Electrical Wiring in the Home/Electrical Circuit Problem



One of my circuit breakers (for the living room) keeps tripping and there is nothing extra plugged in that hasn't been plugged in for the last 13 years (just 2 lamps). The first time I was able to flip the switch back on, lights came back on and I thought the issue was resolved. Now I can't even flip the switch. Could it be the breaker itself? Thanks.

ANSWER: Most likely a short developed in the circuit.  When you turned it back on, the breaker malfunctioned because of the short.  Turning a breaker on without fixing the problem could cause a fire, especially if you do it more than once, so it is always best to fix the problem first. Disconnect the wire from the breaker, and see if it can be set back on.  If not, it is bad, but there is likely still a problem with the wiring.  Open up every outlet, switch and fixture on the circuit and check for black spots or any wires that are touching that shouldn't be. Also, make sure you do not have FPE, Federal Pacific Breakers.  There are major problems with them, which you can Google if you do have them.

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Thanks for the quick response. Question- can I disconnect the wire from the breaker without killing myself? Should the power be turned off somehow before I attempt this? I've done my share of electrical work but not in the panel. Thanks.

The problem with working in the panel is that there is always part of it that is energized.  If you have a main breaker and turn it off, then less will be energized.  If you turn the breaker off, and it is working properly (not an FPE breaker) then the screw that the wire is connected to should not be energized. But the other end of the breaker that clips onto the metal bar will be energized. Be careful not to let the screwdriver slip, and touch only the plastic handle.
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Electrical Wiring in the Home

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Bob Sponaugle


Just about any home wiring question. (not appliance repair) I have done all kinds of home wiring for myself, including adding a new breaker box, etc. Please, questions from North America only. Please be specific with details.

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