from the dryer and the vent to make sure that was not the source. New notice the smell coming from the circuit breaker panel, any thoughts?

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By 0 found this helpful
February 13, 2016

I plugged a small space heater into an outlet in my bedroom. I then showered, dressed, returned to the bathroom, plugged in my hair dryer, and lost all power in bedroom/bathroom/hall. I flipped all the switches in the circuit breaker panel, but that failed. Help!

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By 0 found this helpful
October 11, 2015

I have a 42 in. plasma, a lamp, another smaller TV, a DVD, and a Dish box connected to brand new surge protector. I went to turn my TV on and everything connected to that surge protector went out. Do you think maybe it had a sudden surge and it tripped the protector or is it the breaker box?

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October 12, 20151 found this helpful

Well, have you checked the breaker? Go turn it off and on and see if that fixes things. I do not think that that is a heavy load on that breaker. Are you sure that that is the only outlet that is on it? We have an electrician who often comments. Let's hope he can give you some advice.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 21, 2015

I just replaced a fuse box with circuit breakers. Now my stove is not getting hot. It just gets warm. They just put a 40 amp breaker in and it is still not hot.

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By 0 found this helpful
June 4, 2015

When I run my two window units at the same time why does the breaker arc/spark? It rarely trips the breaker.

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April 19, 20150 found this helpful

I have tried every breaker in the box, but cannot turn off the stove top unit. Help!

By Rdm

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March 21, 20150 found this helpful

What would it be if you turned off your main breaker, then turned it back on and there was one breaker to a bedroom that was tripped and could not be turned back on?

By Patty P.

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February 4, 20150 found this helpful

I woke up this morning to one entire side of my kitchen not working including the main overhead light and dining area light. The other side has my large items and it appears they are fine. I checked my box and one of the circuits had tripped. I tried to reset it, but it would not. It would trip again and it sparked. I have unplugged and turned everything off and it still will not stay on. Any suggestions?

By Joye J

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February 1, 20150 found this helpful

We had a storm and somehow ended up with a leak in the roof. The leak is directly over the breaker box. The electricity had gone out during the storm. When the power restored only some of the rooms had power. My concern is, could the wet breaker box lead to a fire?

By Jerry

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January 26, 20150 found this helpful

I keep getting a buzzing sound from breaker, it doesn't shut down just buzzes now and then.

By David B from Lansing

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January 17, 20150 found this helpful

We are looking to purchase an older home built in 1994. We had the inspection today and when the inspector used his little surge tool to test all the outlets, not one breaker flipped. The house has power and all seems normal otherwise. The seller doesn't have much money to make repairs, we only have 10 days to back out. Could this be something that is extremely expensive to repair? Or could it be a simple solution? We are requesting an electrician come and evaluate the issue.

By Melanie C

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