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Old 09-30-2019, 12:31 PM   #1
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Default Breakers are “randomly losing power” not tripping

Hey forum,

I have a rather unique situation where a respected customer of mine in a million dollar home is reporting a months long issue where circuits are randomly losing power.

Not all at the same time, one week it’s the master bed/hall (Afci) The next it’s the kitchen lights (no afci), the next it is the fridge and he loses all his goods. It’s a weekend party house and he is not here often. Will either come here to find the issue or his housekeeper calls him and reports.

The strange thing is that the breakers are not tripped or off. But resetting them restores power. This guy is smart- usually you take this with a grain of salt but I believe him.

400A service, all the problems seem isolated to the same panel. HOMELINE

But no obvious issues with the power coming in. I haven’t been here when the issue was occurring.

The problem started after hurricane Florence flooding, his house is on a peninsula overlooking the water, experienced about 3’ of water in the garage where the panels are located but the panels did not get flooded, and all the wiring is out the top to the rooms in the upper stories.

My gut is to replace the breakers reported to give problems, but I don’t feel like I can fully explain why this is happening.

Can anyone give me a bit of advise?
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Old 09-30-2019, 12:44 PM   #2
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Some people don’t understand that the tripped position is not the off position. I have had customers tell me that there was no tripped breaker and they checked the panel five times, and I later find that the breaker was clearly tripped. They simply didn’t realize that the tripped position was halfway, they thought it was the off position. Could that be happening in your situation
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Old 09-30-2019, 12:48 PM   #3
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You're going to need to pack a couple weeks worth of clothes and 6 or 12 cases of beer and stand firewatch at that place. At an hourly rate, of course.
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Old 09-30-2019, 12:51 PM   #4
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You're going to need to pack a couple weeks worth of clothes and 6 or 12 cases of beer and stand firewatch at that place. At an hourly rate, of course.
I like the way you think
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Old 09-30-2019, 12:56 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by HackWork View Post
Some people don’t understand that the tripped position is not the off position. I have had customers tell me that there was no tripped breaker and they checked the panel five times, and I later find that the breaker was clearly tripped. They simply didn’t realize that the tripped position was halfway, they thought it was the off position. Could that be happening in your situation
Ok, so say they are wrong about the fact the breaker isn’t tripped, and they were actually tripped.

How can I explain why it happens to seemingly random circuits? No overloads. Lighting circuits are max 1.5 A, outlet on a separate circuit, and no known issues. As far as I know it hasn’t been in three different circuit, is a dedicated circuit.
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Old 09-30-2019, 01:09 PM   #6
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@HackWork 's reply is my first guess, the breakers are tripping, the owner just doesn't know what tripped looks like. But if you can confirm that you're still pretty far from an answer.



I think right off the bat I'd be replacing the breakers that failed and any other essential circuits - refrigerator, sump pump, etc.



I would put in something to monitor power on the essential circuits and maybe some non-essential and set them up for remote notifications, that's just me, but that isn't wasted money, even if it doesn't solve this problem it's of value to them.



If the problem continues on the original breakers, and does not continue on the ones you replace, I'd go straight to replacing all the breakers.
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Old 09-30-2019, 01:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by LibertyRising View Post
Ok, so say they are wrong about the fact the breaker isn’t tripped, and they were actually tripped.

How can I explain why it happens to seemingly random circuits? No overloads. Lighting circuits are max 1.5 A, outlet on a separate circuit, and no known issues. As far as I know it hasn’t been in three different circuit, is a dedicated circuit.
No matter how smart and "with it" a customer seems, they still often make mistakes in explaining things in my experience.

The only other thing I can think of if the customer is correct is some type of surge protection that shuts off and needs power to be reset to it for it to come back online.

I would tell them that you need data to figure this out, and since they don't want to pay you to sleep in their house they have to put a piece of tape near the breaker that they reset to turn the power back on to whatever went out.

Although they may not be happy about it, customers always understand that it is very hard, if not impossible, to find and fix a problem that does not exist when you are there. Chasing a ghost just rings up their bill.
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Old 09-30-2019, 01:15 PM   #8
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Explain the trip/off/on position to him. Until you actually fix a ckt it's hard to know. It could be poor connections from poor workmanship made worse by vibration from it being windy outside. But, your problem is one we rarely see. Who wired the house?
As Hax said, you need data.
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Old 09-30-2019, 01:25 PM   #9
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What about ground faults from moisture wicking up inside the insulation?


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Old 09-30-2019, 01:27 PM   #10
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What about ground faults from moisture wicking up inside the insulation?


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Have there ever been GFCI's that could be reset by turning power to them off and then back on?

Even then, the bedroom circuit probably wouldn't be on that GFCI.
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Old 09-30-2019, 02:05 PM   #11
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Even smart homeowners don't know what they're talking about.

