A couple circuit breaker questions

Page 1 of 2  
1) I know you can only put two wires in a breaker that is designed for it; but do they say they can hold two, or do they say they can only hold one; which way does it work? If it can hold only one, I can just still use two circuits in one breaker with a jumper, can't I? (I have two outdoor outlets on their own circuits. One has never been used, and the other just has some low voltage lighting on it and a few christmas lights in season. Since I need some space in the panel, it seems reasonable to consolidate them. If I can't use the jumper, I guess I will just abandon the unused outlet; but that seems wrong somehow.)
2) Do GFCI breakers require power before you can set them on, like GFCI outlets? I have a circuit that is flaky, and everything but the GFCI breaker seems okay. When I swapped the breaker with a spare, it is okay, so I figure it must be the breaker. It will stay in the on position when disconnected; does that mean it is bad? The spare is 20a, and it should be 15a, so I need to buy a new one if the old 15a is broken. (I figure the chances of a 20a breaker being a fire hazzard on a lightly used #14 circuit for a few days is extremely small, no?)
Thanks.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The home inspector noted that the house we are buying (closing two weeks today) has a couple of breakers with extra circuits connected, pointing out that this is a Code violation but admitting that he has a couple of instances of the same in his own house.
-=- Alan
On 11/03/03 01:26 pm John put fingers to keyboard and launched the following message into cyberspace:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The proper way to do this is to run *one* wire from the breaker to a junction box, where that may be split into two or more branches.

Not in my experience, no.

tripped, and you replaced it with a 20A breaker which did not trip. Why on earth do you assume this means the 15A breaker is bad? It's just as likely, maybe more so, that the breaker is doing its job just as it was intended, and is tripping in response to an overload. That overload might be 15.1A, or it might be 19.9A. You have no way of knowing. Thus, you have no basis for assuming that the fire hazard is "extremely small". Better to assume the opposite, and leave the circuit OFF until you figure out why that 15A breaker trips.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

actually off; and is okay again for a while when flipped off and on again) with nothing on the circuit but a circuit tester, yet will work (occassionally) with a hair dryer running. So, there would have to be an intermittent 15.1a to 19.9a short somewhere that opens in response to the breaker being turned off. And it hasn't failed at all with the hairdryer running (okay, it has only been a day) on the 20a breaker. Doesn't it sound more like a bad breaker than a wierd short?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Wrong. It DOES trip. Breakers have _three_ positions, not the two you appear to think they have: On, Off, and Tripped. The Tripped position is intermediate between On and Off, but it is often hard to distinguish between On and Tripped _just_by_looking_. You have not described anything remotely resembling a failed breaker; rather, you have quite accurately described the behavior of a breaker tripping in response to an overload, and the proper method of resetting it: flip it off, and then on. Once reset, it will work for a while until it gets tripped again. Nothing surprising there.
Short answer: there isn't ANYTHING wrong with your breaker. It's doing its job, and tripping in response to an overload.

Yeah, for a while, until you've been applying that overload long enough to trip the breaker.

Wrong. You have an *overload*. Not a short. If you had a short, it would trip the 20A breaker too.

Wrong again. The overload is disconnected when you turn the breaker off. Then when you reset the breaker, you can use the circuit for a while before it gets overloaded again. Breakers don't trip the instant their limit current is exceeded, in order to avoid nuisance trips due to motor startup surges and the like. It takes a little while (seconds to minutes, possibly hours, depending on the strength of the overload) before the breaker responds.

That's because the hairdryer doesn't pull enough current to overload a 20A breaker. BUT IT **DOES** PULL ENOUGH CURRENT TO OVERLOAD THE WIRES, AND POSSIBLY START A FIRE.

Doesn't sound like a short, either. I think it sounds like an overload. Check the ampere or wattage rating on the hair dryer -- sounds like you should be using it on a proper 20A circuit. Maximum continuous load on a 15A circuit at 120V is 15A * 80% * 120V = 1440 watts.
Understand that "proper 20A circuit" means a 20A breaker *and* wires that are at least 12ga copper or 10ga aluminum. Understand also that 14ga is *smaller* than 12ga, and *cannot* safely carry 20 amps.
Bottom line: from everything you have described so far, you DO NOT have a bad breaker. You have an overloaded circuit. Put the 15A breaker back on there, and figure out what's causing the overload. Then move the overload to a 20A circuit, or replace the existing 15A circuit with a 20A circuit. But it's sheer stupidity to leave a 20A breaker in place on a 15A circuit that is *known* (or even suspected) to be loaded in excess of 15A -- that is, in excess of the current-carrying capacity of the wires.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

stays in the ON position but just doesn't pass any current. How can I have an overloaded circuit from just a circuit tester? The only load would come from a 17a short, and they are rather unlikely. I didn't even read the rest of your post because you obviously haven't read what I said about the problem.
Thanks for nothing.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You are making a completely unwarranted assumption. The lack of a readily visible change in the state of the breaker does NOT mean that it has not tripped, and you have described a tripped breaker. Flip it off, then on again is how you reset a tripped breaker. That, alone, should be enough to show that the breaker has, in fact, tripped, even if it doesn't LOOK tripped.

