I'm having a problem with an electrical circuit in my home. The power goes
out only in one section and hours to days later it may come on again for
no apparent reason and then off again. I was able to isolate the breaker
power resumed. It's a double 30 amp breaker and it doesn't trip off but
still no power. It only controls doorbell and an outlet in the garage.
I've checked for loose wires but haven't found anything. I've flipped the
breaker on and off and still nothing. I think at one time this was for an
electric water heater but have switched to gas over 20 years ago. Could
the breaker be bad? I would appreciate any suggestions.
thanks in advance.
Do you own a voltmeter? When the power goes off in that section turn
off the main breaker and test continuity across the suspect breaker. It
may be bad. A water heater circuit should not have any other
connections on it so I'm surprised that this breaker affects anything in
your house. If someone took out the water heater and then spliced into the
wire and used it to create new circuits the splices may have been done
badly. These splices should be in a junction box near the old heater. With
the power off check and redo these splices. If the splices are wire nuts
without a junction box put them in a junction box.
NEVER test continuity before testing voltage, especially when dealing
with more than 3 volts.
If the breaker is bad, or even if it is just off (as is recommeded in
the first two lines above), you'll be putting 110 volts or more across
the continuity tester. Only neon bulbs are designed for that. No
voltmeter/multimeter is. Some of them may be protected against that,
but many are not, and who knows which are which, and I wouldn't want
to rely on the protection anyhow.
Test the * voltage* when the breaker is ON. Test at the screw
terminal on the left or right. The center is inaccesible and that's
IF the voltage isn't what the voltage is at other circuit breakers
(240, 220, 120, 117, 110, or maybe lower during a brown-out) the CB is
bad. Turn off the main CB and only then remove this CB.
When it is all the way out of the box, then you can check it for
continuity, but even if it passes, don't forget that this circuit
works sometimes and doesn't work all the time. That's what you said.
Buy a new CB. They are cheap. If you are like me you can save the
old bad one for when the next one fails (which may well never happen.)
and you can't get to the store. Mark it "BAD". Or you can cut it
open and see what is inside. (Not too much, but there will be pitted
contacts most likely.)
Also there is some difference between passing a continuity test with
1.5 or 3 or 9 volts DC and minimal current, and actually working with
110 volts AC. I'm thinking there would not likely be in this case,
but bear it in mind. Voltage testing of a A) circuit with voltage
present is sometimes more reliable than resistance testing of B)
individual parts with voltage off. (This situation is neither A nor
B, because turning the CB off doesn't disconnect the CB from the power
at one end or from the ground at its other end.)
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let
me know if you have posted also.
I suspect a GFI somewhere. (note the outlet in the garage). It may be
almost anywhere including the kitchen and baths. I would also agree that
you may well have a sub panel. It would be unusual for a 30 amp double
breaker feeing anything other than a sub panel or a single fixed 240V device
like an electric stove or water heater.
I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned yet how dangerous this situation
is? Something is randomly interrupting the current. That causes heat.
fortunately its only a small load. Still, when its interrupted you
should take the opportunity to check the continuity of the circuit and
see where the break is. Shouldn't be that hard.
An intermittant open will not cause heating. You need current flow, and
substantial current at that, in house wiring to produce noticable heat. An
intermittant short certainly would cause heating but should also trip the
It is unusual for a double pole breaker to feed a 110V receptacle but not
unheard of. If only one side of the double pole breaker tripped and the
breaker were not working perfectly, the other pole switch handle could hold
the switch in a position making it look on when it is in fact half tripped.
One pole should be able to trip the other but an old breaker might be
Have you tried toggling each breaker off and on. Did that one feel
different the first time you switched it as opposed to subsiquent tries?
There is also a good possibility that the wire connection to the back of the
receptacle or a wire nut in the doorbell is open. Inspect the connections
to eack of these things. If the receptacle has the wires shoved in the
back, replace it with one with side screws
I had a similiar problem. Use a voltmeter to check to see if the
voltage is gone or if it is just low. My power would fluctuate between
60 and 0 (which made the whole circuit garbage). After checking
everything I discovered that there was a problem with a neutral wire
(it was had all of the power).
I ended up having to find a hidden junction box in the cieling where
two circuits connected into one and one section of wire needed to be
replaced. After rewiring the junction box and replacing the one wire,
everything was fine. My water heater too was connected to everything
else. Turns out that it had a direct line - someone just wired in the
new one wrong and crossed some circuits or something.
When I have had intermittent problems like that, it usually turned
out to be a bad connection. Sometimes the romex is daisy chained
and connections are made with wire nuts. The connections get
flaky and heat builds up, causing the wire to expand. This can either
open a connection, which will then close again when the wire cools
off or something jiggles it. I had to locate it by finding the outlet
that was bad, and tracing the romex in the walls or ceiling back,
box by box, and checking the connections. It can occur with
wire nuts or on receptacles, or in a light fixture --- almost anywhere
along the line.
Breakers have been known to go bad like that. You may want to replace
it, or at least switch the wire(s) to another breaker to see if the
problem goes away. Don't use a 30 amp replacement breaker though, try
a 15 amp.
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