I wouldn't trust anything he says... not that he's lying... he's ignorant.

Hurricanes drive excessive moisture EVERYWHERE... salty drops, at that.

Their winds are so strong that they blow salt water up into the air... hence 'foaming seas.'
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:01 PM   #12
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Yea, the more I think about it the less sense it makes that the breakers would be losing power but works again when reset, but not actually having been tripped.

I'll have to look into the idea of some sort of a power monitor, but we'll see if the problems persist and then move forward.

for those suggesting moisture wicked up the insulation, there wasn't insulation in the lower level, and nothing upstairs where the wiring and devices were located had any kind of water damage at all. The only thing I could buy is the idea that the panel, despite not being flooded could have been subjected to splashing and excessive moisture and humidity, although I didn't really see any signs of corrosion at all, and trust me, almost all ive been doing for the last year has involved ripping out flooded panels and the ones who got wet are clearly obvious compared to the ones that didn't.

Its just strange to me there would be tripping across a multiple circuits, and to me the common denominator is the panel they are sitting in. Moisture was my first thought, and still is the dominant feeling.

Next time this happens they are going to call me and not touch the breakers until I get there, and the owner is open for anything I can think of in the meantime.
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:19 PM   #13
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for those suggesting moisture wicked up the insulation, there wasn't insulation in the lower level, and nothing upstairs where the wiring and devices were located had any kind of water damage at all.
I think he meant the paper in the romex not the fiberglass bats or whatever in the walls.
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:28 PM   #14
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I think he meant the paper in the romex not the fiberglass bats or whatever in the walls.
Ah

Just seems so unlikely. I don't think its moisture in the wiring at all.
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Old 09-30-2019, 07:41 PM   #15
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If there are a number of circuits losing power and no breakers have tripped, I'd look at the feeder to the panel.
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Old 09-30-2019, 08:00 PM   #16
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poor neutral meaning the breaker is not tripped, voltage has dropped on one leg in reference to ground. (has he mentioned anything getting brighter).
Might even be a fun one like L2 is missing and L1 is using the water heater as a feedback loop thus tripping the heater makes random circuits seem like they have failed. (or the water got hot enough to break the feedback)

Breaker clips are bad due to Chinese drywall eating away at the copper buss so resetting the breaker wiggles the contacts.

All wild arse guesses until you stick a meter on the wires and see whats really going on.
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Old 09-30-2019, 08:30 PM   #17
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If there are a number of circuits losing power and no breakers have tripped, I'd look at the feeder to the panel.
its not all at the same time. When it happens its one specific breaker. and that circuit only.

so far the ones that I have been told about is
-a bedroom lighting circuit, which carries no outlets at all, so have to rule out a bad appliance being plugged in. HOM AFCI 115

-fridge circuit. Dedicated duplex behind the fridge HOM120

-kitchen lighting circuit - HOM115, again no outlets.

No gfcis on any of those circuits. Other AFCI lighting circuits seem fine.

The issues seem to happen when nobody is home. The arrive to find things not working.

I think I made the correct call to replace the breakers and play the wait and see card.
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Old 10-01-2019, 01:23 AM   #18
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I have had issues with afci homeline breakers tripping adjacent breakers. And also with adjacent breakers tripping afci breakers. You could try moving breakers and see if different ccts trip.
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Old 10-01-2019, 01:34 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LibertyRising View Post
Hey forum,

I have a rather unique situation where a respected customer of mine in a million dollar home is reporting a months long issue where circuits are randomly losing power.

Not all at the same time, one week it’s the master bed/hall (Afci) The next it’s the kitchen lights (no afci), the next it is the fridge and he loses all his goods. It’s a weekend party house and he is not here often. Will either come here to find the issue or his housekeeper calls him and reports.

The strange thing is that the breakers are not tripped or off. But resetting them restores power. This guy is smart- usually you take this with a grain of salt but I believe him.

400A service, all the problems seem isolated to the same panel. HOMELINE

But no obvious issues with the power coming in. I haven’t been here when the issue was occurring.

The problem started after hurricane Florence flooding, his house is on a peninsula overlooking the water, experienced about 3’ of water in the garage where the panels are located but the panels did not get flooded, and all the wiring is out the top to the rooms in the upper stories.

My gut is to replace the breakers reported to give problems, but I don’t feel like I can fully explain why this is happening.

Can anyone give me a bit of advise?

Corrosion inside circuit breakers may be a genuine contributor . They can get really hot as well. Then the tripping starts. Moisture is an enemy of circuit breakers. Change em out.
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Old 10-01-2019, 01:48 AM   #20
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Corrosion inside circuit breakers may be a genuine contributor . They can get really hot as well. Then the tripping starts. Moisture is an enemy of circuit breakers. Change em out.
this was my first thought. I have been contemplating recommending replacing all the breakers. Should I also be concerned with the main breakers?
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