Arc fault breakers tripping

jaykilty

Member
Location
mass
Have a customer telling me he is having multiple arcfault breakers trip at the same time. The service is brand new. 400 amp 320 continous underground with a pedestal meter. Two 200 amp main panels in the basement with two 100 amp sub panels located different parts of the home. He’s finding tripped arcfault in all four panels at the same time. I’m at a loss. This has now happened three times since he moved in end of August
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
Old brushed vacuum cleaner? What’s he trying to use when this happens? All four trip at once when he does what?
 

mopowr steve

Senior Member
Location
NW Ohio
Old brushed vacuum cleaner? What’s he trying to use when this happens? All four trip at once when he does what?
Doesn’t have to be old, I had a customer, new house, new vacuum but this vacuum had 2 motors (one for suction and one for beater bar) whenever the second motor was turned on arc fault would trip.

It once took me several trips and basically a camp out with customer to eventually discover that a flat screen tv when the screen would go bright white during a commercial would trip random breakers. Even arc faults not associated to that particular circuit.
Have Fun figuring it out.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
Doesn’t have to be old, I had a customer, new house, new vacuum but this vacuum had 2 motors (one for suction and one for beater bar) whenever the second motor was turned on arc fault would trip.

It once took me several trips and basically a camp out with customer to eventually discover that a flat screen tv when the screen would go bright white during a commercial would trip random breakers. Even arc faults not associated to that particular circuit.
Have Fun figuring it out.
Yeah, I had a dyson doing that. Didn’t hit me until after I posted.
Pit didn’t trip more than one though..
 

jaykilty

Member
Location
mass
First time this happened no one was home next two times was sometime during the night. He discovered the problem when he woke the next morning. We’re talking dozens of arcfault breakers. The other thing it’s only arcfault style that are tripped. GFCI and standard single and double pole are fine
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
Who is the manufacturer of the breakers? Does he live near a radio, TV or cell site? Any 2-way radios being used? You say they are new, have you contacted the manufacturer to see if they are the latest version?

Any UFOs?:cool:

-Hal
 

curt swartz

Electrical Contractor - San Jose, CA
Location
San Jose, CA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
This is another case where the breaker manufacture should be responsible for figuring out the issue and covering any costs to correct it unless they can prove its a wiring issue.

OP....you might want to get the date codes off the breakers and call the manufacture to see if there are any know issues.

A number of years ago I had 2 customers call me stating all the AFCI breakers we had just installed were tripping a once a week. I called Square D with the dated codes and said I was having problems at 2 new homes with all AFCI breakers tripping intermittently. The support person immediately asked if they were tripping once a week and I responded yes! He said that it was a know issue within a certain date range. He said I need to replace the breakers. I asked if there was a recall similar to the one they had a few years prior and he said no. They only informed people if they called about the issue. I personally think this is total BS. How may hours did other electricians spend troubleshooting or just replacing the AFCI's with standard breakers?
 

tortuga

Senior Member
Location
(44.057116, -123.103394)
Occupation
field supervisor
One way i troubleshoot a AFCI in residential is by installing a GFCI breaker and turning on every light, fan or other load in the home, or just leave it there for a weekend.
I plan to get a Siemens QE115 tor troubleshooting random tripping AFCI's: https://mall.industry.siemens.com/mall/EN/US/Catalog/Product/?mlfb=US2:QE115
If you have a 30ma ground fault something is really amiss.
For example last week I was brought into a service call that had an fellow electrician stumped they had "1 or 2 AFCI breakers tripping". They were going over radio interference, looking at vacuums etc. Turns out the house roper had run a 14/2 down a hall for a 3-way traveler and was using a neutral from the other lighting circuit in a light box.
Hope this helps
Cheers
 
