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I turned off all the breakers of my home to work on my electric. When it was time to turn the circuit breakers back on, 3 of them wouldn't: the one for the dishwasher, the one for the dryer and one that says "Kitchen GFI".

The breakers are NOT tripped. I tried forcing them to an "Off" position but they were already off (I turned them off myself). They feel kind of "loose" when I try turning them back on, but they immediately go back to the off position.

I unplugged my dryer, dishwasher and some other small appliances from my kitchen. It didn't help. I tried resetting some GFCI outlets around the house. Nothing.

I called an electrician and he believes the circuit breakers went bad. My home is 12 years old.

Does that sound about right? Why would this happen only when I manually turned the breakers off?

Panel

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    SWD means the breakers are tough enough to be used as switches e.g. For banks of lights in a warehouse where they'll be thrown everyday. Today Code requires all breakers be SWD. Gray box, black handles (BR)? Or tan box tan handles (CH)? Both are quality, CH moreso than BR. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 20 '18 at 0:10
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    it is possible that you have a short circuit – jsotola Nov 20 '18 at 1:11
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    Can you post a photo that shows the top of the panel? – ThreePhaseEel Nov 20 '18 at 3:54
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    That is the top of the panel. No more breakers above top most general lighting or disposal. – Phil Nov 20 '18 at 3:56
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    Try pushing them quite hard (dont use tools). CH are fine industrial grade breakers, but sometimes they can be quite stiff. If they are several times tougher to throw than other breakers, then the breakers may be bad, but 3 failures of CHs is a black swan. Buy a lottery ticket! – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 20 '18 at 7:02
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The electricians came over.

The guy pushed the breaker into the wall and switched it towards the on position. That did it.

I guess the breakers weren't exactly 100% bad yet, but the springs inside are not the same as they used to be, so this trick worked.

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Occam's razor says that "to work on my electric" is more likely the cause than "breakers went bad". Do breakers go bad? Absolutely. Does it happen often, compared to other causes? No.

What electric work did you do recently? Check each part of it very carefully. If, for example, you did any work on a junction box that has switches controlling multiple circuits, it is possible that you accidentally crossed wires between circuits, causing a problem. Or you may have mixed up a hot with a switched hot or some other combination.

In this particular case, I would suspect something between the dishwasher circuit and Kitchen GFI, since those are both in the kitchen. That does leave the question of the dryer circuit since that (a) is a bigger circuit (typically 30 Amps instead of 15 or 20) and (b) is 240V instead of 120V.

But check everything you did - and if need be take pictures and then carefully disconnect any new switches, outlets, etc. and I have a feeling you will find an accidental miswire that is causing a short circuit (or 2 or 3).

  • Honestly it was super easy and straight forward work. I just installed a new thermostat upstairs, far away from the kitchen. I didn't know which breaker would turn the electricity off upstairs so turned everything off just in case. – Phil Nov 19 '18 at 23:15
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    That's really strange. Thermostats typically use 24V AC from a transformer and you usually don't even need to turn off any breakers to work on them safely. So that makes me wonder if in your case it really is a set of bad breakers. If you have a main breaker that cuts off everything then you may want to use that and then pull and replace (possibly swapping with other identical breakers (same current rating, same features)) to see if the problem is with the breakers or with the circuits. – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Nov 19 '18 at 23:19
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Switch off the main breaker and see if the branch circuit breakers will reset.

  • I don't seem to have a main breaker. Is that common by the way? – Phil Nov 20 '18 at 0:11
  • You will have a main breaker. It may be outside on the other side of the wall under the meter. If you have a "split bus panel" one of the 2-pole breakers at the top will be the main breaker for all the breakers in the section below. – Jim Stewart Nov 20 '18 at 0:32
  • I just updated the post to include a photo of my electrical panel. – Phil Nov 20 '18 at 3:51

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