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Old 06-22-2017, 05:45 PM   #1
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AC - why 2 breakers?

I have a 1988 Excella with a Coleman Delta TX Air Conditioner. This is running off a 30-amp breaker in addition to a 20-amp breaker. The 20-amp is tripping when utilized in extreme heat (+110) here in Arizona. I am curious as to why there are 2 breakers as I find nothing to indicate why...is one for the compressor and one for the motor? As for the tripping - I am chasing cleaning the filters and coils in addition to getting a surge protector as I feel it may be due to grid fluctuation due to the demands. Does anyone have any ideas as to the 2-breakers and if I am on the right track as to the cause of the tripping.
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Kevin (Hot in AZ)
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Old 06-22-2017, 06:06 PM   #2
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.... Does anyone have any ideas as to the 2-breakers and if I am on the right track as to the cause of the tripping.
Kevin,

I've never been in an '88, so please take this with a grain of salt. If you can post a schematic of your wiring diagram (even an smartphone pic), it would be easier to answer.

Best guess:
- The 30 amp breaker is your main and protects the wiring in the whole trailer.
- the 20 amp breaker protects the wiring for your A/C
- you need to keep the current going to the A/C below 20 amps even if the main voltage drops and your A/C is trying to restart

It wouldn't be at all surprising to hear that the voltage coming into your Airstream is too low in 120 degree heat. So many people are trying to run their A/C systems at full blast and the distribution network may be inadequate. If the voltage drops, your air conditioner will draw more current especially to try to get started or even to run. If too much current is drawn, the breaker will correctly protect your A/C wiring. You want this to happen!

How can you tell if the voltage is too low? You simply need a volt meter. A cheap multimeter from a big box store will do it. Plug the two leads into any plug and watch the voltage. If it drops below 108 volts, you probably don't even want to attempt to run your A/C. High current means high heat and could fry things. Don't keep resetting the breaker or you risk ruining your A/C.

Disclaimer: I'm not an electrician. I'm am the father of a Master Electrician but did not stay at a Holiday Inn last night.
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Old 06-22-2017, 06:19 PM   #3
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What 65CV Said

Yes, the 30A is your main input breaker, and the 20A is your AC breaker. The AC is either drawing more than 20A (but less than 30A) or the breaker has gotten weak.

I had exactly the same problem at a KOA in Fort Lauderdale. I happened to have a voltmeter and measured the voltage in my trailer. It was 92 volts. The KOA maintenance guy came out and the voltage was low at the pedestal and at two adjacent sites. I moved to another site and checked the voltage there. It was around 110. The rest of the visit was uneventful.

Al
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Old 06-22-2017, 06:33 PM   #4
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We have an 88 Excela. The AC runs off the 20 amp breaker that is tripping. We had that for a while. We eventually replaced the AC and all is well. It could be a "weak breaker". I doubt it but it is a fairly cheap thing to try. Did not help ours.

The surge protector will not help with the breaker or with low power. If the voltage drops the surge protector can not make it up. I just protects from high voltage spikes like lightning.

An expensive surge protector might cut off the power in a low voltage situation. It might delay the restart of the compressor for 2 minutes after a sudden loss of power. That helps keep from blowing the capacitor in the AC. That is important during lightning storms. You should have one but it is not the "magic bullet" for this problem I do not think. We ran for many years without a surge protector and I still forget to plug it in sometimes.

I would suggest starting by getting one of the little plug in AC voltmeters to see how much voltage you are getting. I keep one in a bathroom outlet all the time and check voltage when we first start the AC at each campground.

Cleaning the coils is good. Making sure the cover is not leaking air is good. But I do not think either would make the breaker blow. Just keep from getting as cool as it should. I do not think there is a filter?
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Old 06-22-2017, 07:18 PM   #5
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I'll second the recommendation for a plug-in voltmeter. I got mine on Amazon for only a few dollars and it is plugged in to the outlet near the TV in my galley area.

I have not had a weak breaker in my trailer, but I have had two at home. In both cases where a breaker was randomly tripping, replacing it solved the problem.

For limited overcurrents, not short circuits, the breaker operates on a bi-metallic strip. Heat from current flow through the strip causes the breaker to trip. I'm guessing here, but if the contacts get corroded and generate some heat, that heat could cause the breaker to trip at a lower current than specified by the breaker.

