Tracking down AFCI faults

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panel

stood

panel

panel

walls

it's

word

is

AFCI's

have

hanging

tiered

to

breaker

When I can get my friend back (he's doing me a big favor so I don't want to abuse that) we will disconnected, temporarily, ALL the non-AFCI circuits, one after the other, through an AFCI that we know works.
If we found one circuit out of 14 with an arc fault using only 6 AFCI breakers, statistically speaking we should find at least another circuit with an arc fault. That is when we will swap breakers as you and others have suggested.
TKS
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On Mon, 22 Feb 2016 12:57:46 -0500, "Texas Kingsnake"

Cut out the feed that runs up the wall behind the plaster and replace it with new cable Bypassing that old chunk of wire eliminates it as a cause. If it still trips, remove EVERY device fastened to that circuit. Pull every switch, receptacle,and fixture. If it still trips rewire more untill you have it fixed. (you DID try disconnecting the circuit from the AFCI in the panel to be sure it's not a defective AFCI - right???)
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wrote:

with

around

for

back

tripping

and

not

for

I suggested swapping breakers but by that time my buddy wanted to get home and so we'll do it next time. Right now it's back on the old, plain breaker that doesn't trip while I shunt the current loads on that circuit over to other, nearby outlets. I suppose if I move the loads to one of the new AFCI enabled circuits and that one trips, I've found the culprit.
I guess this is a good thing (revealing an arc fault that was unknown until now) but it sure seems like it is going to become a major pain in the ass.
In the meantime, since we had to rearrange a number of breakers to accommodate the old, short ragwire connections, I need to check each circuit one at a time to correctly ID it in the panel. We did the best we could to preserve the old numbering but it is time to double check things.
I guess now I will be marking outlets with a circuit number and a letter to indicate which one preceeds another. That isn't going to be easy nor accomplished without disturbing an awful lot of existing wiring -- and the plaster covering it, too. Sheesh. Goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished. Never expected to hit this sort of problem.
TKS
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On Mon, 22 Feb 2016 21:54:14 -0500, "Texas Kingsnake"

Get yerself a "fox and hound" tester. Turn off the breaker and plug the fox into one of the outlets and set the hound loose - tracing the wires from that outlet both ways - back to the panel and on to the end if you didn't manage to find the last outlet in the string. If you have metal lathe in your plaster it will make things more difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
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wrote:

panel

panel

walls

it's

home

breaker

AFCI

until

ass.

circuit

to

to

the

Got one today based on a suggestion from a web forum. So far all I know is the wire from the troubled circuit leaves the box and heads right into a bundle of other wires heading into the attic. I wasn't able to trace to anything I didn't already know by inspection when the breaker's off. Crap!
More importantly, this is one of the old "ragwires" and I don't know how much more connecting and disconnecting from the breaker it is going to stand. I may have to pigtail a wire from each of the two different types of breaker and switch between them using heavy duty insulated alligator clips on a jumper wire. I don't want to add a broken wire to my other troubles.
TKS
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On Tue, 23 Feb 2016 00:01:30 -0500, "Texas Kingsnake"

Anything short of a firlmy clamped (screwed) connection is liable to GIVE you an arc fault
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wrote:

panel

stood

word

replace

a

trips

to

new

could

letter

goes

is

Crap!

of

clips

troubles.

Someone else noticed that on a home improvement list. No sense hunting down an arc fault with a Rube Goldberg setup that will CREATE them.
TKS
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wrote:

panel

stood

word

to

could

letter

is

Crap!

