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Jason
Jason, Service Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4258
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
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What can cause a circuit to fail without tripping the circuit

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What can cause a circuit to fail without tripping the circuit breaker?
Have a kitchen 20A, 120V circuit with 2 GFI outlets, two non GFI outlets and one light switch to a low voltage lighting system. other than the low voltage lights only normal load is Microwave. Circuit failed (GFI's off but not tripped) and Microwave out (but still works on other circuits) (Cutler Hammer BR). All outlets and black lines showed hot with voltage detector. (verified no voltage when breaker off).

Isolated circuit back to first outlet (so no loose/open neutral or ground); switched line at load center to a spare breaker and cicuit worked again...then added all devices back one-by one, contined to work with everything reconnected...for about 5 minutes! then circuit failed again...but no breaker trip again....

What could be going on here? Isthe circuit somehow cutting to just a few volts?
Could the low voltage LED lighting (IKEA) be causing some kind of havoc?

Jason :

Hello. Welcome to Just Answer.

Jason :

You may have covered this in your original question, but can you clarify something for me? When the circuit goes out, is it everything on the entire circuit? Or, is is just part of the circuit? Also, when you switched to a different breaker, did you keep the spare breaker in the slot it was in, or move it to the slot where the original breaker was located?

Jason :

Do you have a volt meter?

Jason :

I don't think your low voltage lighting is causing the issue. This is most likely due to a loose connection. That would cause the voltage to drop to a level that isn't a useful voltage, but may still be high enough to set off a pocket tester.

Jason :

Fortunately, even if you end up looking in every box for the loose connection, you aren't talking about a lot of boxes.

Jason :

It's possible the circuit goes to the low voltage relay box before it goes anywhere else, so it could be loose there.

Jason :

It's not uncommon for a circuit with a loose connection to display the symptoms you've described. When you remove all load from the circuit and the wire cools down, it will sometimes make contact again. But as you load it more heavily by turning more things on, the wire warms up again, and moves enough to break contact again.

Jason :

Also, make sure the neutral wire isn't loose in the breaker panel. That could cause this issue as well.

Customer:

I moved the wire from one breaker to a spare already in the load center, and left the original in place.


Don't have a volt meter.

Jason :

OK, I asked about that in case the bussbar was deteriorated, where the original breaker is located.

Customer:

Everything goes dead.

Jason :

OK, you mentioned tracking the wire to the first box. Is there a way you were able to determine it was the first box on the circuit?

Customer:

Is the moving to another breaker just random for retarting the circuit?

Jason :

Moving the circuit to another breaker is a way to rule out the existing breaker as being the culprit for the loss of power.

Customer:

I will check the neutral bus connection next,,,I wired the circuit about 10 years ago, 99% certain I got to the first box; will isolate it again.


 

Jason :

Sounds good. I'm sure you understand it's difficult for me to troubleshoot it without being there onsite with you. But I wanted to offer as much assistance as I could. I think I've covered all possibilities. I'm leaving for church in a few minutes, but if I think of something else while I'm away, I

Jason :

will post additional info as soon as I return.

Jason :

While I am away (for a couple of hours), you may see additional information from another expert here. However, would much appreciate the opportunity to reconnect with you when I return.

Jason :

If you like, we can even set up a phone consultation when I get back. The system has shown your status as "Typing" for the last 9 minutes. Unfortunately, I need to sign off now. But I'll be back shortly. Thanks so much for your patience.

Customer:

Thanks:


circuit back on after removing first outlet...must have bene the connection between that and later devices, Am loading the circuit to see if heat OK and will rewire first device. Thanks for your help,

Jason :

You are most welcome. I appreciate the opportunity to help. One other thing to look at it is the outlets, relative to how the wires are connected to them. If you have wires in and wires out (meaning two sets of wires per outlet box), and you connected the outlets via the 4 small push-in holes on the back, you may want to reterminate using the side screws, or even pigtailing the devices. If you need additional information on that, please let me know.

Jason :

If everything is working properly now, I hope you'll take the time to rate my answer, and I hope you found it helpful. Thanks again.

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