I tried searching for an answer but couldn't come up with what I was looking for, so sorry if this has been asked before!

My wife and I recently moved into a new place which had been recently flipped. We are in a mother-in-law suite so it has definitely had some wiring added and that could be the issue if my question is not possible.

Everything worked great when we first moved in, we were there for about 4 months when we woke up one morning and the fridge was off. Reset the breaker and was off by the time we finished errands. Tried a different plug right next to it and that kept the fridge on.

The microwave is plugged into the same plug so we switched where it was plugged into (now where the fridge is) and it eventually starts popping the breaker. Whenever we needed to use the microwave I just ran an extension cord to the bathroom and left the fridge unplugged since we have an outside fridge (wanted to try and determine what the cause was, guessed the fridge was going bad at first).

Ever since I started using the bathroom plug for the microwave, my wife's hair dryer and sometimes straightener will pop the plug..

The breakers are all brand new Arc-Fault breakers, tried replacing it and that did not resolve anything.

The kitchen plugs all run on one 20 amp breaker, two plugs and one with GFCI. Nothing else runs on those plugs

The bathroom is a single plug with GFCI and is also on a 20 amp arc fault breaker, the bathroom lights also run on that breaker.

I am guessing the microwave is toasting the outlets which is causing possible arc faults? When the breaker is reset it shows the indicator for an arc fault. Currently I am trying out running the fridge on the third plug in the kitchen to see if it will stay on since the microwave has never been plugged into that. I did have the fridge plugged in to another plug in the house for an extended period and never had an issue which is why I am assuming microwave.

Is that even a possible situation?

Thanks in advanced!


Well, my experiment failed and the breaker popped.. Only after the fridge had gotten down to temp and was maintaining. The compressor went to kick on again and pop! Will be calling an electrician but advice would be helpful!

  • Item one: I'm leaning towards backstabs, loose connections, and even undersized wire. How old is the house? Any guess when the wiring was updated? Can you shut a breaker off and unscrew a suspect outlet then read the type of wire being used (written on the sheathing). Perhaps they used wrong size wire. Also, do you leave all of your lights on? Do you have candlebra lights? be sure the "only thing on the circuit turned on" is a microwave and a fridge. And the fridge is not running? Either way, it sounds like wrong wire, overheating, or bad connections overheating – noybman Feb 12 '18 at 5:00
  • You have some combo devices which are an overcurrent circuit breaker plus GFCI or AFCI detection. Read the manual for those devices. Do they provide a way to distinguish whether the trip was caused by overcurrent, GFCI or AFCI? It matters. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '18 at 21:41
  • If the microwave trips the breaker do any of the lights go out? I find what today should be multiple branch circuits all on 1 breaker quite often. Microwave plus several lights or as you have found a hair dryer is usually enough to trip a 20 amp breaker, any other lights on the circuit just bring the circuit(s) that much closer to tripping. – Ed Beal Feb 14 '18 at 16:02

Possible Causes for A.F.C.I. Breakers Tripping: 1.Overloaded -- electrical usage has begun to overheat circuit's wires. 2.Short Circuit -- high current resulting from a fault on the circuit. 3.Overheating Breakers -- poor contacts and/or connections at the breaker itself. 4.Arc-Fault -- sparks happening on the circuit or its outlets (lights, receptacles, switches etc.

My thought is that there might be a staple in the wiring between the plug and the breaker. The AFCI breaker is doing what it was intended to do. An electrician would be able to meg the wire to check for a failure in the insulation.

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I would say they didn"t use an electrician when they built the mother in law, you need dedicated circuits to the frig,the micro and the toaster,that means only one appliance to a recpt. also the hair dryer,they all draw high amps on startup and then some.

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  • were the gfci installed correctly? – FRANKIE C Feb 12 '18 at 0:35
  • Not sure if it is but was checking all of my bases before I call an electrician. The microwave will pop the breaker by itself, the fridge will pop the two plugs where the microwave used to be plugged in and the dryer will pop the breaker by itself since the microwave was used on that plug. The thing that gets me is it took 4 months for this to happen, wasn't an issue when we moved in. The fridge has been plugged into the third outlet that never had the microwave and has been running for about 2 hours without failing, unlike the other two plugs. – Nick Inman Feb 12 '18 at 0:56

My thinking is is possibly a problem at the breaker where it plugs onto the bus bar. If the electrical panel is an existing older panel say like i zinsco , this happens a lot. Also kitchens with wired with what they call a three wire circuit a lot times with the hot wire sharing a common neutral. If the two circuits are both on the same phase say , for example to a phases what you be phases sharing the same neutral a lot of heat can be created by this condition and causing the breaker to trip. Just a thought.

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  • I have not seen an AFCI breaker for a zinsco panel. The op did state the AFCI breaker was in the panel. For a multi wire branch circuit 2 2 hots on the same neutral if both were on the same leg it would not trip the breaker but the neutral would be overloaded. – Ed Beal Jan 7 '19 at 18:04

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