of

Hum, if the circuit heads for the attic, a small roof leak could have gotten a junction box wet and the water could have dripped into a connection and caused it to become a high resistance fault that starts arcing under load. I know one thing about your problem, you must post what you found or some of these guys might come looking for you. <snicker> ^_^
[8~{} Uncle Fault Monster ==============================================I am PAINFULLY aware of that and it is one reason I would be willing to abandon that circuit completely if the easy fixes do not clear the fault. It really is a lot easier to run a new circuit in an unfinished basement than it is to trace wires through plaster and lath. I agree with others -- all the easy stuff should be checked first -- loads, outlets, switches and sockets. But if that doesn't clear the fault, the circuit gets abandoned and replaced by new 12 gage romex with GROUND and GFCI protection.
TKS
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On Mon, 22 Feb 2016 16:56:04 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Sounds to me like it's time the OP withdraws a couple million dollars from his huge bank account and build a new house. :)
But since he has an electrician buddy, why not just have him rewire that entire circuit. Ripping walls apart is NOT the solution. Use WIREMOLD. It all runs on the surface of walls, is code legal, and it can be painted to match the walls.
Of course the first thing to do is unplug everything on that circuit, then remove every outlet, switch and light fixture and look for any problems. It could be as simple as a bad light fixture or outlet where the neutral wire is contacting the metal box. (Actually, if you find a problem, you (OP) may as well replace all the outlets, switches and light fixtures since they were removed).
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On Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 4:56:31 AM UTC-5, snipped-for-privacy@unlisted.moo wrote:

And as an additional feature, it looks like hell. I might use it in a mud room, but I wouldn't want it in my living room. And if it comes to painting, might just as well patch and paint a few holes in the wall, where necessary, IMO.

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On Tue, 23 Feb 2016 03:56:20 -0600, snipped-for-privacy@unlisted.moo wrote:

Wiremold is my LAST choice when doing that work. I'll pull a feed up a chase into the attic, and drill down from the attic to existing boxes before I'll install that eysore in my house. I grew up helping my dad on rewires and rural electrification, and he'd pull wires into places you would consider impossible, making very few small holes in walls. When he wired our first house in town (88 years old in 1957) he lifted a few floorboards in the upstairs (no attic - 1 1/2 storey house) and did all the wiring either from there or the basement.
I learned a few tricks from him!!

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wrote:

with

around

for

back

tripping

and

not

for

Yes. I was thinking the same. Of course, if a couple of these guys came over on the weekend and did all this stuff, I am sure my wife would be happy to feed them.

NO WIREMOLD - EVER! Sorry - personal preference. I have an unfinished basement so running new outlets is actually pretty easy compared to ripping up plaster and lath.

When they come out with a paint that makes the Wiremold flush with the walls, I will take another look. Until then, new romex from the basement if I can't clear the fault.

That may be where I stop.

Or it could be a nail in the wall somewhere that finally wore it's way through the insulation. If this doesn't fix easily, it's new wiring.

My experience is that anytime you pull this ragwire that's stuffed tightly into small boxes, you are likely to be fixing one problem and creating another. I broke off one wire pulling the outlet I thought was a problem. Fortunately it was just the part under the screw and it looks to have been nicked by a bad strip job.
TKS
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On Monday, February 22, 2016 at 4:56:19 PM UTC-5, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

It would seem more logical to work with the switches, receptacles, and fixtures before cutting out and replacing the feed behind a plaster wall. But, heh, that's me.
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On Mon, 22 Feb 2016 19:19:37 -0800 (PST), Uncle Monster

And when you've eliminated all the "possible" you've narrowed it down to the "impossible".
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On Wed, 24 Feb 2016 00:48:11 -0500, "Texas Kingsnake"

Perhaps he is just Watt's son?
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On Monday, February 22, 2016 at 12:15:58 PM UTC-6, Texas Kingsnake wrote:

