Does this sound like a bad/weak breaker issue?

I have a problem I hope someone can help with.
I recently rented a place and after moving in, I've discovered a problem with the electrical system.
I believe it's a faulty breaker and the landlord should fix it, however, someone else suggested to me that I am overloading the circuit and should be hiring an electrician myself before expecting the landlord to foot the bill.
I don't agree, but wondered what y'all thought.
Here's the deal: House was built in 1940s. No central air conditioning (but there is central heat)... and I brought along my own window unit air conditioners. All of my units are modern and in perfect working order, for the record.
The place has 2 bedrooms downstairs, one up. The living room and kitchen are up. The laundry room (electric dryer) is down.
I initially installed a 5000 btu window unit in the kitchen/dining combo first, because this is where my computer is and it's where I work 8 hours a day. No problems occurred until I tried to simultaneously run a 5000 btu window unit in the living room, which is one room over. Five minutes after turning it on, I lost power. It had tripped a breaker.
Reset it and left the second a/c off, no problem. Then tried to microwave something; poof, no power again.
Okay, I soon learned that I need to turn off the a/c to use any "heat generating" or cooking appliances. I moved the microwave downstairs. I turn the a/c off, turn everything else off, tried to make coffee AND use a little electric skillet at the same time... again, no power.
Out of curiousity (and because it's really freakin hot), I turned off EVERYTHING aside from the tv, and tried using my one year old 12,000 BTU (110v) window unit in the living room... again lost power.
I never lose power downstairs, only upstairs... except for recently, when I discovered that one outlet in a downstairs bedroom will also lose power when the breaker trips.
So, it's going to be 102 today, we live in South Central Texas, and this place is about 1300 square feet, yet we are only able to cool the downstairs, since we can easily run the 8000 btu unit down there, as well as the microwave, dryer, etc., with no problems. Upstairs, it's usually about 90 degrees even at night, since the one little a/c is NOT going to cool the entire upper floor.
Twice when the breaker has "tripped", it's been hanging half out when we go down to re-set it. I try very hard now to do everything I can NOT to cause it to trip, until I can resolve this.
Thoughts on whose fault this is? Is it reasonable to expect to be able to run an a/c and a microwave simultaneously... or am I "overloading" the circuit?
The last house I lived in was older, built in 1920, and NOT updated at all, yet I had an a/c in EACH room there (five total), and at times ran them all at once, with no problems. Plus, I have no problems downstairs, so I think this is a weak breaker thing and the landlord should fix this.
Finally, if I get nowhere with this landlord, how much would I expect to pay to get someone out here to do this for me? I am willing if I have to, just to get it done so I can escape this loathsome heat.
Thanks, and sorry so long.
Sheri
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snipped-for-privacy@satx.rr.com wrote:

The first question is, when you lose power, is it to the whole "place" (house? half a house?) or just to the one circuit that the heavy appliances are on? Can you tell us what the size of the house's supply is? (This will be the Amperage number on the master breaker(s), which may be the one that's tripping, if the whole house is losing power. It will probably be two breakers linked together.) If it is the master breaker tripping, then it may indeed be faulty. If it's a branch breaker, then it's probably a 15A breaker doing its job (though frequent tripping can damage it!).
If you're really overloading the master breaker by frying eggs and making coffee at the same time, then you have a very strong argument that the place has unusably poor power and needs to be fixed. Otherwise it's a matter of figuring out which outlets are on which circuits and making sure each heavy appliance is on a separate circuit; this is a game well-known to renters and owners of older places, despite your earlier happier experience.
(Even on new houses, heavy appliances such as a/c units and heating and cooking appliances are recommended to each get their own 15A or 20A circuit. So the real question is how many circuits you've got throughout the house. And even current code permits multiple bedrooms to share one circuit, which means concurrent a/c or hair-dryer usage is a problem.)
Overall I'd say there are a lot of 1940's houses that were built fine for the time but which can't support three air conditioners at once. If you're willing to pay for an electrician, first have one take a look a the wiring and tell you (a) is it withing acceptable safety limits (b) what its capacity is (c) how the circuits are distributed (d) if there are any cost-effective measures that can be taken that will provide maximum benefit to you (ie, allowing effective a/c and cooking). Many savvy non-electricians could tell you this too but an electrician's report will carry more weight with the landlord.
I would not expect any professional electrician to agree to make changes to a rental property without permission from the landlord, and even the most diy-friendly jurisdictions normally do not permit unlicensed persons (even owners, much less tenants) to alter the wiring themselves on rental properties, but I hear amazing things about Texas so who knows.
Chip C Toronto
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Have you talked to the landlord?
You need to get straight, and communicate, what's happening. (Like, what breaker tripped and which outlets went dead- simple stuff.)
For about $30, you can get a 2-part circuit tracker (Sperry) to map outlets to breaker(s). So you can easily see which outlets share which breakers.
When the house was wired, there were no window a/c-s, and very few high-draw appliances. You may be putting old wiring and devices under serious stress. Be sure to have a battery-powered smoke detector.
Sounds like rewiring may be in order, to properly distribute loads on circuits. Maybe to replace old, brittle, cable. If panel/subpanel permits. Landlord will want say on this, certainly. HTH, J
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what size amps is the breaker that is tripping?? what is the amp draw listed on each ac unit?does that breaker run the whole house? you may get an accurate anwer to your problem if you can advise. lucas
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On 26 Sep 2005 09:21:26 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@satx.rr.com wrote:

[Long story about AC units tripping breakers clipped.]
If you want this fixed, the fix is almost certain to involve running a new power line from the service panel to wherever you want the AC unit(s). Depending on how much of a PITA this is, it's going to run between a couple hundred and a bit over a thousand dollars. Your landlord is unlikely to do this unless you offer to pay for it.
--Goedjn

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You are likely overloading circuits. What would be useful is making a map. Shut off one breaker then document which outlets and lights it controls, also make note of breaker size. 15A, 20A, etc. Then you can come back here with the details.
i.e I have a 15A circuit with only one 60 watt light on it yet it will not support adding a microwave which only draws 5Amps. THEN you can theorize that the problem is a faulty breaker, bad wiring or an unknown load from an adjacent tenant.
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The answer is no. It sounds like the breakers are doing exactly what they are supposed to, which is trip the circuit on an overload. As others have said, the house wasn't wired by today's standards or for today's appliances, but there is probably nothing technically wrong with it and only a prince of a landlord would pay to have it all upgraded

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An AC should be on it's own breaker.
If you want to know how much it costs, call an electrician, dont ask a newsgroup prices. You could run the wire yourself and just have an electrician connect it, if you cant do it all yourself.
On 26 Sep 2005 09:21:26 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@satx.rr.com wrote:

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On Tue, 27 Sep 2005 05:36:30 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@invalid.com wrote:

You are so wrong.
That is exactly the kind of question one should ask a newgroup. I can't think of a more appropriate question.
As to your response, that is exactly the wrong thing to say as is "hire a professional". Such idiotic responses completely wastes bandwidth.
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As somebody already mentioned, it sounds like to many outlets are on one breaker.
Try and identify a different outlet that is on a different breaker to hook one of your a/c units to.
If you need to, find out what amperage your a/c unit draws ( look on the label ), get an extension cord sized to handle that amperage load, and plug the ac/ unit in ANYWHERE in the house that has an outlet on a different breaker.
Mapping which breakers power which outlets in the house will let you do this....
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