Furnace keeps tripping breaker

Discussion in 'HVAC' started by Raindem, Dec 28, 2017.

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  1. Dec 28, 2017 #1

    Raindem

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    Hi. I have an Arcoaire electric furnace, model no. MF20N2600A. It runs for about a minute, maybe less, and then trips the breaker. The unit itself has a 50a breaker. Then it runs to a box on the wall with a 40a breaker. At the main fuse panel it is controlled by a 100a breaker. It is the 100a at the main panel that is tripping.

    I thought it was odd that the 100a trips but the others don't. So maybe the breaker was bad. I replaced it with a spare 50a that I had lying around and it still trips at the main fuse panel.

    Are there any things a DIYer with a multimeter can troubleshoot here, or is it time to call an HVAC repairman?

    Thanks

    Curt

    Edit: Forgot to mention that I've already changed the filter.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2017
  2. Dec 28, 2017 #2

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    So the 40 and 50 amp breakers are not tripping. there must be other breakers. so total draw of all of them is more than 100 but non are overloaded. Try turning other breakers off.
     
  3. Dec 28, 2017 #3

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    Go with this /\
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2017
  4. Dec 28, 2017 #4

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    It is the breaker at the fuse panel that is tripping. When I reset it the furnace will briefly run and trip it again after a minute.
     
  5. Dec 28, 2017 #5

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    At this point no one knows if the 100a is bad or the 50A is bad or good or it is something else.
    I'd replace the 100a with a similar unit (but I don't like guessing) or buy/borrow a clampon ammeter for some logical troubleshooting.
    What is the nameplate current draw for your unit?
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2017
  6. Dec 28, 2017 #6

    Sparky617

    Sparky617

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    Replacing a 100A with a 50A will definitely trip unless your total load is below 50A. I suspect your 100A breaker is bad, it happens, they can become weak over time. If it just started doing this that would be my educated guess. Your electric furnace is probably the largest load in your house.

    Are you running an electric range, water heater, and a dryer at the same time? Those would be your other high load appliances. Do they all go through the 100A main breaker? At my house the HVAC units and electric stove outlet have breakers in the main panel below my electric meter outside. The sub-panel for everything else is in the garage and runs off of a 100A breaker under the meter.
     
  7. Dec 28, 2017 #7

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    With the Arcoaire off, along with a clock you can use your electric meter as an ammeter and see what current is being drawn.

    Your PoCo can supply you with the method, there's some number stamped on the meter that provides the conversion.

    100A @ 240V gives 24 kw for an hour (24 kwh) and 0.4 kwh in one minute.
     
  8. Dec 29, 2017 #8

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    Thanks for the follow up responses. I thought the 50a breaker would be OK temporarily because the other breakers in the circuit were equal or less. I guess I just proved I'm not an electrician.

    I think what makes sense at this point is to get an exact replacement for the 100a as someone suggested. And then go from there.

    I should point out that this is a small furnace in my workshop, not in the main home. There was nothing else running at the time.
     
  9. Dec 29, 2017 #9

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    Is there anything else taking power from that 100 amp breaker?
     
  10. Dec 29, 2017 #10

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    Not that I know of. The fuse panel was mis-labeled and had that breaker as going to a 220V outlet. But I got that sorted out. With the 100a turned off everything else in the shop appears to still be working.
     
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  11. Dec 30, 2017 #11

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    A bad connection from panel to CB can heat a breaker and cause it to trip.
    Unfortunately, there is no easy way to trace this with a VOM because the points you'd have to probe are inaccessible.

    This symptom doesn't make sense, even if you look up the trip curves for the breakers and try to find some fault that snakes past the 50A & the 40A trip curves and opens the 100A, unless there is a steady high-current draw below 100A, as was suggested.
    Using this generic curve
    http://static.schneider-electric.us...100-400 A Frame FA-LA/FA-FC-FH/0600DB0105.pdf
    for a 1 minute trip time for a 100A breaker you'd be pulling 150 to 250A. This is like the draw for a whole house.

    When you make something out of wood, you measure as closely as possible because the accuracy can only degrade from there.
    With electrical projects, the voltage & current are invisible, so it is the certainty as to the root cause that gets worse as you get in deeper, and so measuring the current with a known good meter is a good start.
    Otherwise you start off with guesses and more guesses are stacked on top of this initial uncertainty.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  12. Jan 2, 2018 #12

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    Just a quick update. I replaced the 100a breaker and ran it for about 20 minutes with no problem. Will keep my fingers crossed. Thanks for all the help.

    Curt
     
  13. Jan 2, 2018 #13

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    So it seems the old 100A breaker was tripping at less than 40A, either due to an internal problem or a loose connection to the panel.
    And the 50A CB that you used temporarily was tripping at less than 40A.
    It now seems very likely, but not certain, that both of them are bad.
     
  14. Jan 2, 2018 #14

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    If the breaker is there to protect the wire. Why is it the wire is the last thing that is looked at when a breaker wants to trip all the time.
     
  15. Jan 3, 2018 #15

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    Because it is the hardest to get to.
     
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  16. Jan 3, 2018 #16

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    The 100 could be faster acting than the others. Have you checked for a short in the element. Have you turned off all the breakers and checked continuity between power and ground to see if there is a short in the wire.
     
  17. Jan 3, 2018 #17

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    The trip curves tell this, if you can find the ones for your breakers.
     
  18. Jan 3, 2018 #18

    Raindem

    Raindem

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    I haven't done any of those other tests yet. I was planning to when I started this thread.

    I'm pretty sure the 100a was in fact bad. After a couple days of trying to initially troubleshoot the problem the breaker could not even be flipped back into the "ON" position. It doesn't mean there might not be other problems in the system. But if this fixes it then great.
     
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  19. Jan 3, 2018 #19

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    What sometimes happens is that the problem returns after a few months. The new breaker can then still be good or will have mysteriously failed.

    Anyway, luck is with you for the present.
     

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