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Old 01-20-2014, 03:52 PM   #1
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Breaker Tripping

Good day all,

I recently attempted to utilize a small electric space heater to pre-warm my rig prior to a weekend retreat. However in true rookie fashion, I plugged it into a 120v receptacle in forward part of the rig which is on 15A breaker. All of the outlets and component on that circuit stopped working, but the breaker was not tripped. After reading I discovered it should be a GFCI breaker because the outside receptacle is also on that circuit so it was changed. Now it only trips when the 30A breaker (AC) is closed, if I open the 30A circuit it (GFCI) will close but there is still no power on that circuit. This sounds like a short, but everything was working just fine until my rookie move with the space heater. Suggestions anyone?
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Old 01-20-2014, 04:23 PM   #2
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... All of the outlets and component on that circuit stopped working, but the breaker was not tripped. After reading I discovered it should be a GFCI breaker because the outside receptacle is also on that circuit so it was changed ...

Let's be sure I'm understanding this... You have a 30A main circuit breaker and then a 15A branch circuit breaker that feeds the outlets that are dead. You say "it was changed". Are you saying it was once a GFCI breaker that has been replace with a standard 15A breaker or is it still a 15A GFCI?
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Old 01-20-2014, 05:54 PM   #3
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You have mis-wired your GFCI... There is two ways to wire such a breaker... For a single plug or the GFCI plug and all the rest of the plugs wired into that plug. Sounds like you switched your GFCI plug wiring around... Pictures may help t explain your situation.
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Old 01-20-2014, 07:20 PM   #4
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Let's be sure I'm understanding this... You have a 30A main circuit breaker and then a 15A branch circuit breaker that feeds the outlets that are dead. You say "it was changed". Are you saying it was once a GFCI breaker that has been replace with a standard 15A breaker or is it still a 15A GFCI?
Changed from standard breaker to GFCI breaker.
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Old 01-20-2014, 07:22 PM   #5
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You have mis-wired your GFCI... There is two ways to wire such a breaker... For a single plug or the GFCI plug and all the rest of the plugs wired into that plug. Sounds like you switched your GFCI plug wiring around... Pictures may help t explain your situation.
I replaced a standard 15A breaker with a 15A GFCI breaker. The wiring on those are much easier.
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Old 01-20-2014, 07:25 PM   #6
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Ok, that was the next clarification. I had gathered from your 1st post that this was a GFCI breaker in the distribution panel, not a GFCI outlet that provides protection to other outlets that are daisy chained off of it. Either is a valid configuration. I also am understanding that this configuration worked until you plugged the electric heater into an outlet on that branch circuit. That alone shouldn't have been a problem. Now, even with the heater unplugged, the GFCI breaker won't reset unless the main breaker is switched off (or the shore power is unplugged) but trips once power is reapplied. Is this accurate?
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Old 01-20-2014, 07:33 PM   #7
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Ok, that was the next clarification. I had gathered from your 1st post that this was a GFCI breaker in the distribution panel, not a GFCI outlet that provides protection to other outlets that are daisy chained off of it. Either is a valid configuration. I also am understanding that this configuration worked until you plugged the electric heater into an outlet on that branch circuit. That alone shouldn't have been a problem. Now, even with the heater unplugged, the GFCI breaker won't reset unless the main breaker is switched off (or the shore power is unplugged) but trips once power is reapplied. Is this accurate?
Exactly
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:03 PM   #8
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Understanding how a GFCI works helps in troubleshooting. The breaker part of the GFCI functions exactly like a standard breaker. A short from hot to neutral or hot to ground would trip it. The GFCI section measures any difference in current between the hot and neutral legs of the branch it's protecting. If they are not equal, the difference is finding an unintended path. It only needs a minute amount for a fraction of a second to trip and that's how it protects you from shock or electrocution.
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Goose View Post
Understanding how a GFCI works helps in troubleshooting. The breaker part of the GFCI functions exactly like a standard breaker. A short from hot to neutral or hot to ground would trip it. The GFCI section measures any difference in current between the hot and neutral legs of the branch it's protecting. If they are not equal, the difference is finding an unintended path. It only needs a minute amount for a fraction of a second to trip and that's how it protects you from shock or electrocution.
Thank you, and I agree with your description regarding the workings of a GFCI as well as the path to trouble shooting. The branch has been identified, the challenge now is to find the section of the branch which contains the cause of the short. Do you have any thoughts on why a small space heater would have caused this calamity?
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:18 PM   #10
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A common cause is rainwater seeping past the gasket on the cover of the outside outlet. Assuming no rain or heavy dew, a remote possibility is excessive condensation inside when it's cold outside. Is everything disconnected from the branch circuit in question? Is the fridge on it? Converter? Another likely possibility is that the GFCI is kaput.
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:27 PM   #11
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I'm not convinced the heater caused the problem, but it may have pushed a marginal breaker off the edge if it turns out the GFCI is bad.
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:54 PM   #12
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Normally a miswired power pedestal won't trip an onboard GFCI, but it is possible in some cases. Are you on the road and just pulled into this spot? If so, try plugging into a different post.
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Old 01-20-2014, 10:25 PM   #13
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Are you saying that you changed a standard breaker to a GFCI breaker?

Are you sure that there are not any GFCI outlets on this circuit?

More then 1 GFCI device on 1 circuit can cause interference and if there is a GFCI outlet on the circuit that is tripped the downstream outlets wont work till that outlet is reset.
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Old 01-20-2014, 10:38 PM   #14
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I think a light just came on...

All outlets appeared normal.

You plugged in the heater and at some point the circuit died.

You replaced the standard breaker with a new GFCI.

The GFCI trips immediately whenever power is supplied.

It is wired correctly to neutral and ground.

All loads on that circuit have been ruled out.

-----------

You are not the original owner.

The PO had a problem with the GFCI on that circuit and replaced it with a standard CB.

-----------

If that sounds right, I think you will find either an outlet that was wired with the neutral and ground reversed, but unfortunately the most likely cause is a neutral wire that is pinched behind a wall so that it the insulation broke down and the neutral is touching ground.
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