Circuit Breaker Seems to Trip but Stays in On Position

We have a circuit breaker in our basement. A couple of times the power has gone off in the basement but all the circuit breaker switches stay in the On position. I was in the basement last night and heard a click around the circuit breaker when the power went off in the basement and was surprised to see that all the switches were in the On position. (My wife was using the vaccum cleaner upstairs at the time and I thought she just overloaded the circuit.) Both times this has happened, we have resolved the problem by turning all the switches to Off then turning them all back to On. This restores all the power. This has happend once before, in October of this year. I am hoping this is not a problem that may cause a fire.
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, Peter.
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I would pull all the breakers and check for a loose wire or wires. You may be surprised! Your moving the breaker slightly by turning them on and off could be restoring a loose contact. I had a loose wire spark right through a breakers side once. Now I check about every two years. Gerry
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Many thanks to everyone who replied to my question. The circuit breaker system is made by Cutler-Hammer. A guy from the electic company came around and determined that it is most likely a wire under the ground (outside) that is only just holding together. He seems to think that it actually separates and comes back together again. I would have expected some flickering if that were the case and the electricity is usually running fine except for these periodic interuptions. At any rate, he said we should call them as soon as the power goes out instead of trying to correct the problem ourselves. That way they should be able to track the problem down.
Thanks again, Peter.
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snipped-for-privacy@excite.com wrote:

Are you aware that circuit breakers have *three* positions, On, Off, and Tripped? When a breaker trips, it must be moved from the Tripped position to the Off position before it can be moved to On. Many times, there is little visible difference between the On and Tripped positions.
What you describe sounds like absolutely normal operation to me. There is nothing at all unusual about a vacuum cleaner tripping a circuit breaker.
Next time this happens, rather than turning all of the breakers off and on, check each breaker to see if you can find one where the handle has a little bit of play in it, and reset only that one.
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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: We have a circuit breaker in our basement. A couple of times the power : has gone off in the basement but all the circuit breaker switches stay : in the On position. I was in the basement last night and heard a click : around the circuit breaker when the power went off in the basement and : was surprised to see that all the switches were in the On position. : (My wife was using the vaccum cleaner upstairs at the time and I : thought she just overloaded the circuit.) Both times this has : happened, we have resolved the problem by turning all the switches to : Off then turning them all back to On. This restores all the power. : This has happend once before, in October of this year. I am hoping : this is not a problem that may cause a fire. : : Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, : Peter. :
Some breakers are like that: No idea why but they are. The breaker stopped in an "off", not blown position most likely. When it happens again, feel the breaker levers; if one feels loose, or move more than the others, then it's the "off" position I mentioned above. Flip it all the way off, then flip it back on. It'll probably work.
Don't go pulling breakers out unless you are absolutely sure of what you're doing, and it doesn't sound like you are. That could be a VERY dangerous thing to do!
So if turning the one loose feeling lever breaker off and then on doesn't help, then there may be another issue that requires looking further into the sitution. I'm betting though that it's just one breaker that patially tripped to the off position since you suspect a heavy load as in the vacuum was added to the line when it blew.
As another poster noted, it's possible a wire could be loose inside the breaker box, but that's the exception to the rule for professionally installed systems. It's also highly unlikely to be blasting a hole or whatever was described in that post; something fishy about it. And checking screws for tightness every couple of years is real folly, even stupid, and just not necessary, especially by the inexperienced/uneducated in electrical. A loose wire on a breaker isn't going to "shoot out" of the box or whatever the descrip was.
So, next time start by feeling for a loose feeling breaker lever first. You'll almost certainly find one. If not, then thing about getting someone to figure it out, but mark the breaker so they'll know which one to inspect.
HTH,
Pop
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100% disagree with that statement. Wires will become loose over time. That is the very reason for having a once-yearly PM in industrial plants, and in electrical distibution systems to check for this. It is especially important in high-voltage applications. This is the whole reason for having those super-sensitive infared temperature sensing guns that you will see being used in switchgear boxes. As the connection becomes loose, the temperature will rise, as the resistance rises. Ever used one and looked around at a few panel boxes? Pretty dang accurate picture of what's going on, imho, and you can see a loose connection plainly. I also check my panel box every 2-3 years.
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Anthony

You can\'t \'idiot proof\' anything....every time you try, they just make
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Tripped and On are many times very close together and hard to discern. As another poster said, check for "wiggle" on each of the switches to find the one that has tripped. What would worry me more is WHY the breaker is tripping. Sounds like you may have some overloaded circuits. I personally don't like to rely on my circuit breakers 100% to work...they do fail over time. Instead, I try to rely on good circuit design and conservative loadings. The next time this happens, try to find the breaker that tripped and then figure out just what you are running on it. You may have to remove a few items if it is indeed over loaded. It may also just be that the breaker is loose or beginning to fail. Once you have an idea of just what you're running on the circuit, you could decide what the problem is (ie. overloaded, or something with the breaker). Cheers, cc
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As Doug Miller said, your breaker is acting as it should, Vacuum cleaner motors are very powerful and if that circuit already had a number of lights, etc. working, the breaker should trip. You might want to map the outlet circuits in the house to find the ones that have the lightest loads on them to plug your vacuum into

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RBM wrote:

I would probably have said something more like, "Some vacuum cleaners draw lots of power because they're particularly inefficient; this might be at least in part because marketroids have decided high current draw makes them sound desirable."
and if that circuit already had a number of lights,

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I said what I did because some vacuum cleaners actually have large motors in them, and with a 400% starting current, they easily trip overloaded circuits

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Very common on some manufactures. The older style Murry, and Bryant did this.
Are you identifying the cause and the breaker? You should be. A breaker that trips repeatedly MAY be weak. Then again the breaker might be doing what it is supposed to do and the operator is the cause of the problem....
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SQLit wrote:

As noted above a vacuum cleaner has a high amp draw. So you might want to isolate that circuit . Often with a toggle breaker it's hard to tell when it's tripped. A common technique is to go down the double row of toggles and pull each pair together. The tripped one will feel have a spring feel to it. You can't just push it on to reset it. It must be cycled to off and then on. Even those old GE Push-O-Matics are hard to tell 'cause that little "off" sign often doesn't pop up. Richard
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