6
  • 4 different electrical companies have inspected my apartment

  • none have solved this issue

edit (2019 july 31, details added 2019 november 05):

  • the 5th electrician finally fixed it

  • all of the gfci outlets were old/faulty

  • and so, he replaced them with new ones

  • this solution was largely a result of the info y'all gave me

  • so thanks

Here's a text summary

  • all bed room #1 outlets were replaced with brand new ones
  • all bed room #1 switches were replaced with brand new ones
  • the apt circuit breaker was replaced with a brand new one
  • the circuit breaker handles 15 amps
  • and my max amp usage is 1.5

Bathroom

  • the bathroom breaker used to trip every 2 to 8 days
  • if the the bathroom switch was rapidly turned on and off, then this would trip the breaker
  • there were 3 outlets in the living room that would trip the bathroom breaker when an appliance was plugged into them
  • after several weeks, 1 time after tripping, the switch changed on from the up position to the down position
  • after this happened, music would play whenever it was turned on
  • after several more weeks, 1 time after tripping, the switch changed back on from the down position to the up position
  • the 4th electrician removed the switch from the gfi outlet
  • now, the bathroom switch is on in the down position again
  • but music doesn't play anymore
  • all the bathroom and living room problems were fixed by this 4th electrician's work
  • however, the bed room problems still remain

Bedroom

  • the bed room breaker also trips every 2 to 8 days
  • after tripping, if it's immediately turned back on, then ~10% of the time, it'll trip again within 30 minutes
  • i only upload files on my laptop ~1% of the time that i use my laptop
  • yet, ~10% of the bed room breaker trips occur during an upload
  • i've not noticed any other laptop activities that increase the chance of the breaker tripping
  • (even rendering 4k videos or complex math operations with python doesn't increase the chances of the breaker tripping)
  • there's no functional switch in my bed room

edit: my response to harper:

1: breaker

enter image description here

enter image description here

2: bed room light

enter image description here

  • the bed room lights are cfl, 5500 k

3: bath room light

  • the sink bathroom lights have an ac-7a, 50/60 hertz requirement

4: “Do they tend to get notably brighter and dimmer as other loads switch on/off?”

  • no

5: “Get a gadget called a "Kill-A-Watt"”

  • ok, but it'll take a few days to arrive

6: “Hit a library and browse their section on "electrical how-to books"”

  • ok, but it'll probably take me a week to find and finish reading 1

7: “You will NOT do any repairs in this apartment.”

  • ok

8: “Turn all the breakers on and all the light switches off. Plug something (doesn't matter) into every single socket (try both sockets in the double sockets). Are any of them dead? If they are, try turning light switches on. Do they come back?”

  • there's 1 outlet in the bed room that only works when a particular switch is on

  • there's also 1 outlet in the living room that only works when a particular switch is on

9: “Find every GFCI receptacle or deadfront in the place. For each one, hit "TEST". Search to see if any other receptacles, lights or devices lose power. Then hit "Reset". Don't bother with GFCI breakers.”

  • yes, a lot

edit: my response to sunnyskyguy ee75

1: i added the breaker pics above

2: here's the map, but i can't get into my roomie's bed room and bath room

enter image description here

3: “Crosstalk on upper floor music from switch events can be EMI related to contact arc noise triggering something.”

  • i suspected that my apt has em congestion
  • as an example, my phone can't get reception here without the internet
  • as another example, my bluetooth devices that have a 50+ foot range only work around 15 ft
  • i've been in ~10 different apartments in my adult life
  • and i've never experienced such poor bluetooth connection before
  • i told the apt managers this too
  • but idk if they could do anything about it or not

edit: my 2nd response to harper:

  • i did all the tests that you mentioned
  • i found no outlets that went to multiple breaker panels
  • however, the breaker had many mislabeled panels
  • also, i found that both “fau” and “a/c” affected the a/c

