Everyone has overlooked the possibility that the "light" that the OP
is turning on may contain a faulty electric light bulb. If she is
turning on the lights by turning on a light switch by her front door,
and the bulb in the fixture that she expects to light up when she
turns on the switch has failed and developed an internal short, she
will get exactly the situation described. Haven't many of us seen a
breaker trip when a light bulb fails??? Disconnecting all applianes
that are plugged in, that are on the same circuit, will not solve the
problem if a bulb in a ceiling hallway fixture, for example, has a
shorted light bulb.
I once saw a fixture short. The cause: The wires leading to the socket
got twisted, because the socket had turned, because someone screwed bulbs
in too tightly. The insulation on the wires got soft when the bulb was on
and making heat, then POW!
Actually, that time the short was not a dead short. Instead of the
breaker popping immediately, the fixture spewed purplish flame for about
half a minute.
- Don Klipstein ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
There is some problem in the wires to that light, or the light fixture
I don't know what you mean by piggybacked?? But I gather everything
was working until the other night, so I'm curious to know what you
mean, but I doubt it's the problem.
I doubt very much if there will be. The off position he mentioned was
the position before you tried to turn the light on. If you have 3-way
switches**, two switches controlling the same light, leave both of
them the way they were. If you turned one on and blew the breaker,
and didn't turn it back off, turn it back off and leave it that way.
(Most people automatically turn a switch off if something goes wrong
when they turn it on, if they know something went wrong. You hear the
weird noise, so you probably already turned it off. You'll know when
you reset the breaker.
** They call them 3-way, but they are really 2-way, so don't wonder
which is the third way.
It will be okay.
It's not especially likely that the problem will be behind the wall
switch. You could take off the plate if you want, and look for soot
or black marks on the inside of the plate, or anywhere near the switch
in question. That woudl be clue there was a problem in that area, but
I really don't expect it. Is your house more than 60 years old? when
did they still use cloth insulated wires. 80 years ago? That kind of
insulation can go bad and fall off just sitting around in the wall for
80 years, but even then the wires wouldn't be touching each other.
It's more likely it's in the light fixture, which gets rained and
snowed on, at the wires or the socket. I've never had a burned-out
light bulb cause a short circuit, which is what you have. When my
bulbs burn out, they just "open" and I have an open circuit, which is
like having one more switch in the circuit which is turned off. It's
like having a water pipe with a valve closed. A short circuit is like
having a water pipe with a hole in it, except with electricity, the
leaking wire has to touch something that conducts electricity and is
connected to a return path. Water will just go anywhere.
It wouldn't hurt to unscrew the light bulb some, or even to change the
bulb, but I wouldn't throw away the old bulb without testing it in a
lamp. It's probably fine.
I have had bulbs short internally - much more common in low voltage
bulbs like automotive tail lamps etc - higher current per watt of
output and more vibration may have something to do with it - but #1157
dual fillament bulbs are well known for this failure mode.
I HAVE had it happen on 115 volt (or 120 - whatever you want to call
them) bulbs - the most recent one being a tri-light.
On Sun, 24 Apr 2011 22:39:54 -0400, email@example.com wrote:
That's amazing. It sounds like at least 4 separate bulbs. In the
1157, the struts that hold the filament at each end are 1/2 inch
apart. How could they ever touch each other? I've never seen the
inside glass break.
Tri-light? A two filament bulb, with three settings?
They can, and do, fail this way. More common failure is to short the
high and low filament, but there was one brand of 1157 bulbs - cannot
remember the name, that failed shorted with allarming regularity about
25 years ago.
I agree with this.
My point though.......
If the light switch has any outets on it with anything plugged in,
UNPLUG ALL THAT STUFF! and see if the problem goes away.
I have several switches here that turn on not just lights but outlets
One is at the front door, it tuns on the outlets for the living room
lights, all floor and table lamps since theres no cieling fixture, the
living room switch is ganged, with a lamp outside the front door and a
switch for a driveway flood light.
OP may have ganged switches like that, they are pretty common so
something plugged into a outlet thats switch controlled could have a
short. In my case a living room light.......
incidently this has occured here
I've been an electrician for over forty years and I've never seen an
overload of the type you are hypothesizing trip a breaker as soon as
the load was energized. I haven't seen every fault type there is to
see yet but that doesn't seem the most likely cause of the problem as
The dead give away here is the fact that Jo
said in the original post that the switch makes a noise when she
turns it on and trips the breaker. Hard to explain how if the light
is just one load too much, it makes a noise and instantly trips
the breaker. That is however explained by a short in the light
I wouldnt leave the troubled circuit as is, best to get it fixed.
rather than leave a unknown issue hanging. since no one knows exactly
whats wrong it could be a larger problem, and cause a fire in the
I unplug everything on any circuit that repeatedly trips a breaker,
its free easy and fast. plus it narrows down the issue. before paying
for a electrician its a good idea
one thing the pop means whatever it is is a dead short, which is
easier to find than one that trips occasionally, for no apparent
reason. I hate intermittents
It really is a sign of weakness to admit that you feel compelled to read every
post just because it's there. BTW, you've already claimed that you killfiled
me. Didn't bother me then and it's not likely to now.
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