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What Happened Here? Multiple Outlets Tripping

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Brilliant electrical minds of Planet Christmas:


Could someone please tell me why in the world could I trip a breaker labeled "basement" while blow drying my hair in my bathroom that is run off of a completely different breaker?


This is what happened:


I was blow drying my hair, in my bathroom, blow dryer stopped.  Outlet has no power. Added "trash old bathroom outlet and install new one" to my to-do list again (I've been meaning to do that). Lights are on, just outlet messed up.  I figured I'd just go downstairs and flip the switch back "if" it tripped.  But if it tripped, why would the bathroom lights be on?  Made no sense to me.


I opened the basement door, flipped the switch, no lights.  I mumble random things under my breath and headed to the kitchen for a flashlight. Passed by the living room window...all of the outside Christmas lights are off.  I didn't just mumble colorful words this time around - picture Clark Griswold losing it here and going into immediate full blown panic mode.


Grab the flash light and head downstairs - bathroom breaker fine.  Breaker labeled "basement" on main panel tripped.  What? How? UGH! Really?  I have been so overly cautious this year about the wattage from the lights outside that there is no way I overloaded anything.  I have lights running off of 3 separate 15A breakers and my blow dryer is not running off of either of those 3.  


I have 2 panels - the breaker that tripped is on my main panel.  I tracked the lines from the outlets in my basement to the subpanel that runs 2 of the breakers that are running my Christmas lights.  The 3rd breaker (on main panel) is for the outlet my back deck that I have lights running off of as well.  Each 15A breaker is supporting 860ish watts each so I just don't get why my bathroom outlet caused my basement and back deck outlets to trip - but those breakers weren't shut off at all.



Would this be a GFCI issue and a mis-labeling issue on the panel?


I'm practically slamming my head against the wall with this one.  I flipped the switch and everything is fine and back to normal again, I am just very confused on how this could happen. 

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2 things, and both are possible, If someone states BS, then by all means explain my lack of understanding as there are better Electricians than myself.


1.is is possible your subpanel is running on the breakers off the main. I have my power for my sub panel (4 15 amp breakers) connected to 2 30amp breakers If I remember right in the main panel.Could this be the issue where the sub is connected to same as basement or atleast part of the panel?

2. Is the GFI connected all the grounds to an older panel where if there is a short in the plug, then the power routes through the black and green instead of black and white? If this is the case logically you could be routing power to the basement via a short.. Not sure if I am explaining myself correctly but given that its new plug is power possibly bleeding over into the white/green and the basement is close to max already, the extra power from the short is enough to send the breaker over the edge? Hoping I make sense here.. If not, I yield to a true electrician (many are hiding here in the forums, when the elves let them out to play.. )

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My two cents:


Cent 1: The bathroom breaker is a GFCI and quite possibly feeds outdoor receptacles (a common wiring method in some homes). A hair dryer is a high-wattage appliance (maybe 1400W) and will easily use most of the capacity of a branch circuit, so it wouldn't surprise me see that cause a trip.


Cent 2: how confident are you that the breaker panel is labeled correctly? Things get changed/expanded over the years and sometimes the labels aren't always updated. When I added a subpanel to my house few years ago, I had to do a lot of rearranging of circuits in my main panel and the original labels are now meaningless (I've taped a new circuit map to the inside of the panel doors).


A GFCI receptacle only guards against ground faults, not current overloads. The circuit breaker guards against current overloads. If you tripped the breaker, but your GFCI buttons didn't pop out, that means an overload. If it's the other way around (GFCI tripped but the breaker is still on), then you have a ground fault.


If the only thing you needed to do to restore power everywhere was flipping a single breaker back on, then I suspect your hair dryer overloaded the circuit and that your breaker panel is probably mislabeled.

Edited by CLashley
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1 - yes, the sub is run off of a 2 pole 60A from main panel.


2 - one glass of wine and I think I'll totally get you!  Btw, I am electrically stupid :D so it may take me a few thorough readings to completely get it.  haha


CLashley -


it's a 1875 watt dryer. Busting out the big guns on this mane.  I've tripped every bathroom breaker in every house and apartment I've lived in with my dryers...except this one.  This was a first.  Probably why I am completely shocked.


Definitely NOT confident that the labeling is correct - except with the washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc.  I think when it was labeled, the guy just pulled numbers out of a hat and names of rooms out of another hat.  


Yes, after I reset the breaker, everything came back to life like Frankenstein.


One major problem I have, I do not have any specified GFCI outlets.  No buttons on anything, but my contractor father-in-law says that I need to replace some of the outlets with the standard GFCI ones.  Why I don't have them, I don't know.  I'm the 2nd owner and I bought this house from the builder/owner.  You'd think he'd have the proper outlets installed.  

Edited by Eggbah
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One major problem I have, I do not have any specified GFCI outlets.  No buttons on anything, but my contractor father-in-law says that I need to replace some of the outlets with the standard GFCI ones.  Why I don't have them, I don't know.  I'm the 2nd owner and I bought this house from the builder/owner.  You'd think he'd have the proper outlets installed.  


Is your bathroom receptacle GFCI? If it is, but the outdoor ones are not, I'll bet money that your outdoor outlet is daisy-chained to that bathroom receptacle. This was a common wiring method a few years to save on the cost of GFCI receptacles. A quick way to test this theory would be be push the "test" button on that bathroom receptacle. The reset button should pop-out, and any outlets connected downstream of that receptacle should go dead. If this test kills your outdoor outlets, that's a big clue in how your home is wired.


Of course, if the test button doesn't do anything, you need to replace that GFCI. They do eventually wear out, and if you are using a laser-powered nuclear-reactor hairdryer, you definitely need good GFCI protection in your bathroom. :)

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Just a standard outlet in the bathroom.  I think it is time to replace with a real GFCI outlet.  Probably for the best...especially in the bathroom!  


After looking at all of the electrical stuff in this house and the fact that some idiot put the HVAC pipe things (yeah, I am not up on my terminology) across the space in the right side of my garage right where a garage door opener should go, and few other things makes me want to sell.


So...on that note... 3/2 on one full acre, partially wooded lot with lots wildlife, walking distance to the lake, storm room in basement, real walnut floors throughout, 3x5 custom shower with river pebble floor.  Contact me if interested.  Just kidding, for now.


Sad thing is, I don't think my 1875 watt dryer is powerful enough.  


I just added 828 watts of lights on my house this week and if they are daisy chained, I guess that would definitely trigger the problems I had tonight with the lights.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well i have the same problem with my display. I am going to have dedicated breakers installed this year, but for example the master bath is wired to the back porch, and the garage is wired to a outlet in the living room. Sometimes houses are wired weird.

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