with

around

for

back

and

not

Have you checked to see if it could be a defective table lamp, light fixture or appliance. Some items that you may think that would never cause a problem are doorbell circuits or a clock radio. An engineer friend who worked for the power company communications division would often track down RFI caused by doorbell transformers which were sizzling/arcing but not drawing enough current to burn up or trip a standard breaker. You may have a light left on in an attic or basement/crawlspace that has a burned center contact or rivet at the bottom of the socket shell that is arcing. I've seen all sorts of weird crap cause problems in electrical and electronic circuits and only discovered them by eliminating every possible cause. ^_^
[8~{} Uncle Arc Monster
You have all laid out some serious detective work ahead. Nice to know that there are lots more things to look for. <groan> I think I have a pretty good idea where to start looking.
Someone on a electrical website suggested taking the AFCI breaker and mounting it on a cord so I can plug it into outlets on the circuit and see if it trips -- at least that way I can keep the circuit live on the old breaker while testing for the location of the arc fault. Someone else said the breaker wouldn't trip if it wasn't under load, even plugged into a circuit with an arc fault.
We did replace one outlet -- I pulled it from the wall while live (don't tell on me!) and I saw sparks coming from the internals of the outlet. Replaced it, but that didn't solve the problem. I guess like I said elsewhere it is time for "grunten and cranken." Cripes. I am sorely tempted just to leave the old breaker in place and remove all the heavy loads from the old circuit. Running two new grounded outlets, a real bitch in old houses like this, doesn't seem nearly as much work as has been described in locating the fault.
What I really need is some way to remotely switch back and forth between the old breaker and the new AFCI one so I can see the effects of removing loads one at a time. I guess the reverse of that is to disconnect all loads, power up the circuit and if it holds, add back the loads one at a time until I find the mutha frakker that is doing this. If the breaker even holds, that is. If it doesn't that means doing what has already been described by Don and others. Digging the wires out of the wall. Not gonna happen. If I am going to tear up plaster, it is going to be to install new grounded romex.
What a cluster-frak!
TKS
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On Mon, 22 Feb 2016 23:04:09 -0500, "Texas Kingsnake"

Start by unlugging EVERYTHING. If that fixes it, you are lucky - it's likely not IN the wall. Then plug things in untill it trips. If unplugging everything doesn't fix it, start disconnecting outlets.
Remember the arc can be either a series arc or a parallel arc. A series arc is an intermittent open in nature - a parallel ark is an intermittent high impedence "short". Those can burn the house down without a load attached and are the difficult ones to trace. Sometimes an old am transistor radio can detect the crackle - (couls even work for series arc - I'd give it a try anyway!!
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tripping

walls

it's

for

fixture

problem

caused

enough

on

rivet

that

see

said

bitch

the

loads

until

by

If I

That is generally what I am doing but I need to run extension cords from other outlets to keep the router and other essential items running while I test. What a cluster frak.

What is this? There is more than one type of arc monster to deal with? Say it isn't so!

They all seem to be difficult to trace. I assume a partially inserted plug causes a series fault while a nail through the wire causes a parallel one. More reading to do.
I wish this stinker just worked when we turned the panel back on. He charged me $750 for the panel replacement (20 breakers in all) and it took 6 hours. That seems to be a pretty good price for panel replacement and he did a very neat job. This AFCI thing was just circumstances beyond anyone's control. As pissed off as I am by all the extra work that is involved, I suppose I should be thankful that the AFCI discovered the arc fault, and not the firemen.

Now I feel like a Marconi operator listening for the Titanic sinking!
FWIW, I took the old main breaker out and it was certainly heat and corrosion damaged. Very interesting how they put those things together. I think it would have lasted another 20 years, though, because none of the contact areas were very corroded. The problem was the broken set screw and though we patched around it, the only way to repair it was to replace it.
Still, I am happy we replaced it even though my wallet is not.
TKS
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On Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 12:51:01 AM UTC-5, Texas Kingsnake wrote:

Router can't be down for an hour? What did you do when you replaced the panel?

Since this is apparently so much trouble for you, why don't you just pay your electrician buddy to fix the remaining problem?
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wrote:

panel

stood

panel

panel

word

for

left

or

of

only

know

pretty

and

old

else

a

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outlet.

heavy

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anyone's

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Probably will, but that does not stop me from wanting to get as much information as I can for him before he comes. In this case I will have pulled all the loads I can before he reinstalls it. This is all complicated by who is around to help me, when his schedule permits, etc.
TKS
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