  • all appliances trip all gfci outlets

  • also, both of the kitchen gfci outlets trip themselves every 2 or few days, even with nothing plugged in

edit (2019 july 30):

  • btw, i updated the map

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  • Are you trying to run an entire apartment on one breaker? Does another apartment share this breaker? – analogsystemsrf Jul 4 at 4:45
  • 2
    Two items: 1) need more detail and check your assumptions please. What circuits is this breaker running? Is it just the bathroom or the whole apartment? Even if it's just the bathroom it's hard to believe that your "max amp usage is 1.5" -- that is three modest light bulbs presuming you are in the US (120VAC). 2) ...but based on what you do have there it sounds like your wiring is fouled up. I've dealt with this and you have my sympathy. You need to have a competent electrician come and and confirm that all circuits are hooked up where they are supposed to be. – Mr. Snrub Jul 4 at 5:28
  • 1
    @abcjme don't "seem" to... How do you know? Have you logged what operates when? Or is that your WAG? – Solar Mike Jul 4 at 7:30
  • 2
    Take a look at the switch that "flipped" between up=on and down=on. I suspect it is a 3-way switch. Which means there is another matching 3-way switch elsewhere in the circuit. Easy way to tell (usually) without taking it apart is to see if there is an embossed "ON" and/or "OFF" on the toggle - if not then it is likely 3-way. But since it sounds like you don't have any "real" 3-way circuits, that would point to more messed up wiring somewhere. The music points to someone else sharing your circuit, which could also explain unexpected overload trips. – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Jul 4 at 15:08
  • 2
    The main thing is, you are aiming the camera in the wrong direction 100% of the time. You are hamming it up like a Youtube star, making your face the visual focus, and telling us stories about the things. That is useless. Be the cameraman. Show us the things. Aim the camera where your eyes are looking, always. That's why you should use the back camera instead of the selfie potato. We will never see your face and that's fine for this. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 5 at 2:55
10

This problem requires some iteration. That's why it's all on you - you're the only one who's around enough to bear with the needed testing. But your technique so far has been ineffective.

Focus on this particular data collection:

  • Shoot a clear photo of the service panel, and its label, and the studio lights.
  • Do they tend to get notably brighter and dimmer as other loads switch on/off?
  • Get a gadget called a "Kill-A-Watt" that measures actual power draw on an appliance, and reports volts, amps, watts and VA. The $20 one will be fine, you need to see the changing numbers "live", so the one that lets you see them after you unplug is not useful. Don't go crazy with this thing.
  • Hit a library and browse their section on "electrical how-to books". They're in nonfiction/621.31. Browse a few and find one that has a good vibe. You're there to learn theory.
  • You will NOT do any repairs in this apartment. It's illegal, and will make you responsible for ALL the wiring problems, even pre-existing ones (how does the landlord know you didn't cause them?) Do not do it. I don't touch anything in my apartment, so you can control yourself. This spring I fixed a huge problem, simply by gathering data competently, knowing who to tell, and what to tell them.
  • Turn all the breakers on and all the light switches off. Plug something (doesn't matter) into every single socket (try both sockets in the double sockets). Are any of them dead? If they are, try turning light switches on. Do they turn on? If so, mark them "switched" with a sticker.
  • Find every GFCI receptacle or deadfront in the place. For each one, hit "TEST". Search to see if any other receptacles, lights or devices lose power. Then hit "Reset". Don't bother with GFCI breakers.



EDIT: OK. That thing you shot a picture of is your breaker panel. It's perfectly clear this is a normal and modern breaker panel, nothing wrong with it, you're just not familiar with the tech. Now, I prefer cutesy names like "Thor" and "Hawkeye", but I see your panel already has unique names for each breaker... just change the two KIT-GFI ones to KIT-GFI1 and KIT-GFI2.

Now it's time to map all the outlets in your house.

Very similar to what Sunnyskyguy is proposing, except I want you to also mark the outlets using stickers. Why? You'll see. An outlet is anything that takes electricity, so this includes your dishwasher, switched lights, A/C unit, all of it.

