We have a circuit breaker in our basement. A couple of times the power
has gone off in the basement but all the circuit breaker switches stay
in the On position. I was in the basement last night and heard a click
around the circuit breaker when the power went off in the basement and
was surprised to see that all the switches were in the On position.
(My wife was using the vaccum cleaner upstairs at the time and I
thought she just overloaded the circuit.) Both times this has
happened, we have resolved the problem by turning all the switches to
Off then turning them all back to On. This restores all the power.
This has happend once before, in October of this year. I am hoping
this is not a problem that may cause a fire.
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated,
I would pull all the breakers and check for a loose wire or wires.
You may be surprised!
Your moving the breaker slightly by turning them on and off could be
a loose contact. I had a loose wire spark right through a breakers side
Now I check about every two years.
Many thanks to everyone who replied to my question. The circuit
breaker system is made by Cutler-Hammer. A guy from the electic
company came around and determined that it is most likely a wire under
the ground (outside) that is only just holding together. He seems to
think that it actually separates and comes back together again. I
would have expected some flickering if that were the case and the
electricity is usually running fine except for these periodic
interuptions. At any rate, he said we should call them as soon as the
power goes out instead of trying to correct the problem ourselves.
That way they should be able to track the problem down.
Are you aware that circuit breakers have *three* positions, On, Off, and
Tripped? When a breaker trips, it must be moved from the Tripped position to
the Off position before it can be moved to On. Many times, there is little
visible difference between the On and Tripped positions.
What you describe sounds like absolutely normal operation to me. There is
nothing at all unusual about a vacuum cleaner tripping a circuit breaker.
Next time this happens, rather than turning all of the breakers off and on,
check each breaker to see if you can find one where the handle has a little
bit of play in it, and reset only that one.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
: We have a circuit breaker in our basement. A couple of times
: has gone off in the basement but all the circuit breaker
: in the On position. I was in the basement last night and heard
: around the circuit breaker when the power went off in the
: was surprised to see that all the switches were in the On
: (My wife was using the vaccum cleaner upstairs at the time and
: thought she just overloaded the circuit.) Both times this has
: happened, we have resolved the problem by turning all the
: Off then turning them all back to On. This restores all the
: This has happend once before, in October of this year. I am
: this is not a problem that may cause a fire.
: Any ideas would be greatly appreciated,
Some breakers are like that: No idea why but they are. The
breaker stopped in an "off", not blown position most likely.
When it happens again, feel the breaker levers; if one feels
loose, or move more than the others, then it's the "off" position
I mentioned above. Flip it all the way off, then flip it back
on. It'll probably work.
Don't go pulling breakers out unless you are absolutely sure of
what you're doing, and it doesn't sound like you are. That could
be a VERY dangerous thing to do!
So if turning the one loose feeling lever breaker off and then on
doesn't help, then there may be another issue that requires
looking further into the sitution. I'm betting though that it's
just one breaker that patially tripped to the off position since
you suspect a heavy load as in the vacuum was added to the line
when it blew.
As another poster noted, it's possible a wire could be loose
inside the breaker box, but that's the exception to the rule for
professionally installed systems. It's also highly unlikely to
be blasting a hole or whatever was described in that post;
something fishy about it. And checking screws for tightness
every couple of years is real folly, even stupid, and just not
necessary, especially by the inexperienced/uneducated in
electrical. A loose wire on a breaker isn't going to "shoot out"
of the box or whatever the descrip was.
So, next time start by feeling for a loose feeling breaker lever
first. You'll almost certainly find one. If not, then thing
about getting someone to figure it out, but mark the breaker so
they'll know which one to inspect.
100% disagree with that statement. Wires will become loose over time.
That is the very reason for having a once-yearly PM in industrial plants,
and in electrical distibution systems to check for this. It is
especially important in high-voltage applications. This is the whole
reason for having those super-sensitive infared temperature sensing guns
that you will see being used in switchgear boxes. As the connection
becomes loose, the temperature will rise, as the resistance rises.
Ever used one and looked around at a few panel boxes? Pretty dang
accurate picture of what's going on, imho, and you can see a loose
I also check my panel box every 2-3 years.
You can\'t \'idiot proof\' anything....every time you try, they just make
Tripped and On are many times very close together and hard to discern. As
another poster said, check for "wiggle" on each of the switches to find the
one that has tripped. What would worry me more is WHY the breaker is
tripping. Sounds like you may have some overloaded circuits. I personally
don't like to rely on my circuit breakers 100% to work...they do fail over
time. Instead, I try to rely on good circuit design and conservative
loadings. The next time this happens, try to find the breaker that tripped
and then figure out just what you are running on it. You may have to
remove a few items if it is indeed over loaded. It may also just be that
the breaker is loose or beginning to fail. Once you have an idea of just
what you're running on the circuit, you could decide what the problem is
(ie. overloaded, or something with the breaker).
As Doug Miller said, your breaker is acting as it should, Vacuum cleaner
motors are very powerful and if that circuit already had a number of lights,
etc. working, the breaker should trip. You might want to map the outlet
circuits in the house to find the ones that have the lightest loads on them
to plug your vacuum into
I would probably have said something more like, "Some vacuum cleaners
draw lots of power because they're particularly inefficient; this might
be at least in part because marketroids have decided high current draw
makes them sound desirable."
and if that circuit already had a number of lights,
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Very common on some manufactures. The older style Murry, and Bryant did
Are you identifying the cause and the breaker? You should be. A breaker
that trips repeatedly MAY be weak. Then again the breaker might be doing
what it is supposed to do and the operator is the cause of the problem....
As noted above a vacuum cleaner has a high amp draw. So you might want
to isolate that circuit .
Often with a toggle breaker it's hard to tell when it's tripped. A
common technique is to go down the double row of toggles and pull each
pair together. The tripped one will feel have a spring feel to it. You
can't just push it on to reset it. It must be cycled to off and then
Even those old GE Push-O-Matics are hard to tell 'cause that little
"off" sign often doesn't pop up.
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