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Thread: What could it be?

  1. #1
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    What could it be?

    Went and looked at a problem this morning that I thought I'd get everyone's take on.

    Backstory: Couple bought an existing home a year ago and completely remodeled it down to the bones. New everything. After moving back in, they were plagued with breakers tripping. Last fall, they started keeping track of what tripped, and when.

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    Mostly, it's the GFCI breakers feeding the kitchen. My first thought was it just might be a bad batch of breakers, but apparently the original EC replaced them. My second guess is that, somehow, there's actual ground faults in the laundry, dishwasher, disposal, microwave AND gas stove. The vast majority of tripping issues seem to be the dish/disposal circuit, the microwave circuit, and the two SABCs. All five are on Siemens GFCI breakers. But the HO states that occasionally other circuits would trip.

    I didn't have the time today to tear into all this and investigate much, including megging the appliances and circuits nor put an ammeter on each circuit to see what each one draws. But it seems odd that this many GFCI breakers trip so often. So I thought I'd post it here to get a passel of second opinions.

  2. #2
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    My SWAG would be that they have a ground touching a neutral somewhere.
    Cheers and Stay Safe,

    Marky the Sparky

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by K8MHZ View Post
    My SWAG would be that they have a ground touching a neutral somewhere.
    All five circuits?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by 480sparky View Post

    Backstory: Couple bought an existing home a year ago and completely remodeled it down to the bones. New everything.
    Is that a complete gut down to the studs and rewire? I'm talking all new wire?
    The 95% of people that you can't trust give the other 5% a bad name.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 480sparky View Post
    All five circuits?
    If the same green newbie trimmed them all out, the wires on the receptacles could have too much wire stripped, or the ground pushed back haphazardly, causing it to touch the neutral when there is a just a bit of vibrating. Could also be loose terminations in the panel.

    There is absolutely no way all of those appliances have true or even phantom ground faults. I would check the panel first, then the receptacles. It's possible there are loose wires in both places.
    Electricians do it until it Hertz!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by growler View Post
    Is that a complete gut down to the studs and rewire? I'm talking all new wire?
    I can see how older wire (cloth covered, or wire that has had moisture in it) could cause GFCI's to trip. That probably is the first thing to ask about.

    A few other things to look for: Excessive wire lengths or washers or dryers with 3 wire feeds, or shared neutrals. These are from page 10,

    http://ecatalog.squared.com/pubs/Cir...CT9801R108.pdf

    Other things to check: Do they have appliances on dedicated circuits? Are the breaker connections to the buss good, or are those creating excessive heat causing the breakers to trip?

    Heck, without seeing it, they could have the panel mounted right by a space heater, so its hard to guess.

    If you can't find anything obvious, would it be possible to put GFCI outlets at the microwave and disposal (since those seem to be the worst), and see if a regular breaker also trips?

  7. #7
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    Interesting set of symptoms, Ken. The contemporaneous documentation over a couple months is compelling. Too many diverse symptoms to be just one thing. . . and they lead me to wonder if the installing electrician was worth his/er salt. Did you ask after who did the remodel wiring? Was it the carpenter?
    Another Al in Minnesota

  8. #8
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    I would want to be sure that every circuit has the correct neutral associated with that circuit and only that circuit. Open every thing up and meter it all to be sure.

  9. #9
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    1) If it is a gas stove, the igniter for the gas will trip a GFCI for sure. (think about it: the stove sends a spark to the grounded burner plate). We now catch the igniter circuit with something like the refrigerator.

    2) Are they GFI breakers, AFCI/GFI breakers or GFCI receptacles? Makes a big difference in troubleshooting

    3) Did someone pull a fast one and wire another outlet(s) that your not aware of into these circuit/circuits?

    4) New home? Passed inspection? Try removing the AFCI protection (temporarily of course ) See what happens. I’ve had to do this on Panasonic Bath Fans. The AFCI’s just didn’t like them. (I should state these were Homeline AFCI breakers, which are by far the most troublesome for us. I will no longer install Homeline panels for this reason.)
    Last edited by electricguy61; 01-05-18 at 06:03 PM.
    ABC

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by growler View Post
    Is that a complete gut down to the studs and rewire? I'm talking all new wire?
    Yep.

    Quote Originally Posted by JFletcher View Post
    If the same green newbie trimmed them all out, the wires on the receptacles could have too much wire stripped, or the ground pushed back haphazardly, causing it to touch the neutral when there is a just a bit of vibrating. Could also be loose terminations in the panel.

    There is absolutely no way all of those appliances have true or even phantom ground faults. I would check the panel first, then the receptacles. It's possible there are loose wires in both places.
    I find it hard to believe that 5 circuits have intermittent N-G shorts. If that's a common error in this installation, then all the AFCI breakers would be randomly tripping as well.


    Quote Originally Posted by texie View Post
    I would want to be sure that every circuit has the correct neutral associated with that circuit and only that circuit. Open every thing up and meter it all to be sure.
    If that was the case, the breaker would trip with any load as soon as it was turned on. That's not the case, however.


    Quote Originally Posted by electricguy61 View Post
    .........2) Are they GFI breakers, AFCI/GFI breakers or GFCI receptacles? ............

    4) New home? Passed inspection? Try removing the AFCI protection (temporarily of course ) See what happens. I’ve had to do this on Panasonic Bath Fans. The AFCI’s just didn’t like them. (I should state these were Homeline AFCI breakers, which are by far the most troublesome for us. I will no longer install Homeline panels for this reason.)
    GFCI breakers.

    The original EC did temporarily install non-GFCI breakers, and the HO said they didn't trip. But the GFCI breakers were reinstalled on the original ECs demands. Whether there was an inspection or not I haven't determined, but I'm assuming there was. But the inspection may have been done before the appliances were hooked up.


    As stated, my first thought is a batch of bad breakers. But I'm not really convinced that's the case and am reluctant to just spend the HO's money and install all new GFCI breakers and not have that solve the issue. I'm wondering if there's some far-fetched cause lurking outside the box. Like an intermittent loose neutral. Or a phantom electrical pulse caused by an old X-10 system still in use here.

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