  • Turn all your light switches on. Get something small that you can easily plug into any socket without drama (so not those lights that trip the GFCI). I like dollar-store nightlights for this.
  • Save your computer files.
  • Turn off every breaker in the panel. Every one. Do this in broad daylight - it will get dark!
  • Turn on the large "A/C" breaker in lower right. Now go around and check every outlet to see if it has power. If any do turn on, put a sticker on them marked "A/C" then turn it off. If anything besides the A/C turns on, that would be really weird.
  • Turn on the "REFRI(gerator)" breaker. Go around and check every outlet to see if anything has power. If something besides the refrigerator turns on, sticker it "REFRI". I'm not too worried about it if that happens.
  • Now turn on both A/C and REFRI and leave them on through all of this. That keeps your house cool and food unspoiled.
  • Next, turn on "SD-LTS", and check every outlet. Sticker anything that works "SD-LTS". . (except the fridge and A/C of course). Then, turn it off again.
  • If you find you just can't work without the light, then you can turn SD-LTS back on, but try to keep it off for the rest of this.
  • Do the same thing with each and every circuit. Turn it on, check every outlet, turn it off. Only 3 circuits should be on: A/C, REFRI, and the one you are testing. (and possibly SD-LTS). Note that BED breakers are full-width and GD/DW is a double breaker that throws together. Don't worry about that.
  • If you already put a sticker on an outlet, still check it every time.
  • When you've done them all, turn them all back on.

Now if all this went right, every outlet will have exactly one sticker. If it has 2 stickers, then fact-check that! Turn everything off again, and test that outlet with only that breaker on, and only the other breaker on. If 2 breakers can turn it on, that is a very important fact, and the electrician needs to be told.

Let's chase the music/stolen power

By law, on a newer installation like this, these breakers must feed only your apartment. However from the "music" you reported earlier, it might be feeding another apartment. Now you know what each circuit breaker does, I want you keep breakers turned off, except when you actually need what's on them. The goal here is to get the neighbor to report a power outage, and have the electrician come and fix it (so it's on their power instead of yours).

This is bad because a) you're paying for it, b) If they overload the power, your breaker trips and that's making it hard to understand your electrical... and c) once they figure out they're getting free power, they'll exploit it at your expense.

If you get a knock on the door and the electrician wants to turn the circuit on, fine, let him troubleshoot. But turn it off that evening (unless you need it).



Edit 3

Glad to hear you don't have any double-fed circuits. That can cause a lot of problems and you can now exclude it for good. This whole exercise is giving us a lot more confidence in the wiring, which doesn't sound so bad.

The A/C requiring 2 circuits is normal, I probably should've warned you of that :) The 120V circuit provides fan and 24V furnace and thermostat controls: the devices that call for A/C. The large 240V circuit runs the A/C compressor proper.

The mismarked circuits you exchanged are amusing. Given their destinations (right next to each other) and locations in the panel, I would expect they are multi-wire branch circuits. I won't discuss those any further because they are a Big Bag of Not Your Problem; the important thing is they appear to be correct, and that reasonably explains the mis-marking, and it's a trivial problem. If a problem were present here, then running microwave or dryer would trip the GFCI instantly, everytime.

All appliances tripping all GFCIs can only mean one of two things: a) all the circuits have wiring problems or defective GFCIs; or b) all the appliances are broken. Both of those are highly improbable. I would take the appliances to a friend's house or your workplace and try them there. If they pass there, I for one don't believe in failed GFCIs, so that suggests some sort of persistent wiring problem in triple failure. That was considered highly improbable until Eastern Airlines Flight 855 nearly did a splash landing because all three oil-pan magnets were installed without the required O-rings... And now airplanes have ETOPS stenciled on them to forbid the same mechanic to work on both engines...