There is clearly another load on the circuit, of which you are unaware. Sorry I didn't spell that out for you the first time.

No sweat, here it is again. I read and understood everything you wrote. You clearly NEED to read and understand what *I* wrote. Please pay particularly close attention to the parts about the fire hazard inherent in using a 20A breaker on wires that are rated only for 15A.

Wrong. You have an *overload*. Not a short. If you had a short, it would trip the 20A breaker too.

Wrong again. The overload is disconnected when you turn the breaker off. Then Subject overloaded again. Breakers don't trip the instant their limit current is exceeded, in order to avoid nuisance trips due to motor startup surges and the
like. It takes a little while (seconds to minutes, possibly hours, depending on the strength of the overload) before the breaker responds.

That's because the hairdryer doesn't pull enough current to overload a 20A breaker. BUT IT **DOES** PULL ENOUGH CURRENT TO OVERLOAD THE WIRES, AND POSSIBLY START A FIRE.

Doesn't sound like a short, either. I think it sounds like an overload. Check the ampere or wattage rating on the hair dryer -- sounds like you should be using it on a proper 20A circuit. Maximum continuous load on a 15A circuit at 120V is 15A * 80% * 120V = 1440 watts.
Understand that "proper 20A circuit" means a 20A breaker *and* wires that are at least 12ga copper or 10ga aluminum. Understand also that 14ga is *smaller* than 12ga, and *cannot* safely carry 20 amps.
Bottom line: from everything you have described so far, you DO NOT have a bad breaker. You have an overloaded circuit. Put the 15A breaker back on there, and figure out what's causing the overload. Then move the overload to a 20A circuit, or replace the existing 15A circuit with a 20A circuit. But it's sheer stupidity to leave a 20A breaker in place on a 15A circuit that is *known* (or even suspected) to be loaded in excess of 15A -- that is, in excess of the current-carrying capacity of the wires.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Doug Miller wrote:

Hi, Just common sense dictates, if 15A breaker keeps tripping, I'd replace it with another new 15A breaker. If it trips again, I know I have OL situation. I wouldn't put in 20A breaker in there and forget about it. Worst, it can cause a fire. If 20A breaker trips then are you going to put in 25A one? I am shaking my head now. Tony
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

load on it when it fails. There are 4 outlets on the circuit, with a circuit tester plugged into one of them, and nothing else when it fails. It has not failed since I put the 20a breaker on.
The circuit is 20 years old. I started having troubles with it a couple months ago, getting progressively worse. Do you really think there is a 17a load, installed without my my knowledge 2 months ago, that has been cycling more often as time goes by? When you shake your head, does it rattle?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
John wrote:

Another common sense approach, then. I'd check all the connections to see if any is loose, and by any chance, do you have Al wiring? What I wonder is why you would replace original 15A one with 20A breaker? What kind of circuit tester did you use? Tony
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That left just the last outlet, the GFCI breaker, and the wires that connected them. It was still erratic. I swapped out the breaker to see if that helped. I happened to have a 20a GFCI breaker laying around, so I stuck it in; since nothing is ever on the circuit but a razor and an occasional 13a hair dryer, I didn't see any danger to having a 20a breaker on it temporarily. Contrary to Doug's insane assertion, there are no mysterious 17a loads on it, ever. The circuit, with all outlets reattached, has been fine for a day.
The circuit tester is one with the 3 lights and the GFCI tester button. The button did trip the GFCI normally, returning the breaker switch to the mid-position. As I said several times, the breaker simply opened with the switch remaining in the ON position, for no discernable reason. And no, copper wire.
My original question was whether properly working GFCI breakers can be put in the ON position when they don't have power to them (GFCI outlets can't, but I didn't know about breakers); because this one can. The 20a I am now using cannot. Someone was kind enough to tell me they can't. Of course, I got so many crazy opinions here, that I am not sure if I should trust that one either.
Anyhow tomorrow I will replace the 20a GFCI breaker with a plain 15a breaker and put a GFCI outlet in. I didn't want to spend the time and money on these if the old breaker was okay, but I have concluded it isn't.
I have gotten some valuable information here, so I guess I just have to be grateful for that, and ignore the imbeciles (Hey Doug!).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

OK, fine, if you already know what the problem is, why are you asking for advice here? You have already made your mind up what's wrong, and have that idea so firmly locked in place that you are absolutely unable to consider any possible alternative explanations.

