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Home electrical question

  1. #1
    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Home electrical question


    Got a report that the fridge kept on tripping the breaker. First it was occasional, then turned to almost immediate (flip breaker back, very quickly trips again). Fridge is only a few years old.

    I came home and started at the breaker box. I pulled off the front panel, and for some reason the entire left side of the box went out. The right side worked fine (including the fridge). The fridge also was producing a very reasonable amount of amperage (nothing even close to tripping the breaker).

    I checked the power coming in and it was a consistent 120v on each of the two wires. Each breaker on right side had 120v. The left side all had zero. I was sometimes able to get a 120v read on the left side of the panel (the metal part all of the breakers hook into) but it wasn't nearly as consistent as everything else.

    I flip master breaker on and off a few times, does nothing.

    I turn off master breaker, remove it from the panel, and remove each individual breaker. I clean the contacts (not all that dirty anyway), put it back together, and everything seems to be working fine.
    There were no loose wires or anything.

    So in my head, its one of two things...

    1) something is royally effed.
    2) There was some weirdness going on with the master breaker. First it showed itself in the fridge circuit (which is the first circuit on the right side of the panel), then it moved on to the left side of the panel. Whatever weirdness was happening just needed "to be turned off and back on again" and now its good.

    Anyone here with more knowledge than me have a thought?

    My panel has seemed weird to me. At one point, I had a breaker crap out on me, and it was actually wet inside (no idea how). New breaker remedied that. Was years ago and no problems yet. Also, it is dry inside (I just checked)
    The circuit with the basement outlets and exterior outlets tends to trip up fairly easily, however, those outlets typically draw some major power from sump pump, dehumidifier, roof heaters, and whatever tools I'm plugging in outside. The dehumidifier and sump are both on the same GFCI circuit, which will trip before the breaker. Apparently I can hardwire them straight into the box and avoid an outlet...but it scares me a little.

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 09-10-21 at 12:37 PM.
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  2. #2
    TWINS! xrocket21's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Sounds like your incoming power feed maybe? (your service drop, possibly bad connection)

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  3. #3
    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Quote Originally Posted by xrocket21 View Post
    Sounds like your incoming power feed maybe? (your service drop, possibly bad connection)
    That was a consistent 120v on each of the two wires. Maybe there was an interruption that tweaked things out?

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  4. #4
    Lifer SteveM's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    First thing I would do is swap out the breaker on that circuit with another one of equal amperage on the other side of the box.

    See if the trouble follows the breaker that was tripping.


    Edit: do this with the master breaker set to OFF

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    Last edited by SteveM; 09-10-21 at 12:47 PM.

  5. #5
    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Check the plug behind the fridge, is it a GFI? If not, assuming the whole circuit has a GFI breaker.

    One of those is bad, replace it.

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  6. #6
    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Quote Originally Posted by loudbeard View Post
    Check the plug behind the fridge, is it a GFI? If not, assuming the whole circuit has a GFI breaker.

    One of those is bad, replace it.
    I haven't looked yet, it is not easy to get the fridge out and get back there. I had to use a two wheel dolly when I hooked up the water to it, but don't have the dolly anymore. Basically, just enough space to pull the fridge out until it hits the island, then you gotta slide it perpendicular to get behind it.

    I hope it isn't a GFCI outlet. From what I understand, code doesn't require it to be. It is, however, a GFCI breaker and the only thing on the circuit is the fridge. Gonna let it stew all day and see if anything happens. Then I will swap like breakers, per Steve's suggestion.

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 09-10-21 at 12:54 PM.
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  7. #7
    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    plug yer toaster into a different circuit

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  8. #8
    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Quote Originally Posted by RandyO View Post
    plug yer toaster into a different circuit
    The fridge is on its on circuit.

    I'm still confused by left side of breaker box going out.

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  9. #9
    Super Moderator TheIglu's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    If the connection at the pole on one of your legs is bad, you’ll still see 120v until there is too much load (amperage). Then it’ll drop.

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  10. #10
    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    I’m rusty on my NFPA 70E, you’re right doesn’t require a GFI, I thought it did.

    Anyway, makes it more simple, your breaker is likely going bad. Less likely is the receptacle is going bad. Install a new breaker.

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  11. #11
    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    how many ohms across the refrigerator plug, maybe your refrigerator is fucked, try plugging it in a different circuit

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  12. #12
    (4) Try not to be a dick. PurplePackage's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    start with main breaker and at the other end, neutral/earth voltages

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  13. #13
    Lifer joeswamp's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    I've always understood that a fridge circuit should not be on a GFCI -- the compressor motors are eletrically leaky and you can get false trips. Then you get food poisoning, so ultimately it's more safe to keep them on conventional circuits.

    Old breakers tend to get more sensitive.

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  14. #14
    Lifer burnham's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Quote Originally Posted by JettaJayGLS View Post
    Got a report that the fridge kept on tripping the breaker. First it was occasional, then turned to almost immediate (flip breaker back, very quickly trips again). Fridge is only a few years old.