Similar problem about a year ago with a friend. He is in the public safety field and carries a Motorola trunked radio home each night and many nights left it on but muted for alerting. In certain locations, if the radio would transmit, several AFC breakers would trip from the RF interference. He wasn’t transmitting, just the radio would briefly affiliate with the towers.
Finally saw the red transmit light on the radio sync with a trip.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
One way i troubleshoot a AFCI in residential is by installing a GFCI breaker and turning on every light, fan or other load in the home, or just leave it there for a weekend.
I plan to get a Siemens QE115 tor troubleshooting random tripping AFCI's: https://mall.industry.siemens.com/mall/EN/US/Catalog/Product/?mlfb=US2:QE115
If you have a 30ma ground fault something is really amiss.
For example last week I was brought into a service call that had an fellow electrician stumped they had "1 or 2 AFCI breakers tripping". They were going over radio interference, looking at vacuums etc. Turns out the house roper had run a 14/2 down a hall for a 3-way traveler and was using a neutral from the other lighting circuit in a light box.
Hope this helps
Cheers
That may work for one or two breakers, but the OP is talking about dozens across multiple panels. Something is definitely up with those breakers!

-Hal
 

Knuckle Dragger

Master Electrician Electrical Contractor 01752
Location
Marlborough, Massachusetts USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
There are a lot of good ideas.

​​​​Iwould start with this.
​​​​​​If it's the same breakers that trip every time, I would swap out those breakers with others that haven't tripped in the house and see what happens.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
With it that spread out, I would look into a main neutral issue, that would be a common link. I wouldn’t think it would be an improper neutral to ground bond at each panel causing it, but it’s worth a look. I had one house the utility company forgot to tighten the neutral at the transformer.
 

synchro

Senior Member
Location
Chicago, IL
Occupation
EE
A suggestion is to ask customer to note down which breakers tripped in what panel, if he is willing and reasonably competent. That way you could see whether all or at least most of the tripped breakers are one phase. If so, there might be a loose connection on that phase causing the problem.

Based on my limited understanding of AFCIs I don't think they have much discrimination of load vs line side problems compared to GFCIs, which measure unbalanced currents on the load hot and neutral conductors. So if there's more than a 5 amp load on an AFCI breaker and a sufficiently large noise voltage above 100 KHz on the bus due to arcing or something else, this would modulate the current out of the AFCI and perhaps trigger the series arc detection and trip the breaker. At least that's my theory.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
One way i troubleshoot a AFCI in residential is by installing a GFCI breaker and turning on every light, fan or other load in the home, or just leave it there for a weekend.
I plan to get a Siemens QE115 tor troubleshooting random tripping AFCI's: https://mall.industry.siemens.com/ma...mlfb=US2:QE115
If you have a 30ma ground fault something is really amiss.
For example last week I was brought into a service call that had an fellow electrician stumped they had "1 or 2 AFCI breakers tripping". They were going over radio interference, looking at vacuums etc. Turns out the house roper had run a 14/2 down a hall for a 3-way traveler and was using a neutral from the other lighting circuit in a light box.
Hope this helps
Cheers
If it is only one or two that are tripping the chance of it being miswiring goes up. If you are tripping several at same time there is some "interference" which may be RF or inductive kickback or other anomalies of some sort that the breakers can not tolerate, and it may not even be coming from an AFCI proteted circuit.
 

tortuga

Senior Member
Location
(44.057116, -123.103394)
Occupation
field supervisor
If it is only one or two that are tripping the chance of it being miswiring goes up. If you are tripping several at same time there is some "interference" which may be RF or inductive kickback or other anomalies of some sort that the breakers can not tolerate, and it may not even be coming from an AFCI proteted circuit.
The OP is reporting at least 24 breakers:
We’re talking dozens of arcfault breakers.
thats an astonishing number.

The service is brand new. 400 amp 320 continous underground with a pedestal meter. Two 200 amp main panels in the basement with two 100 amp sub panels located different parts of the home.
Its not clear to me if he replaced the service or just randomly got a call? If the house is brand new it does not sound like jaykilty wired it?

He’s finding tripped arcfault in all four panels at the same time.
Dozens of tripping AFCI breakers deserves more info, like some photos and description of what work was done.
Was the house moved? Foundation lifted?
Drywaller used 3" screws?
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
Service is brand new, homeowner moved in end of August but we don't know if it's a new build. Nothing else matters.

With something of this magnitude it's time to get the manufacturer involved. I wouldn't waste my time doing anything else.

Edit to add: the OP hasn't been back since the date of the original post. Would be nice to hear how this is going.

-Hal
 
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