Lights keep going out, without Circuit Tripping

First time posting here, and this is gonna be longer than I want, so thanks in advance for your time.
The lights in one room of my house used to flicker occassionally, which got to be really annoying, so we called in an electrician. He replaced the 15A breaker, and it seemed to work OK for a while. About two weeks later, the problem happened again, and he came back out to replace the breaker. This particular breaker controls 4 can lights in a room, a fan, an outside Security light, and the Garage Door Opener.
About 6 months later, the lights in the same room, would just go out. The Garage door wouldn't open, and the fan wouldn't work. Basically, there was no power on the circuit, but the Breaker never tripped. If we Flipped the Breaker off and then back on, everything would work again, sometimes for days a a time, sometimes for just minutes.
Last week, we called the electrician to come back out, and once again he replaced the breaker on Thursday. Sunday evening, the lights went out again, and we couldn't get them to come back on. So, the electrician came back out today. What we discovered is that the panel bus where this particular breaker is located has a little burn spot on it, and the breaker that he replaced on Thursday, also seemed to have a little debris on the area that connects to the bus.
He made sure that the panel bus was cleaned, and that the new breaker had no debris, but by the end of the day, the lights in the room went out again.
This particular room is an addition between the house and what used to be a detached garage. We are still unsure of exactly how this particular rooom was wired, but there are 3 separate switches that control the lights in the room, One switch that controls both the lights and fan, and another recepticle that has a switch for the fan, and a dimmer for the lights. The electrician and I were extemely confused by how this particular room was wired, but he is not sure that the room is wired with 4 way switches.
The electrical panel for my house is actually in a pantry, and is extremely inconvenient to get to. My Electrician says that we will now need to replace the entire panel because the bus appears to be bad. He gave me a cost estimate of $1400, and said that he can get his guys to fix the wiring in the addition for $200 more. There is virtually no attic space above the pantry, as the entrance to the attic is on the other end of the house. The electrician wants to move the panel to a location that is more accessbile, so has suggested either outside the house(not a good option), or pu the panel into the living room which is not the most appealing, but we can work around it.
None of the other outlets in the room are on this breaker, they actually come from a second panel in the Garage.
We searched and searched for possible loose wiring, but he is convinced that the problem lies in the panel bus.
What suggestions do you have, and are the prices that he quoted reasonable for the work that will need to occur. Also, is this something that can be done be a novice electrician, or is it imperative to have a certified electrian put th new box in.
Thanks again for your help.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Hmmm. On a whim, I'd just try another fixture.
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Not sure what other fixture I should try?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Before spending that kind of money, I would:
1. Check the actual current draw (AC *and* DC) on that circuit with a decent meter.
2. Be very suspicious of that dimmer you mentioned. Replace (or temporarily completely remove) the existing dimmer. If the old dimmer gets hot and/or makes a buzzing sound, be even more suspicious.
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Malcolm Hoar posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

DC huh?
--
Tekkie

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On 22 Aug 2006 20:49:09 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I presume the electrician checked to make sure the ground wire for that circuit was secure to the ground bus in the panel and that there isn't a break in it?
Steve Manes, Brooklyn, NY Home renovation site: http://cms.magpie.com/house
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Steve Manes posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

And this would solve this problem how?
--
Tekkie

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wrote:

What symptoms would you expect on a circuit with an intermittent neutral near or inside the panel? Steve Manes, Brooklyn, NY Home renovation site: http://cms.magpie.com/house
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Steve Manes posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

What does your "ground" conductor have to do with the "neutral"? -- Tekkie
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wrote:

It was an old-timer slip of terminology. Happy now?
Steve Manes, Brooklyn, NY Home renovation site: http://cms.magpie.com/house
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A good electrician should be able to positively identify the problem in fewer trips. Why do you keep using the same electrician that could not fix your problem?
If he is so convinced the problem is the panel bus, then ask him to fix the panel bus.
Based on your description, this electrician would make repairs without making sure the repair fixes the problem.
It sounds like you have a bad contact somewhere. It should not cost $1400 to fix it.
To find the bad contact, wait till the light stop working, then track down where the bad contact is; it is either the panel or junction boxes along the way. You can use a voltmeter to measure the voltage in this circuit between the panel and the light. We know at the light it is 0 volt and at the panel somewhere there is 120V.
If you don't want to do this, I suggest you try a different electrician -- someone who can locate the problem, not guess at it.
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John wrote:

I guess a couple of clarifications are needed. First, we have a home warranty, and this is the electrician that they contract with. It cost me $50 to have him come out at the beginning of the year, and $50 to have him come out last week. The additional trips did not cost anything. Replacing breakers is apparently covered under the warranty, but a new panel doesn't appear to be covered.
Secondly, there is no additional room in the panel move the circuits. All available space is taken up.
We switched the wires once before, and the lights in the bedroom started flicking. That is when we thought that it was a breaker problem.
Thanks for your insight.
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posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

This explains A LOT! Get rid of it, lowest cost luser...
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fix
the
$1400 to

down
the
between
panel
electrician --

It might still be worth your while to pay for a second opinion. I'm curious. What is the brand name of your electrical panel and how old is it?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

For many panels there are piggyback/half size breakers available that put 2 breakers in one space. An existing single breaker could be replaced with 2 poles in the same space.
bud--
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From the information that you have provided it sounds as though the electrical panel bus at that particular circuit breaker location is shot. I would install a new circuit breaker at a different location in the panel and see what happens. It doesn't sound as though you have any other electrical problems with this circuit. It is not that difficult to determine if 4-way switches are being used, I suggest getting the opinion of another electrician.
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swap that power feed beteeen 2 different same sized current breakers.
if a 20 serves the room swap it with another 20 and see if the problem moves.
this will answer for sure if the panel is the problem.
if you have any unused breaker slots move the feed to a new slot.
the price quoted is reasonable but i would confirm its the panel first
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Betcha you got a defective connection on a stab-in connector. These are usually found on wall outlets (perhaps one you're not using), but could exist elsewhere. The defect is upstream of, and on the same circuit with, the devices displaying the symptom.
As another poster suggested, swap the wires from the supposed defective breaker with another and see if the problem moves. If you still have the same problem, the fault is not with the breaker or its box.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I ran into a problem like this last year and went through several troubleshooting procedures to try and find the problem. Finally, someone mentioned it might be a bad connection of one phase of power from the power lines. I called our utility company and someone came out that day and, though I never saw what they did, the problem was gone and never came back. It was a simple, free fix.
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How did he clean it?
It seems to me that if you were to clean it properly (eg: a light touch with a metal file or good scrub with garnet paper), and the breaker was new (such that the connectors on the back weren't already overheated), having it start misbehaving within a day means that something _else_ is wrong (in addition or simultaneously), or the bus is very badly damaged (but it didn't sound like it).
Eg: inherently overloaded, or some sort of subtle not-quite-trip intermittent fault downstream.
Swapping this circuit onto another breaker would help diagnose the problem.
It seems to me that the loading on this circuit may be a bit high because of the GDO. Had you operated the GDO between the new breaker going in and the problem recurring? Inspecting all the connections would probably be a good idea.
If it turns out that that breaker position is the problem, given that the panel is fully loaded now, replacing the panel is just one option. Adding a small pony panel somewhere near is another, and it'd be a lot cheaper (vastly less labor) than swapping out the main.
--
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