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A non-AFCI/non-GFCI circuit breaker tripped while I was away for a week. Connected were a full size residential in the U.S. (18 year old) refrigerator, 2 powered off computers, and 1 powered on computer.

I attempted to reset the breaker and it immediately tripped again. I could see a small spark in the breaker panel when I tried the reset.

I then unplugged the refrigerator and the 2 powered off computers (I didn't realize the 3rd computer was on this circuit) and reset the breaker again. It held this time.

My refrigerator and 2 previously powered off computers now work fine. The power supply on the previously running computer no longer functions.

I haven't previously seen a computer power supply on an idling computer trip a 20 amp circuit breaker. Besides loading my refrigerator with food and waiting for this circuit to trip again, is there anything else I can do to check the computers and refrigerator? I already pulled the outlet covers and things look ok.

Refrigerator: Whirlpool ED25TEXHW00 Computer that was powered on: 600 watt power supply but probably only drawing 100 watts while I was away

Additional: The 2 computers that survived were on a surge suppressor power strip. The 1 that died was not. The house is on a whole house surge suppressor.

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If the non working computer powersupply has a surge suppressor remove that and double check it may be the suppressor that is causing the problem. Suppressors use MOV's these dump the spikes to ground some times when a big spike hits they are damaged to the point of failure and even burn up sometimes causing problems like you have described.

  • There wasn’t a surge suppressor on the now dead computer. It was a “temporary” setup. I replaced its power supply and it is running again. My primary concerns are whether I can be confident that was the cause or result of an unidentified issue and are things safe. – thatguy Jan 1 '18 at 13:13
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    Since you had a failed component the power supply it was probably the cause. Note some power supplies have surge suppression built in. I would not be concerned since you have overcurent protection (breakers) these protect the wiring and there is a safety factor built in. – Ed Beal Jan 1 '18 at 13:17
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    I would also suggest you get an appropriate size UPS for your computers. Having them connected to the same circuit as the refrigerator where a compressor is going on and off could be damaging your power supplies. A UPS will stop all surges, spikes and sags giving you cleaner power to your computers. – Retired Master Electrician Jan 1 '18 at 15:38

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