You say "the breaker ... opened", I say it tripped. What, exactly, do you suppose is the difference? CLUE: that's what "tripped" means: "opened". You have an overload, somewhere, that you don't know about.

First sensible thing you've said yet. I'm glad to hear you've finally come to your senses and realized that putting a 20A breaker on a 15A circuit is stupid and dangerous.

I'm mostly concerned with keeping you from burning your house down. Now that you've finally figured out that you shouldn't put a 20A breaker on a 15A circuit, I'm happy. I don't really care what you think of me or my advice; it's highly unlikely that your opinion of my intellect is lower than my opinion of yours.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 04 Nov 2003 12:40:41 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

That's probably not true.
Pay attention to what HE'S saying...instead of you trying to be right all the time.
Have a nice week...
Trent
Follow Joan Rivers' example --- get pre-embalmed!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Doug Miller wrote:

Is the razor plugged into isolation tranny? Maybe that is causing the GFCI trip. Tony

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I put in a plain 15a breaker and a GFCI outlet yesterday, which my original post said was my plan all along if you had bothered to read it.
Haven't had a problem since. I guess that mysterious 17a load you insisted had to exist without my knowledge has vanished! Why don't you do likewise?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

You don't mention the age of the breakers...i.e., the GFCI spec for them.
Make sure you get a breaker with the 2003 spec for GFCI. There's still a lot of the old spec stuff being sold out there. That may be your problem...or part of it. Fluorescent lights and other things...not even on the same circuit...can trip them.
Good luck.
Have a nice week...
Trent
Follow Joan Rivers' example --- get pre-embalmed!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The reason we won't give you the blessing you are seeking is not in any way based on an expectation that you will understand the danger that you are subjecting your family to but rather to warn other readers of your writing that the practice you advocate is dangerous and can get people killed.
An 1800 watt hair dryer is the entire capacity of a fifteen ampere circuit! Even one sixty watt light bulb would be enough of an additional load to trip the breaker. Even if you are correct about the breaker being defective that does not make it safe to replace it with a twenty ampere breaker. If your assertion is true that it is opening without any load then the proper remedy is to replace it with another fifteen ampere breaker.
You want to believe that what you have done is not hazardous so you will not listen to the basic point. NO MATTER WHAT THE CAUSE OF THE ORIGINAL PROBLEM THE USE OF A TWENTY AMPERE BREAKER ON FOURTEEN GAUGE WIRE IS A FIRE WAITING TO HAPPEN. I'd suggest that you buy your children's cemetery plots now while you still have time to shop around and get a good price. I just hope a fellow firefighter is not killed trying to rescue your family or your self from your obstinance. -- Tom H
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tom Horne wrote:

And if you survive the fire you can look forward to your insurance company refusing to pay your claim. Hopefully you can afford to pay all the medical and rebuild your house out of your own pocket.
Michael
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

After 15 years of faithful service, my 15a GFCI breaker started tripping for no apparent reason, when the only thing ever used on it was a hair dryer. I wanted to find out if the problem was a faulty breaker or something down the circuit; having already examined every outlet, and replacing two that seemed to have aged poorly without fixing the problem. I replaced the breaker with a 20a GFCI because I happened to have one. The problem went away. I asked if this proved the breaker was the problem?
Morons came out the woodwork and insisted I was about to burn the house down. One moron claimed I had a short that tripped a 15a breaker, but not a 20a breaker. Another moron said, a month later, that a hairdryer that works fine on other 14 gauge circuits is somehow dangerous on this 14 gauge circuit because it has a 20a breaker on it.
Ignoring the morons, and satisfied that the problem was with the old breaker, I replace the temporary one with a new regular 15a breaker, and the first outlet with a GFCI. Haven't had a problem in a month. The short and the dangerous hair dryer seem to have fixed themselves.
Thanks everyone for your help. Couldn't have done it without you.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The real moron here is the guy that still hasn't figured out the difference between an overload and a short -- that is, yourself.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.