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Thread: Breaker box overload?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Mickey Mowery's Avatar
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    Default Breaker box overload?

    a breaker tripped and i went to garage to trip it in on position, i noticed there were two breakers tripped, clicked breaker 14 to on position then clicked breaker 16 to on position, then 14 tripped back off, seems 14 cant be in on position at the same time as 16, they keep tripping each other out, could this be serious or a potential fire hazard, all electrical outlets in house are working, and switches, can't seem to figure it , i have 16 breaker in off position. If anyone could help it would be greatly appreciated. thank you
    Last edited by Mickey Mowery; 06-15-2010 at 06:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Robin Hood Guy Ian Gills's Avatar
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    I wonder if these two breakers have incorrectly been wired to service a 220/240 volt device (which should be on a double breaker rather than two singles), which itself is experiencing a fault? Are all your 240 volt appliances working correctly, such as the dryer, range and AC?

    It's definitely a bad wiring job regardless, because it is code that the breakers in the panel be labelled so you should have a rough idea of what they control.

    There shouldn't be a fire or safety risk as long as the breaker remains tripped. It's doing its job by isolating the fault. You could flip both off to be sure until you get the problem fixed.
    Last edited by Ian Gills; 06-15-2010 at 06:39 PM.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member Mickey Mowery's Avatar
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    Ian I just found out that is to a ground fault plug in adjacient room , these are 110 breakers, they have been in use for years with no problems

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member Mickey Mowery's Avatar
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    14 runs the fridge-microwave---16 runs ground fault in bathroom

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member Mickey Mowery's Avatar
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    Default 14 and 16

    I have one more added twist to this problem...i just found out 14 breaker runs fridge - micro wave -toaster...by turning off 14 and turning on 16 i found out that it runs fridge micro and toaster and the ground fault is not working in bath room on ether breaker..could it be the ground fault? keep in mind this electrical has been running for 25 yrs with no problems..

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    In the Trades jnaas2's Avatar
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    Has there been any work done lately

  7. #7
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    Are you saying that both 14 and 16 power the fridge, micowave, etc?

    It sounds like someone tied those circuits together at some point and they should not be. The trip didn't occur before because everything was working correcting (but still wired wrong). Now something has changed (like a short somewhere) and so both are tripping.

    On the GFCI that isn't working, have you tried to reset it? It sounds like that breaker trips whenever you turn it on, though. If this is the case, the reset probably won't do anything.

    So, what happens in the following combinations:

    14 on, 16 on
    14 off, 16 on
    14 on, 16 off

    Basically, can 16 be on when 14 is off? Might help give us some ideas. If 14 and 16 are somehow tied together, you'll probably want to get an electrician in there to sort things out.

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    14 and 16 are on opposite poles of the 240 service. Somewhere they are interconnected, and have probably ALWAYS been but no one noticed that one or the other of the two breakers was always off, because everything appeared to be working properly.

  9. #9
    DIY Junior Member Mickey Mowery's Avatar
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    Default 14 and 16

    this breaker box has been fine for 25 years no changes. Breaker 14 and 16 have always worked fine. I renovated the bathroom in '06 put a ground fault at bathroom sink in '06 everything has been fine since then. on the other side of wall is the kitchen, i was running toaster, microwave and breaker tripped went to breaker box to trip back on #14. i noticed #16 was also tripped in off position. so i turned #14 on everything was fine then tripped #16 to on position...then it happened both tripped back to off position.. so i turned #16 back on leaving #14 off, went into kitchen and micro toaster and fridge was working...turned#14 on #16off micro toaster and fridge was running..turned both#14 and#16 off and micro,toaster and fridge were not working...also ground fault in bathroom would not work in any senerio..however ground fault went out same time all this trouble started..since it is a safety feature(ground fault) could that be whats tripping those breakers because it wont work?

  10. #10
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    Just because it worked before, doesn't mean it wasn't wrong. The two breakers should have nothing in common unless someone wired one circuit into the other. The way a GFCI outlet works is it kills power to what is plugged into the outlet (and anything connected to the load side of the GFCI) when it trips. It should have nothing to do with tripping the breakers in the panel. When you added the GFCI, do you remember if anything was connected to the "Load" side? Or did you just have power coming in (connected to the "Line" side) giving GFCI protection to just the outlet?

    GFCIs are designed to trip when there is a difference in current between the hot and the neutral. This means that some current is going somewhere else (like through your body when getting a shock). The breakers in the panel are designed to trip in an overcurrent situation (pulling more than 15A/20A or whatever).

    If you have a breaker tripping, that means there is a short somewhere or you just have too much stuff on the same circuit running at the same time. It might be something like the hot on the GFCI plug (or other outlet) has worked loose and is touching the box (if metal) or touching the neutral. Even so, there is still something very wrong as this should only trip one breaker.

    Finding where the problem is may be the challenge. One possibility that I can think of is that they where using split outlets in the kitchen (maybe 14 for the top outlets and 16 on the bottom), but they didn't split the tab on one of more outlets and that is causing the two circuits to be tied together. If this is the case, the items plugged into either of these outlets will see power with either 14 or 16 on and would explain one breaker tripping the other. However, one breaker would have always been tripped off (but maybe not noticed) since the install.

    On the GFCI, you mentioned that you thought it was on 16. Are you sure? The bathroom (with the GFCI) should be on its own 20A circuit (although it may not be depending on the age of the house).

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