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My brand new home has all available outlets protected by dual purpose circuit breakers EXCEPT for my bathrooms which are protected only by Eaton 15 amp Type BR Combination AFCI breakers. My blender and vacuum (both are pretty high draw) work faultlessly when plugged into a bathroom outlet but I'm getting tired of using an extension cord. Using any other outlet trips a breaker (about 95% of the time) immediately when turning on the appliance. Is there some kind of "dampening" device that I can plug in between the vacuum and outlet to stop the tripping? On the rare occasion when the breaker doesn't trip when turning on the appliance, it runs fine so I am guessing it has something to do with the inrush current. Note that I have a dedicated 20 amp outlet protected by a Dual Purpose breaker but that works no better than the 15 amp breakers. Also, I assume, I would be breaking code by changing out a Dual Purpose breaker with Combination Breaker. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

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  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. If an answer is helpful, please click the large check mark next to it to accept. And, please take our tour so you'll know the details of contributing here. – Daniel Griscom Apr 1 '20 at 14:25
  • Not related to your question but are you saying your bathrooms are on 15A circuits? That would seem to be a violation of NEC 20.11. – NoSparksPlease Apr 1 '20 at 16:15
  • What type of breaker panel is it? Are all the breaker that same make? (for purpose of "same" consider Eaton = Cutler Hammer = BRyant). A photo of your panel (swingy door open, no need to remove deadfront) will help. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 1 '20 at 16:19
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    Sorry I did say 15amp AFCI. Wrong! I rechecked - it's a standard Eaton 20 amp BR120. No AFCI protection at all. – Andy Blaho Apr 1 '20 at 19:03
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I believe your dual function breakers (GFCI and AFCI protection) are thinking you have an arc fault, not a ground fault or excessive current. A "Combination Breaker" is one that provides series and parallel arc fault protection and not GFCI protection. Some people confuse "Combination" with GFCI and AFCI, but those are properly called "Dual Function", as you did.

Is the bathroom outlet AFCI protected? If not, you just ruled out over-current (inrush) and ground fault causing the trip, meaning the other breakers are thinking there is an arc fault.

Motors that have brushes are common causes of what you are experiencing. Unfortunately all this great new "protection" is interfering with day to day operation.

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  • Thank you. The bathrooms are AFCI (only) protected so, yes, I also had reached the conclusion that it's a GFCI problem. In my old house, plugging into a GFCI outlet caused no problems. The breakers must be more sensitive. – Andy Blaho Apr 1 '20 at 14:35
  • Sorry, just reread your answer. I too, thought it was an arc fault problem until I found that they work fine when plugged into the AFCI only protected breaker. It's only the dual purpose breakers causing a problem. I wonder if there is a less sensitive breaker available? – Andy Blaho Apr 1 '20 at 14:42
  • Please double check, Andy. bathroom outlets have been required to have GFCI for years. In some places, you have an AFCI breaker in the panel and a GFCI protected outlet. Depends upon when and where. Sorry if I wasn't clear...let me ask, is the breaker protecting the bathroom outlet a standard breaker or an AFCI breaker? And do you have GFCI outlets in the bathroom. I still suspect arc fault issues, rather than ground fault. – George Anderson Apr 1 '20 at 15:19
  • I feel like a dummy. I just rechecked my panel and found that the breaker for the bathrooms is a standard Eaton BR120, 20amp breaker with neither AFCI or GFCI protection. Which brings me full circle - it's gotta' be an arc fault problem. You are 100% correct. – Andy Blaho Apr 1 '20 at 16:46
  • Correction, it might be GFCI protected but there is no mention of that on the breaker itself. – Andy Blaho Apr 1 '20 at 16:49
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The appliances are broken.

They're dual-function so you'll have to have a conversation with the breaker to see if this is an AFCI or GFCI trip.

The purpose of both of them is to protect you from defective appliances that can start a fire or shock you to death.

Note that this is particularly important on kitchen and bathroom appliances because of the presence of water. Using an extension cord to defeat GFCI protection in a kitchen is a classic Darwin award scenario.

Or the wiring has issues

Given that these are the main high-draw appliances you use, it's also possible this is an AFCI trip due to a wiring problem in the walls. It would be a loose connection that can handle low current, but breaks down on high current. This is a serious firestarter if so.

However, I would expect this to occur one one or at most two circuits. for every AFCI/GFCI circuit to do this would debunk this problem and put it right back at faulty equipment.

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One of the reasons I do not like arc fault breakers is they have problems with motor circuits and speed controls or electronic wave shaping. Combination arc fault breakers protect for both series and parallel faults . There are combination breakers out there but they will specify GFCI and AFCI if it just states AFCI it covers series and parallel , Dual function is AFCI, GFCI. I could be wrong but all the breakers I have installed follow that naming convention.

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  • Yep. I agree Ed. "Dual Function" is both GFCI and AFCI. The oddly named "Combination AFCI" is parallel and series arc detection. Probably a left over from when they would do either parallel or series...not that ever made much sense. – George Anderson Apr 1 '20 at 15:24
  • @GeorgeAnderson Because VERY different tech: You can detect "parallel" arc faults with a weak GFCI at 30ma instead of 6 -- that's what European RCDs are all about. However to detect series faults, you need do fourier analysis of the signal, and for that you need a computer, specifically a DSP type. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 1 '20 at 16:24
  • Hey Harp. I was just saying that since we now have combination parallel & series arc fault detection after what seems to be a short amount of time when they were separated into 2 types of arc fault breakers, why not do it in the first place? – George Anderson Apr 1 '20 at 17:01

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