As for your bedroom AFCI trips, we still need to know if this is an overload from too much current, or an arc-fault trip from an appliance arcing. Trip it with the TEST button (it will kill power, obviously) and the LEDs should display as they will for an arc-fault trip. Get a Kill-a-Watt and measure the current draw of each appliance on the circuit, and total up the Amps, and see if the total exceeds the breaker rating. That is how an overload trip will occur.

If it's not an overload trip, look at arc-fault tripping, try feeding appliances from an outlet in the other bedroom and see if the AFCI trips move to the other bedroom. If they do, it's an appliance that you moved. Keep in mind extension cords dull the sensitivity of ACFI detectors, so the problem might go away altogether. An arc fault in an appliance is a bad thing, and will start fires. An arc-fault inside the wall junction boxes will also have this effect, but they just changed your receptacles so that seems highly improbable.

As Sherlock Holmes says, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.



SOLUTION: GFCI receptacles tripping

Normally, power is supposed to flow from one prong, through the device to do useful work, then to the other prong. If power leaks out of that loop, it can go a third way - including through you. That's called a ground fault and a GFCI has one job - detect that.

In your latest video, you showed where you plugged a device into a GFCI, and it tripped. Working as intended. When you plug in an appliance and it trips a GFCI, that's a problem that got caught before it killed someone.

Your apartment has at least 3 GFCIs - 2 for kitchen countertops, and 1 for bathrooms. When an appliance trips a GFCI, plug it into every other GFCI in the house. If it trips them all, then the appliance is bad. Into the trash it goes. Seriously. Lots of people get into total denial at this point, but don't bother.

Now, what if the GFCI trips with many devices but only in certain receptacles? That is a bad receptacle. It's likely the metal screws are hitting the side of the metal junction box or the ground wire. The electrician can fix that by wrapping it with electrical tape. Or it's broken.

What if plugging into a normal receptacle trips a GFCI? That is normal, 1 GFCI device can protect many receptacles.

What if GFCI trips are random and intermittent? Trip the GFCI. You know how to map which receptacles are on that GFCI. Unplug everything on those receptacles. One at a time, move them onto a different GFCI circuit and let them live there for a week or two. If the problem moves, it's the device. Remember your kitchen has two GFCIs.

SOLUTION: AFCI breakers

The two bedroom breakers are a special type called a AFCI. Like a GFCI, it trips for certain faults. Unlike a GFCI, it's looking for a totally different fault: arc faults - or specifically, wires arcing either from a loose connection or a short. This starts house fires. It's in bedrooms because it happens a lot in electric blankets.

Because AFCIs are built into circuit breakers, you must look closely to see if the breaker has tripped from an overload, or from an arc-fault. These are different problems. If it tripped from an arc fault, look closely at any devices involved. Try them in the other bedroom and see if the problem moves.

Solution: Plug lamps into those switched outlets

You identified some light switches that switch receptacles. That is a normal, modern construction technique, and it's done because it's cheaper than wiring ceiling lights. You are supposed to plug a desk or floor lamp into that receptacle.

In fact, the building code requires switches in the usual/expected locations.

Once you do that, those "useless switches" will make sense.

I know you don't need it, but it's not for you. It's for guests, meaning First Responders. So the fireman can "clear the room", the EMT can work, or the cop can see you're holding a computer mouse and not a gun.

  • · ok, i edited my post – abcjme Jul 5 at 0:31
  • · i have to wait until my roomie is at work · but i'll get to this soon· in the mean time, i added a pic of my apt mapping – abcjme Jul 7 at 16:15
  • · ok, i did all these tests · and i edited my post to add the details – abcjme Jul 11 at 7:47
2

wow What a PITA. It reminds me of the amateurs who a previous homeowner hired to install 100 ceiling pot lights in the attic, that caused similar problems for me and even mis#wired Neutral ,Hot and Earth Ground all swapped. Hot and neutral for stair lights and Neutral and box ground intended for earth ground.