Al
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Old 06-22-2017, 07:54 PM   #6
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I am in AZ and feel your pain right now. The others have made some good suggestions and I will tell you that reduced air flow = higher amp draw. I have personally gone on two service calls for AC units tripping the breaker, both times it was poor air flow through the evaporator. You could put an amp meter on the line and watch the current climb. So check incoming voltage preferably while the compressor is running and do clean the coils. Pet hair can really clog the evap.
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Old 06-22-2017, 08:08 PM   #7
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Yes...an old Circuit breaker may have lost it's calibration. It's not uncommon.
REmove it and replace it. Lowes, Home Depot, etc may have them but an electrical wholeseller is a best-bet. The same mfr'r is not necessary, but the same "type" IS required. Most of the big box stores have qualified people to make sure you get the correct type (and the electrical supply/wholesellers definitely will know.)
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Old 06-23-2017, 09:54 AM   #8
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Thank you ALL for the information...this forum feature is invaluable for those of us first-timers who can learn from those who blazed before us.
I will clean the coils, ensure the airflow is adequate and replace the breakers - all great ideas and basically good to do anyway.
I am also waiting on the Surge Protector to arrive and will then 'protect this house'. Another necessity as I convert my trailer to a home.
Thanks All!!!!
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Old 06-23-2017, 08:57 PM   #9
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While you're replacing the potentially 30 year old breakers, if there is a double breaker and room for 2 single breakers you would be better off using single breakers.
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Old 06-24-2017, 06:49 AM   #10
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While you're replacing the potentially 30 year old breakers, if there is a double breaker and room for 2 single breakers you would be better off using single breakers.
I'm not knowing why you would write that. It's not a good idea, IMO.
Firstly, the OP's questions indicate he/she is not greatly experienced in electrical matters and such change would interject the necessity to install either a blanking-plate for the unused space, or a new circuit which would then add the problem of "for what purpose?".

If by "double breaker" you mean the type of breaker where two triggers are tied to each other.... that would be a "twinned" breaker, used in 220/240 volt service ...(not likely found in an RV)... an important safety-feature intended to interrupt ALL service to the appliance in the event of a 220/240 overload. (Such appliances may also have internal 120v components which could otherwise remain energized and pose a hazard to a repairman. An example would be a 220v appliance with an internal cooling fan which runs on 120v such as some welding machines... or a clothes dryer which has a 120v timer.)

To avoid design challenges I suggest you replace breakers with identical size, type, and amperage ratings.
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Old 06-24-2017, 07:49 AM   #11
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If by "double breaker" you mean the type of breaker where two triggers are tied to each other.... that would be a "twinned" breaker, used in 220/240 volt service

.
Not exactly. A "twin" or "tandem" is a single pole device that has two single pole breakers. It can feed two circuits from the same leg of the service and cannot provide 240 (2 pole) service.
A breaker that connects to both legs of the service is called a two pole breaker and yes for a 240 load it is required to have a handle tie and be of common trip internal design, meaning it will open both poles internally regardless of the handle tie which is there to insure both poles will open on manual shutoff.
All kind of moot though on a 120 volt RV.
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Old 06-24-2017, 07:05 PM   #12
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I'm not knowing why you would write that. It's not a good idea, IMO.
Firstly, the OP's questions indicate he/she is not greatly experienced in electrical matters and such change would interject the necessity to install either a blanking-plate for the unused space, or a new circuit which would then add the problem of "for what purpose?".

If by "double breaker" you mean the type of breaker where two triggers are tied to each other.... that would be a "twinned" breaker, used in 220/240 volt service ...(not likely found in an RV)... an important safety-feature intended to interrupt ALL service to the appliance in the event of a 220/240 overload. (Such appliances may also have internal 120v components which could otherwise remain energized and pose a hazard to a repairman. An example would be a 220v appliance with an internal cooling fan which runs on 120v such as some welding machines... or a clothes dryer which has a 120v timer.)

To avoid design challenges I suggest you replace breakers with identical size, type, and amperage ratings.
As ITSNO60 said it's a twin breaker normally used when you run out of spaces for breakers and want to add another circuit. For some reason Airstream used them so they would only use 3 out of 5 breaker locations. If both circuits have significant loads these double breakers seem to have more trouble dissipating heat then 2 separate breakers. Also last week in Home Depot they wanted $39.99 for the twin breaker and $7.29 each for the single breakers.

Also he would need to remove (not install) the blanking-plate to use the previously empty breaker location.
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Old 06-24-2017, 11:02 PM   #13
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. If both circuits have significant loads these double breakers seem to have more trouble dissipating heat then 2 separate breakers. .
Yes Yes Yes you are correct. Every panel meltdown I have ever seen was a Siemans crammed full of twins & Quads. It always starts with the AC.
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Old 06-24-2017, 11:11 PM   #14
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Yes Yes Yes you are correct. Every panel meltdown I have ever seen was a Siemans crammed full of twins & Quads. It always starts with the AC.
While terminology might be an issue with this discussion... the point I was making (and with which I hope we all agree) ... the OP should not be attempting to correct his difficulty by adding to...or altering...the design of his circuit breaker panel if the issue is a C.B. with lost-calibration. (Ther's no need, and no advantage to be gained by complicating such an issue by changing to a "twin" C.B.,... or to adding another circuit (which is not what he needs anyway.)

He should replace the failed/questionable C.B. with an identical TYPE of breaker.
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Old 06-25-2017, 01:32 PM   #15
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Ther's no need, and no advantage to be gained by complicating such an issue by changing to a "twin" C.B.,... or to adding another circuit
That is the opposite of what we are saying.
We are both saying to get rid of the twin breaker, which may be what he needs since twin breakers are not as well calibrated as single breakers.

I will agree that anyone not comfortable with electrical work should get some help from someone who knows what they are doing.
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Old 06-25-2017, 09:41 PM   #16
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Yes agreed, the work should only be done by a qualified person
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Old 06-26-2017, 12:43 PM   #17
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thanks again for the information and thoroughness in ensuring the answers are correct and interpretative .
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