    I came home and started at the breaker box. I pulled off the front panel, and for some reason the entire left side of the box went out. The right side worked fine (including the fridge). The fridge also was producing a very reasonable amount of amperage (nothing even close to tripping the breaker). If you lose one of the legs feding the house, every other row of breakers would be without power, not one side or the other. It's odd for one side to not have power. I could see one side not having neutral. The neutral on many panels terminates on the right side neutral bus, and at the bottom of that bus there is a solid bond that goes to the left side neutral bus. They're usually just bolted in place.

    I checked the power coming in and it was a consistent 120v on each of the two wires. Each breaker on right side had 120v. The left side all had zero. I was sometimes able to get a 120v read on the left side of the panel (the metal part all of the breakers hook into) but it wasn't nearly as consistent as everything else.

    I flip master breaker on and off a few times, does nothing. Snap the main breaker on and off a few times with some vigor. Leave it off, and then check voltage on the line side. Next turn off all the other breakers, and turn the main breaker on. Check voltage on the load side of the main breaker. Then start turning breakers on.
    Keep checking voltage. Do you lose voltage once the service has load on it? Is everything else in the house working properly? Are some of the lights in the house abnormally bright? It's common to see 120V on each side with no load on the service, and then as you turn things on, the bad connection/wire can't support the amperage bing drawn and the voltage falls off


    I turn off master breaker, remove it from the panel, and remove each individual breaker. I clean the contacts (not all that dirty anyway), put it back together, and everything seems to be working fine.
    There were no loose wires or anything.

    So in my head, its one of two things...

    1) something is royally effed.
    2) There was some weirdness going on with the master breaker. First it showed itself in the fridge circuit (which is the first circuit on the right side of the panel), then it moved on to the left side of the panel. Whatever weirdness was happening just needed "to be turned off and back on again" and now its good.
    Yes and no. When a main breaker is shitting the bed, usually you will lose one leg, and lose power in half of the house. About two out of three times, you can snap the main breaker on and off a few times and get it to close back in and work. Until it really fails. I could see that happening, but can't think of why it would have an affect on the fridge.

    Anyone here with more knowledge than me have a thought?

    My panel has seemed weird to me. At one point, I had a breaker crap out on me, and it was actually wet inside (no idea how). New breaker remedied that. Was years ago and no problems yet. Also, it is dry inside (I just checked)
    The circuit with the basement outlets and exterior outlets tends to trip up fairly easily, however, those outlets typically draw some major power from sump pump, dehumidifier, roof heaters, and whatever tools I'm plugging in outside. The dehumidifier and sump are both on the same GFCI circuit, which will trip before the breaker. Apparently I can hardwire them straight into the box and avoid an outlet...but it scares me a little.
    No, don't hard wire either the sump or the dehumidifier. They should both have GFI protection, be on their own circuit, and be plugged in. They need to have some sort of disconnecting means, and were designed to plug into an outlet. I think roof heaters should be on their own circuit too, and the GFI outlet for them is designed to trip at a higher imbalance, but I'm not really sure and haven't fucked with that shit in years.

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    Last edited by burnham; 09-10-21 at 05:40 PM.

  15. #15
    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    Quote Originally Posted by burnham View Post
    No, don't hard wire either the sump or the dehumidifier. They should both have GFI protection, be on their own circuit, and be plugged in. They need to have some sort of disconnecting means, and were designed to plug into an outlet. I think roof heaters should be on their own circuit too, and the GFI outlet for them is designed to trip at a higher imbalance, but I'm not really sure and haven't fucked with that shit in years.
    Thank you for the suggestions, I am going to try all of those, but had to run back up to NH yesterday AM.

    FYI, not probably through Friday night. So Saturday AM I went to flip the fridge breaker with the garbage disposal breaker (both, identical GFCI breakers). As I was removing the fridge breaker to swap it, the neutral wire accidentally and easily pulled out of the bus bar. I'm guessing that loose wire was causing the issues with the fridge.

    Now for the left side of the panel, I have another theory. It seems the front of the panel holds the breakers snuggly against the power delivery bar. Its actually cut perfectly to just allow the front of the breaker through and press up against the recessed perimeter of the breakers. Anyway, my panel is a bit out of whack. I can't get everything to nicely fit in that recessed perimeter and the screw holes line up, so the cover just kind of sits on top of the breakers (only off by maybe an eighth of an inch). I'm guessing when I removed it, the whole left side got jostled and needed moment to be reset? Orrrrr, something funky is going on with the neutral bus bar on the left side, but everything seemed tight and normal with that. Is there a check I can do on the incoming neutral wire/bus?

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  16. #16
    Lifer burnham's Avatar
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    Re: Home electrical question

    I guess you could lose one side of the panel if all the breakers were knocked loose by the cover. It's not a great situation if you need to have the cover on in order to hold the breakers in place to make a good electrical connection.

    If you lost the neutral bus on one side, you'd definitely be having issues throughout the house. Some things probably wouldn't work, lights would be really bright, ect.

    The easiest way I can think to check the neutral bus is to take a volt meter and go from a breaker to the neutral bus. You can also take the meter and check between the left and right side neutral bus. That should read zero. Any other reading would be a sign that there's an open neutral.

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