I was changing some old light switches at a friend's house. The breaker panel wasn't labeled, so I did the bad thing, I tripped the breaker by shorting a hot line to ground. The lights went out, and I swapped out the 3 light switches. But along the way I got a bit of a shock. Sure enough, my tester showed the wires were still live, just not live enough to power lights.

The question - does a tripped breaker still leak a bit, or is this a symptom of a bad breaker? Once I identified the breaker and flipped it on and off, I couldn't detect any leakage.

  • What make and model is the breaker in question? – ThreePhaseEel Feb 27 '17 at 1:31
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    Can't say, in hindsight, I'm glad I got out alive. And lesson learned. Lights out isn't enough to know there's no power in lines. And the outlets in room went out as well. That might be legal, but not how I'd wire a room, lights should have their own circuit. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Feb 27 '17 at 1:40
  • Did you get the shock while handling the neutral? When you broke the neutral wire, is that when other receptacles also went out? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '17 at 2:10
  • When I put a tester across hot/neutral, it showed line voltage. Yes that's what shocked me. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Feb 27 '17 at 2:12
  • There could be a second circuit in the same box this is quite common with multiwire branch circuits that are used to save on wire cost and reduce the total box fill. I would think the 2nd circuit would be the most likely since you did not get shocked when changing the other switches, and the lights went out. Meters will show phantom or induced voltage when there is no direct feed but running parallel to a live line. – Ed Beal Feb 27 '17 at 2:30

Circuit breakers generally do not leak at all. But the kind of surge you put on it could have caused the internals to melt together before it blew.

It could also be a breaker further up the line that didn't take it well.

It could even be the main breaker.

But if you have live voltage on the neutral then it is also likely that somewhere along the neutral connection the surge caused it to become disconnected. This could be at a wire nut. Or, perhaps it got hot enough to melt the wire and caused it to separate.

In a case like this I would call a qualified electrician to sort things out.

You could literally be playing with fire.

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