Fix Tripping AFCI Breakers
What would cause a 15 amp AFCI breaker to trip immediately when it is reset and turned on? The Most Common Problems with AFCI Circuits and How to Fix Them.© By: Dave Rongey
AFCI Circuit Breaker Problems
Electrical Question: What would cause a 15 amp AFCI breaker to trip immediately when it is reset and turned on?
- A few days ago a 15 amp AFCI breaker tripped, so went down to the basement and flipped it back on, that immediately tripped it again.
- I then went back up to the bedroom and bathroom that the breaker is assigned to and turned everything off and unplugged everything from outlets; then went back and flipped it back on and it was good it stayed on. However, as soon as I turn on any of the lights it trips off again.
- All of the outlets work, tested it with a table lamp, however, as soon as I turn on any of the light switches it trips again. There are total of 5 switches that cause breaker to trip; one controls bedroom ceiling fan light the other the ceiling fan, another is hallway light, another bathroom vanity light and last one is for bathroom fan/light. No matter which switch of those 5 I turn on it trips the breaker.
- The next thing I did was check the AFCI breaker, and the breaker is good. Then I checked all the switches and switches are good. Then I looked at wiring of all the fixtures and everything seemed firmly in place, nothing melted, nothing weird to my amateur eyes.
- Next I started disconnecting each fixture and after disconnecting one I would check if the I could turn on any of the other fixtures and after going through all of them nothing changed as soon as I would flip the switch it would pop the breaker.
- Now interestingly enough the ceiling fan would work on slowest setting, it would not trip the breaker. However, as soon as I would flip any of the other lights on or increase the speed on the fan it would trip the breaker.
- That gave an idea so I took a simple single light bulb fixture and wired it to each of the fixtures wiring first with a 60 watt bulb then with a 13 watt bulb but still not luck of narrowing down the issue, each time I would turn on the light it would trip the breaker.
Any ideas what could be causing this? I would appreciate any help or advice as I am going crazy right now. The house was built in 2010 in Black Hawk County Iowa, it passed all inspection as far as I know. The contractor that built my house is not answering my phone calls. Thank you in advance.
This electrical wiring question came from Alex, in Waterloo, Iowa.
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Alex.
How to Fix Tripping AFCI Breaker Problems
Application: Circuit Wiring for a AFCI.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Certified Electrician or a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with hand tools and electrical troubleshooting skills.
Precaution: Identify the circuit, turn it OFF and then Tag it with a Note before performing any wiring or inspections.
The Most Common Problems with AFCI Circuits and How to Fix Them:
- The Basic’s of Arc Fault Circuit Interruption – AFCI
- AFCI protects against arcs that may develop into a fire hazard or electrocution.
- Large electrical arcs, or even sparks, can cause a house fire if a faulty condition continues.
- Electrocution can be caused by a number of things including infants playing with metal objects and placing them into the electrical wall outlets.
- Early AFCI Problems
- When the AFCI circuit breakers were first introduced there were several problems with nuisance tripping mostly from light fixtures.
- The problem is with the size of the arc which occurs anywhere on the circuit, from the switch to the light bulbs, or any type of electrical load.
- Light Switches and a Tripping AFCI
- Your brilliant troubleshooting skills have brought you down to a few possibilities, one most of all, being the light switches.
- The switches may appear to work OK, however the more a switch is used, the more worn out the contacts get, which in turn creates a larger gap between the contact materials which could create an arc that contributes to a tripping AFCI breaker.
- Light Bulbs and Tripping AFCI
- The other possibility which actually works hand in hand with the arcing switch contacts is the type and size of the light bulbs.
- The larger to electrical load, the more potential for a larger arc, therefore elevating the possibility for a tripping AFCI circuit breaker.
- Replacing Worn Out Switches
- The first thing I would do is replace one of the switches that is causing the AFCI to trip off and see if that takes care of the problem.
- Be sure to choose a good reliable quality switch.
- Replacing an AFCI Circuit Breaker
- There is a possibility that the AFCI circuit breaker may need to be replaced with a newer one which has up to date circuitry, because there have been enough problems to require circuit design improvements.
- Older Homes and AFCI Protection
- AFCI is a great technology, and I highly recommend the circuit breakers and receptacles, especially for older homes where there are questionable wiring hazards that need to be identified.
More about AFCI Electrical Wiring
GFCI and AFCI Circuit Breakers
Arc Fault Circuit Interruption AFCI provides the extra measure of safety for your family. AFCI’s are installed serving required house wiring circuits protecting areas such as the bedrooms. AFCI protects the bedroom circuit devices against the danger of arcing which can lead to fire.
Electrical Codes for AFCI Circuits
Dave explains Electrical Codes for AFCI Circuit Home Wiring.
The following may also be helpful for you:
Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.
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