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Hi. I have a 15 amp circuit (14 gauge romex) to my garage.

It is fine except when...
Hi. I have a 15 amp circuit (14 gauge romex) to my garage. It is fine except when I try to use my air compressor. The circuit breaker will always blow on the first start attempt. Once I go downstairs and reset the break, the compressor runs fine. Is there some kind of a breaker I can get for this 15 amp circuit that will not blow on a high-current starting load? Thank you for your time! This circuit is used only for the compressor or power tools, but not at the same time. Would a slow-blow/high-current 15A breaker work in this scenario? Where could I get a breaker of this type?
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Answered in 6 minutes by:
6/27/2010
Mike
Mike, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2,743
Experience: Licensed Master Electrician - OnQ Certified Data Voice Audio Video Installer
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Because this is a general use circuit, and not just supplying the one receptacle, no. But it sounds like the startup current is just enough to trip the breaker so you may actually get by with just changing out the breaker for a new one, especially if the breaker is older. These things aren't produced to exact specs, so one breaker may hold while another won't. But truth be told, the correct way to solve this problem is to install a dedicated 20A circuit with #12 wire specifically for your compressor. I'm not sure what the specs are on your compressor, but if it's tripping a 15A circuit, it likely needs a 20A circuit to operate efficiently. This can also increase the life of your compressor (larger wire = equals more voltage = longer life).
Mike
Mike, Master Electrician
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Mike, adding a new circuit is not practical. The compressor is rated at 5 amps contiuous. Once it is going, the compressor runs fine, it is just the start-up current causing the circuit to trip. I have dealt with this in cars by using a 'slow-blow' fuse, but never had to deal with it in a house. Isn't there anything else that could be done? Does someone make a high-current or slow-blow breaker for such situations?
Yes, they are made, but they don't properly protect a multi-outlet branch circuit. You can't install a time delay fuse on a multi-outlet branch circuit. If this were the only receptacle on the circuit, and it was dedicated for the compressor, the solution would be simple; install a time delay fuse. Unfortunately, the code is not written on practical. If you want to do this right, you need a new circuit.

Edited by Mike on 6/27/2010 at 10:24 PM EST
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
This circuit is for a single outlet in the garage. It is used for any power tools I need in the garage. When the compressor is plugged in, nothing else is on the circuit with it. Under these circumstances would a slow-blow/high-current breaker be satisfactory?
Well, it doesn't quite work like that. This isn't a breaker. You would install a motor starter and wire the compressor to the starter. The starter itself would contain the overload protection, which would allow for startup currents. This isn't really practical if you ever use the receptacle for anything other than the compressor. You may get by with just changing out the breaker though. A standard breaker is designed to allow a surge of current. It shouldn't really be tripping even if the compressor is drawing 40A at startup. A 15A breaker doesn't trip as soon as current exceeds 15A. So either there is an issue with the compressor and it's drawing an excessive amount of current for an excessive amount of time (which could be caused by a long run #14 gauge wiring - voltage drop) or many other things. There's no shortcut. Sorry this isn't what you want to hear. Change the breaker and see if a new breaker holds. If not, your only real option is to run a new circuit.
Mike
Mike, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2,743
Experience: Licensed Master Electrician - OnQ Certified Data Voice Audio Video Installer
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Mike,

Okay, thank you again for your time and expertise. Have a great day!

Sincerely,
Mike DiSante
No problem, Mike. Thank you!
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