A breaker in my service panel has blown, it serves the smoke detectors
in the house and some ceiling fans, and some lights in the basement.
the ceiling fans have not been in service since the summer, the lights
in the basement havent changed since installation. this breaker has
blown and now it wont go back on. Is there a serious electrical
problem in my house or has the breaker died?
The breaker could be bad, but most likely you have a short on that circuit.
First try turning off and unplugging everything on that circuit and see if
it will reset. If it does, turn things back on, one by one, until you find
the thing that causes the short. Also, you can look to see if any outside
outlets are connected to that circuit as well. If water got into an outside
outlet, it could be the cause of the short
I had a very similar situation. I kept turning the breaker on hoping it
would stay on, but it didn't. I was lucky I didn't burn the house down.
Turns out a mouse had chewed through a cable, shorting it. Each time I
turned the breaker on, there was a major arc inches away from some paper
Could be a bad breaker, but more likely a short. Be very careful (and hope
you don't have to clean up a vaporized mouse).
Thank you for both replies. After leaving this post i am going
outside to check a couple outlets I have. IF this is not the solution
I dont know what to do. there is basically nothing on this circuit
but 2 smoke detectors, I already took one down, and I suppose I will
take the other 2 down if the outside outlets are all working.
I will respond shortly with my findings on the outside plugs.
What do you think an electrician would charge to trace down this
A vaporized mouse is a GOOD mouse !!!
Much better than live ones anyhow...
To the OP. If you are comfortable with electricity, open the breaker
box and just remove the wire to that breaker. See if it turns back
on. If it does, use a meter to test for voltage. If there is
voltage, you have a short somewhere in that wiring. If the breaker
dont turn on, replece it.
If there is a short, you will notice a loud POP sound when you flip
the breaker on. A dead breaker wont do that.
When you say it won't go back on, do you mean exactly that or when you
try to turn it back on it makes a short hum noise and shuts back off? Are
you turning it all the way off and then trying to turn it back on?
I just checked my outside outlets, they both work, and the one in the
garage is working too. That is a complete inventory of outside
When I flip the breaker back on, it immediately shuts off. Yes, I go
full back and then on. I removed the breaker and headed out to home
depot thinking it was the breaker, but then I got thinking. So I put
the black wire from the tripping breaker onto the neighbor breaker,
then that breaker tripped. So I am confident that the trouble is in
the wiring, and not the breaker itself. Since I need the breaker to
continue testing the circuits, I put all breakers back in with the
original wiring, and now the situation is the same the faulty circuit
continues to blow the breaker.
I am left with the task of removing the remaining 2 smoke detectors,
then one by one opening each junction in the basement on the blown
circuit until i find a short. It should be nice and smokey black
When you put the black wire on the other breaker, had you removed any wire
that had been on that second breaker or did you just double up?
To verify the problem, only the offending circuit should be on the second
By swapping the lines between the two breakers, you can verify with no doubt
if it is the breaker or the circuit
What has changed or been done around the house recently? Looking for a cause
here. Pictures hung bulbs changed.
Excluding critters a shorted motor or a loose and shorted lamp socket is
the next most logical place to look. Bathroom fans are the most likely
I know you listed what you believe is on that circuit but have you verified
everything else as working?
: I am left with the task of removing the remaining 2 smoke
: then one by one opening each junction in the basement on the
: circuit until i find a short. It should be nice and smokey
: shouldn't it?
No, not necessarily. It depends on what the short is. If it's
something in direct and solid contact, there might not even be
any evidence of arccing, etc..
If I were you, I'd get out (or buy a cheap) my multimeter,
disconnect the wire from the breaker again, and leave it off for
the duration, remove/unplug everything in/on that branch,
including lights, and start tracing. If you have to buy a
cheapie at RS or someplace, get one with a beeper sound when it
sees shorts; very handy.
Or, call in a pro, but you really should STOP testing it by
popping the ckt breaker every time or it may really GO bad, or
worse, a fire might start and smolder somewhere until it's too
Constantly stressing/flipping a ckt brkr is definitely bad for
it; they're just not made to be used as switches. Besides, it's
a lot safer to work without power on the line.
You DO kill the Mains to work on the breaker, right? Even if
you don't pull one out, the right move could put a pile of them
right into your lap when that cover's off. Very often the covers
hold the breakers in proper place.
I think I will do this, how do you use the multimeter? I have an
ohmeter, thats different, isnt it? How much do you think I will spend
I roger that.
No, darnit should I be doing that too? Is that why i am so nervous
and jerky when working on that service? Where is the main? Is that
the one that is outside? I really do feel nervous working on that
thing so I will take your advice on the Multimeter, that sounds fun
and somewhat safer than what I have been doing.
Actually I have this multimeter, so should this help me find the
short? What test method should I use to trace down the short?
Thanks in advance,
I had a similar situation and replaced the breaker (with the help of
posters on this newsgroup), which itself had gone bad. It could be a
wiring short, but from what you describe it sounds more like a failed
breaker. How old is the breaker? Mine was nearly 25 years old. I'd
replace the breaker, turn it on, and then double check to make sure
all circuits that branch from it are working properly with no shorts.
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