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  • Arc Fault Circuit Problem

    Our master bedroom (lights, outlets & ceiling fan) is on an Arc Fault Circuit as required. Since buying the house three years ago, the AFC circuit breaker would occasionally trip when I switched off the ceiling fan in the morning. However, the light switch does not trip the breaker. Nothing has ever tripped the breaker other than the ceiling fan switch.

    Beginning yesterday, the breaker now trips when I switch the fan on. I took the fan down from the ceiling and checked the wiring (particularly the ground), reattached the wires and secured the wire nuts. I also replaced the wall switch that operates the fan. The AFC circuit breaker still trips when I swith the fan on. But again, the lights work fine.

    It seems like my choices at this point are to either replace the AFC breaker with a standard breaker or replace the ceiling fan. Before I do either, I thought I'd ask for the opinions and suggestions of you professionals. HELP!

    Steve

  • #2
    Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

    Does the fan run nice without any groaning noises? I have a feeling either there may be a minor fault with the fan motor or the AFCI breaker is thinking there is due to inductive kick when you switch off the fan. You might try switching the breakers with another circuit making sure both have the same Ampere ratings. That is interchange wires connected to two breakers near to each other. You need to be sure both are connected to either Line 1 or Line 2 but not one of each. If in doubt, just replace the breaker in question. If you still have the same problem, then have the fan checked in an electric motor repair shop or if it's a cheapo model just replace it. If you do replace the breaker, keep the old one as it may be good and usable on another circuit. AFCI breakers detect noise on the circuit as if there were small sparks. If you have any device that makes a small arc when switched it can trip such breakers. Vacuum cleaners in some cases will cause them to just trip open.


    WARNING: Be careful and if in doubt as to exactly what to do, please call in a licensed electrician to help. Don't take any foolish chances just to save some $$$ and maybe end up with a dangerous mess at your end.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

      Thank You, Woussko,

      No, the fan does not make any noise, but it is not a "top-of-the-line" fan either. All the fans in the house are Craftmade brand - I'm sure it is an inexpensive brand the builder bought in volume.

      I didn't realize that AFC breakers could be affected by line noise. If that's the case, I'll bet I'm not the only person with a similar problem, particularly with cheap fans. I'll try your suggestion about exchanging breakers. We have a Siemens box, so the breakers are easy to exchange.

      Maybe this is an excuse to pick up a Hunter fan that should be trouble-free for years!

      Thanks a million for the advice.

      Steve

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

        Just try switching the breaker with another one that's for a bed room circuit as long as both have the same 15 or 20 Amp rating. Also be 100% sure it trips only when the fan is switched. If that's the case, I would first check wiring to the fan and just to be sure, replace the switch for the fan. After that reinstall the AFCI breaker where it was on the fan circuit and see what happens. Do you have a variable speed control for the fan other than what is on the fan itself?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

          Woussko,

          No, there is not a speed control on the fan circuit. The fan itself has a 3-speed control, however it has always remained in the "medium" setting.

          I'll swap the AFC breaker with another AFC breaker as soon as the wife gets back. I always like for someone to be around when working on a breaker box!

          I'll post the results.

          Steve

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

            Sounds like replacing the breaker for a like one is the best way to start. It might be a faulty breaker but it may also be doing its job like it's supposed to.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

              I had a problem like that for a day or so then the AFCI reset at all. I disconnected the wires from it and it still tripped, replaced the AFCI and all was well

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

                Could it just be a bad or dirty dirty switch in the fan? First it only happened when he opens the fan mounted switch, now it also occurs when he closes the fan mounted switch to turn it on.

                Is that not what is happening? In both instances it is the fan mounted switch that appears to be the component (or maybe I should say the component that is operated) in the loop which causes the malfunction.

                The OP admitted that this was not a top of the line quality fan. Everyone is diving into the breaker panel and swapping wires around and changing out breakers...why? Start at the suspect problem point and work back toward the source until the culprit is identified.
                ---------------
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                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

                  Originally posted by Bob D. View Post
                  Could it just be a bad or dirty dirty switch in the fan? First it only happened when he opens the fan mounted switch, now it also occurs when he closes the fan mounted switch to turn it on.

                  Is that not what is happening? In both instances it is the fan mounted switch that appears to be the component (or maybe I should say the component that is operated) in the loop which causes the malfunction.

                  The OP admitted that this was not a top of the line quality fan. Everyone is diving into the breaker panel and swapping wires around and changing out breakers...why? Start at the suspect problem point and work back toward the source until the culprit is identified.
                  Good idea ... Just disconnect the fan and see if the AFCI circuit breaker (current one) ever trips again.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

                    I followed everyone's advice and I'm quite appreciative for all the suggestions and troubleshooting routines that were recommended.

                    Another bedroom had an ACF breaker in the panel, so I swapped it with the one in the master bedroom. It, too, tripped when I switched on the fan so I ruled out a defective ACF breaker.

                    I also operated the chain switch on the fan 20-30 times in the event the contacts had corroded over the past three years and was causing an arc or noise. That didn't seem to have any effect on the problem since the breaker tripped when I switched on the wall switch.

                    This afternoon I bought a new Hunter fan and installed it. It works fine on the AFC breaker. I was hoping there would be a cheaper or quicker solution, but alas - as we all know, it's always the most expensive and problematic cause!!!

                    Thanks again to everyone for your help. I just thought I'd let you know how it turned out.

                    Steve

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

                      Steve

                      Enjoy your nice new fan. It may pay off what it cost you in energy savings over the next few years as Hunter fans move more air at slower speeds. Be sure to check the blade balance. It should run nice and smooth at all speeds. Also, read the instructions carefully about filling and adding/changing motor oil. With good care it should run nice for many years.

                      By the way my thinking about changing the AFCI breaker with another, was that it's pretty easy to do if you have another in the breaker panel. I was thinking about the old P I T A factor. If the other one tripped with no circuit changes, then disconnect the fan and see what happened. My bet is that the old fan either had some leakage to ground or most likely the switch arced.
                      Last edited by Woussko; 05-18-2008, 05:46 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

                        i'm no electrician

                        but is an arc fault breaker suppose to be on a ceiling fan?

                        i thought they were required for wall outlets in bedrooms where the cord could get pinched

                        i come across sump pump on gfci breakers and those are no good.

                        they will trip with any little leakage to ground. thus making the pump useless.

                        check the code on the required location for arc fault breakers. yo might find the original installation is wrong.

                        then again i might need to stick with plumbing only

                        rick.
                        phoebe it is

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Arc Fault Circuit Problem

                          Originally posted by PLUMBER RICK View Post
                          i'm no electrician

                          but is an arc fault breaker suppose to be on a ceiling fan?

                          i thought they were required for wall outlets in bedrooms where the cord could get pinched

                          I think the fan is most likely on the same breaker as other outlets that do require it.

                          Comment

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