There are flakey connections from cascaded wiring that can be caused by an increase in current to shut power off downstream to another room.

The most common is aluminum wiring and wire insertion crimp type connections commonly used in receptacles and switches. The other cause is oxidized connections that are not screwed tight enough to seal out the air gap that can create oxide (copper or aluminum rust) which is an insulator. These are notorious causes for bad connections that can be broken or connected by rapid surging.


edit July3 11:35:

The inverted toggle switch should paired with another switch to the same light. These are like two XOR gates in software ( which I think you will understand better.) Either SPDT switch can toggle the state of power to the lights between these switches for ease of access on either side of a room. On or OFF.


  1. 1st step identify all the switches and outlets for each breaker with a small label that corresponds to a breaker number. or make a map. if you have enough lights to test a bunch at a time , turn off each switch one at a time to map all your outlets. Include location of Breaker Panel and breaker ratings for each number.
  2. Then add labels to functions on a thin label for each breaker in panel. (Dryer, Bathrm, BR, Kit, or whatever makes sense) Each breaker can feed several outlets to each wall in each room, so if too much just say BR+Zone1, Kit+Zone2 which is indexed on your scaled-apartment map enter image description here

These “daisy-chained” connections which you call crosswired can cause down or upstream on poor connections at each outlet switch or ceiling light. (If oxidized or,poorly torqued Screw connections over a 1-turn loop clockwise under a screw-head. How it is wired depends on who installed it. Power enters the switch and goes to a lower of twin outlets for lamp,control or goes into ceiling fixture then sends out a pair to the wall switch to control.

  1. then get back to us with the map and any correlation with your events (crosswire = daisy-chain)

Make your Map like this enter image description here With this a good electrician can connect the dots and guess how it is wired in series.

  1. Crosstalk on upper floor music from switch events can be EMI related to contact arc noise triggering something. I had a bathroom fan timer with bad contact bounce that causes the inductive spike voltages inside to create an LED flicker in the other room. (harmless and can be fixed with an RF cap if necessary) Motors are inductive and prone to creating EMI (electromagnetic interference) spike noise when turned off. like a weak lightning stroke 100 miles away on an Am radio.

Upload on wifi is likely coincidental but possible with standing waves and again oxidized contacts, so that they essentially become “very poor semiconductor like contacts” can arc close or oxidize open but ignore this one for now.

Good luck.

Worst case:

  • All the suspect electrical outlets/switches need to be inspected, diagnosed for repair or replaced

    • you can safely remove dust cover to see is wires are side-screw type or not with flakey wire-in-hole insertion-crimp-contact type.) (can make wire break easy if bent/exposed shank and intermittent contacts from in-elastic sharp metal contacts.)
  • Possible poor quality components or installation

  • all need to be replaced

    • I had 1 outlet in kitchen counter after previous owner sub-contract upgrade where it affected Dining room pot light dimmer power intermittently. This was due to a daisy chain of power and bad wire insertion crimp connection in the hole. Using the more reliable wire screw option fixed that ( hole option is used by lazy electricians with poor contacts, if not friction tight and/or wire cut to the proper length and or rotated slightly to check.)
  • · i super appreciate the detail · i'll get on this and update with details when i can – abcjme Jul 4 at 7:41
  • I understand Russ , but I am pretty certain about that – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jul 4 at 7:49
  • OP's service panel already is fully labeled. You can see it in the video. Of course he doesn't focus on it. Hence my request for photos of it. Also keep in mind OP is a tenant, he cannot actually do any work in the unit. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 4 at 23:10
  • @SunnyskyguyEE75 · ok, i edited my post – abcjme Jul 5 at 0:31
  • @Harper the label is insufficient without a Map of all daisy-chained outlets, and fixtures, as I explained is the key to finding inter-dependencies with potential failure modes that only appear in my answer. of course contact arcing can explain the loss of BT and WiFi range which one can hear with an AM radio if it exists. – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jul 5 at 11:08

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