How do I debug when a circuit breaker keeps tripping?
1. It has never tripped before (years).
2. Yesterday, it was tripped.
3. I flip it back on, and it trips immediately.
4. It controls a bunch of outlets and lights and that's about it.
I turn off the lights it controls.
I unplug all the outlets.
It still trips.
How do you debug these things?
I'd start by disconnecting the load at the breaker and then see if the breaker still trips.
If the breaker is OK, then I'd start removing and disconnecting outlets and switches on the affected circuit until I found the problem.
You didn't recently nail/screw/install something on a wall, did you?
On Wed, 20 Jan 2016 04:24:55 -0500, Dick Phallic wrote:
To "disconnect the load at the breaker", do you mean that I should just
physically *remove* the breaker, and see if it trips on its own, in
To "disconnect outlets and switches", do you mean to pull them out of the
wall, one by one, disconnecting the hot wire only? (Would that be enough?)
No, I didn't recently install anything (that I know of).
On Wed, 20 Jan 2016 10:45:55 -0000 (UTC), "E. Robinson"
UMM... AHHH, UMMMM, AHHHHH ..... WOW ............ AHHHHH OK....
I think they meant you should remove the LOAD from your telephone book,
(such as a stack of other books on top of it), then look up electricians
and call one.
The only only thing that might trip in your hands, is your index finger,
if it trips while your fingers do the walking thru the yellow pages.
Yep, that's what they meant!
They just meant you should disconnect (unplug) everything until the
In the situation you describe, I suspect that the easiest way to debug
is to replace the breaker. I'm told that sometimes they just crap out
on their own after years of use. Your time is worth something and the
breaker isn't that expensive. Buy a replacement and swap it out and see
On Wed, 20 Jan 2016 06:35:36 -0600, Unquestionably Confused
I had a GFCI breaker fail when it was only about 5 years old. The
replacement is 31 years old and doing fine. Regular breakers are a
quite a bit cheaper than GFCI
If he's going to do this he should turn off all the power to the
breaker box by flipping the main breaker at the top, and use a
flashlight to see. Or at the verrry least he should keep one hand in
his pocket, literally, so he can't touch things with two hands and get
First turn off the breaker in question.
Then when the breaker is off, unscrew the screw that holds the wire at
the end of the breaker that's not in the middle of the box. Probably
don't have to unscrew it all the way. You don't want the screw
dropping into the box, and you don't want to be reflexively showing
your hand in the box when you see the screw about to fall. If it
does fall, just let it.
Grab the wire on that screw by its insulation and push, pull etc. it
off the screw.
Then lift the end of the breaker away from the center of the box up
and pull/rock the breaker out of the clip it's in at the center. It
should come out quickly.
Reverse to install. Except that it might be easier to hook the wire
on the screw BEFORE putting the breaker in at all. Maybe you can use
two hands for this part only.
You definitely DON"T want to remove the screw, if it even comes
out, because it will be hard to get it back in, but it probably comes
out enough that it's easy to hook the wire back on it.
Use the same size breaker, 15A, 20A, whatever was there. You can't
safely increase the size.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 8:12:36 AM UTC-5, Micky wrote:
If he's going to do this he should turn off all the power to the
The OP doesn't know anything about a panel and you've left out an important step that will confuse him.
After you've turned off the main breaker, you can't see the screws or the wires. There is a safety shield in place. That must be removed, carefully.
And remember, with the main breaker turned off, there is no power to the buss bars, BUT there still is lethal current available up top.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 10:28:30 AM UTC-5, TimR wrote:
Removing that steel cover is what makes me the most nervous because
as you say, there is still the incoming live feeds at the top. Watching
that Holmes show from Canada, I noticed that their panels had a separate
cover for that area, so that if you turned off the main and remove the
other cover for the breakers, no chance of hitting anything live. I
wonder, is that just a Canadian thing or do some or all new panels here
have that too? Required by Canadian code thing?
I am in Canada, my breaker panel was new just after we bought this house
in 97, installed by an electrician, and passed inspection, it does not
have a separate cover for where the live wires enter it. So I can say
that was note code then, though it may be now.
What does label on the breaker say? Bedroom 1, kitchen, kitchen counter
top, exterior front outlet, garage, etc.? They have to be specific. If
not you disconnect the hot wire from the breaker and measure to check if
there is short downstream(load side) I assume you know all the basic
safety measures while working on the electricity. It can be as simple as
bad circuit breaker....
I've been looking for information on this - but I am almost sure it
was a requirement in ontario in '96
I know a lot of american panels were not legal for use in Ontario
because they did not have the separation - and I know FOR SURE it is
in code now, because even a non current carrying conductor cannot
transit between the "mains" and "load" side of the panel and pass.
(the ground wire for the voltage sensing device that tells when the
power comes back on when running on generator was not allowed to be
run out to the "load" side by my inspector last month)
.. sorry for hi-jacking the thread ..
Is your " grid power ON " alert device audible ?
- or <I suspect> something more sophisticated -
for generator auto-start/auto-stop ?
I've been wanting to install a simple alert device -
< I presently rely on my neighbour to phone me >
Ideally - something non-invasive - so I wouldn't need
a dis-connect and inspection.
I'm < dreaming of > a little device that I simply hang on the
incoming at my basement panel, when I'm on generator -
- remove it when I disconnect the genny -
- it alerts when sensing AC potential in the conductor.
A loud audible alert is best. Any helpful ideas are welcome.
Hmmm. I haven't seen it for years, but in mine I didn't think the
power was very available. I'd have to stick my fingers more than 2"
down between the main breaker and the top of the box and even then,
the cable that was showing was insulated. Maybe if I bent my finger I
could get to part where the insulation was off. Anyhow, OP, don't do
I don't know about in the USA, but in Canada the main breaker has to
be protected by a sheild that does not come off when the main panel
cover is removed and NOTHING is alowed to be "live" in the main panel
area with the main disconnect (main breaker) disconnected (turned off)
With the main breaker off you would need to be VERY inventive to find
a way to electrocute yourself.
This is, of course, assuming it is a relatively current panel.
I've removed panels, but rarely. Big aluminum wires.
Really big. Bare wire.
Thicker than a garden hose (110Amp service).
Makes your breathing go up a notch just looking at them.
Even so, I've replaced a breaker (220VAC house panel for a
built-in AC which had it's own separate breaker at the AC unit)
- but only once.
So, advice is handy.
I will read it all.
The OP dont know ANYTHING about electrical, PERIOD. He should not be
touching any of it. He's going to electrocute himself, or start a fire,
or kill someone else.
I'm an avid supporter of DIY, but a person has to have some knowledge of
stuff, (especially electrical). After reading what this OP is posting,
he should not touch anything electrical. Just call an electrician and be
done with it. It's far better to pay a couple hundred dollars to a pro,
than die or cause a fire!
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