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At home I installed a CHFN120A1CS on a circuit with a single overhead LED shop lamp with a 0-10volt type dimmer switch controlling it (Leviton ip710), nothing else. Single run of 12-2 from the panel to the dimmer, then dimmer to the light, about 25 feet total length.

Upon energizing the CHFN the first time, with the overhead shop LED lamp off, I saw the breaker’s “power up” 1-2-3 light flash in the first half second, it was just a single flash. Status key says that means “electronic overload protection is turned OFF: This is uncommon.” No information on what to do to investigate/resolve the issue, or why the ‘uncommon’ issue is important enough to have a status indicator and zero other information.

Next, I tried verifying the breaker’s electronics are operational by pressing TEST. The breaker tripped, when turned back ON, again fast single flash at startup, but then after about 5 seconds the breaker red LED stays solidly lit, no blinking pattern. This has survived several rounds of testing; all wires are verified in the correct spots on the dimmer switch.

For the quick single flash at start up, there is an unanswered post here: Eaton AFCI/GFCI breaker is only blinking once when turning it on

And for the red LED staying lit, I’ve found a post that purports to be Eaton saying that, is okay and just due to tight tolerances in the design confusing the circuit and always showing the LED (which is, um, an interesting answer)

https://www.reddit.com/r/electricians/comments/k7zpo1/eaton_breaker_solid_red_light/

Is the red LED light staying solid a problem? And what can be done about the first issue, the single flash at startup indicating that the “electronic overload protection is turned OFF”?

The overhead LED lamp and dimmer seem to be working perfectly fine when the breaker is ON, just the red LED status light on the breaker doesn’t make sense.

Is this breaker functioning properly, anything I can troubleshoot?

Thanks

Aaron

First update, 2 Jun 2021: This is the exact response from Eaton when I sent them this question:

The breaker is functioning just fine. The light behavior in normal condition varies from breaker to breaker, as long as it does not trip and flash a code, there is nothing to worry about. You may even see flashes sometimes when the breaker is in normal operation, and again, that’s normal. The flash codes are to be referred ONLY if the breaker trips, else you are good to go.

I sent a follow up question. I just can't easily accept that the only condition that indicates failure (1 blink at startup) is being indicated, but that it should just be ignored because, hey, we can't make a consistent product, my paraphrase.

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Well, I don't like the final answer to this, but it is directly from the manufacturer. I emailed Eaton and they responded withing 24 hours each time. Kudos to them, thanks!

Summary: Just don't pay attention to the lights except when an actual event triggers the breaker. Anything else the light does like staying on, flashing, not flashing, flashing a code that by documentation says there is a problem but there was not trip-event to cause it, all of those, just ignore them. Install the breaker, run the test instructions and if it looks good it's good.

Below is the whole exchange, only some names and such were redacted to protect the innocent. ;-)

My original report submitted via web form on their site:

Customer Type: Home Owner

Inquiry Type: Technical information

Please provide details on the nature of your inquiry or quote.

Hello. At home I installed a CHFN120A1CS on a circuit with a single overhead LED shop lamp with a 0-10volt type dimmer switch controlling it, nothing else. Single run of 12-2 from the panel to the dimmer, then dimmer to the light, about 25 feet total length.

Upon energizing the CHFN the first time, with the LED light off, I saw the breaker’s “power up” 1-2-3 light flash in the first half second, it was a single flash. Status key says that means “electronic overload protection is turned OFF: This is uncommon.” No information on what to do to investigate/resolve the issue.

Next, I tried verifying the breaker’s electronics are operational by pressing TEST. The breaker tripped, when turned back ON, again fast single flash at startup, but then after about 5 seconds the breaker red LED stays solidly lit, no blinking pattern. This has survived several rounds of testing; all wires are verified in the correct spots.

I’ve found a post that purports to be Eaton saying that the second issue, the red LED staying lit, is okay and just due to tight tolerances in the design confusing the circuit.

https www_reddit_com/r/electricians/comments/k7zpo1/eaton_breaker_solid_red_light/

Is the light staying solid a problem? And what can be done about the first issue, the single flash at startup indicating that the “electronic overload protection is turned OFF”?

The overhead LED and dimmer are working perfectly fine when the breaker is ON, just the red LED status light on the breaker doesn’t make sense. Is this breaker functioning properly, anything I can troubleshoot? Is it safe to use?

Thanks

[Me]

Eaton's first response:

Hello [Me],

Greetings…!!!

The breaker is functioning just fine. The light behavior in normal condition varies from breaker to breaker, as long as it does not trip and flash a code, there is nothing to worry about. You may even see flashes sometimes when the breaker is in normal operation, and again, that’s normal. The flash codes are to be referred ONLY if the breaker trips, else you are good to go.

My follow up question:

Thanks for the quick response. I still feel concerned about the startup status code, 1 quick blink meaning:

“electronic overload protection is turned OFF: This is uncommon.”

The goal is to be in the 2 flash or 3 flash state, 15 or 20amp. Though, I guess that's just hard coded into the breaker because wiring can't tell between 15 or 20 amp capability. That means that the startup LED has just two states on my 20 amp breaker:

1 quick flash =  “electronic overload protection is turned OFF: This is uncommon.”  
3 quick flashes = "a handle rating of 20 amp"

Basically: 1=unknown condition, 3=Working 20 amp breaker.

If it blinks once and overload protection is turned OFF ("electronic overload is additional to the standard protection offered by the bimetal") what failure modes are no longer being protected? Is it still technically (to code) a AFCI/GFCI breaker if it fails that startup test? Do inspectors just not care about the status lights as long as the breaker trips correctly when TRIP is pressed?

I just want to get all my ducks in a row as I'm about to replace 30'ish old standard breakers with various Eaton AFCI, GFCI and combo model breakers to bring a house up to code. This is the first one and neither of the status indicators worked as described by the installation literature.

Eaton's final response (I didn't ask anything else):

Hello [Me],

If the light is blinking, that is just a cosmetic thing where the LED stays lit. It doesn’t have any effect on the operation of the breaker and if the light is not blinking in a pattern, then there really isn’t anything wrong. The breaker is functioning just fine

If you feel that if the breaker is malfunctioning then we recommend carrying out Eaton recommended troubleshooting. A simple method to ascertain if a breaker is faulty is mentioned in the ‘General troubleshooting guidelines’ section on Page 2 of the attached. It details how to test a breaker by isolating it from the load, so that you know if the real problem is in the breaker or the load. The breaker will flash an LED trip code, diagnosis for which is covered under the ‘LED trip indication’ section.

That's all folks!

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If the lamp is hard wired not a plug in receptacle you may be able to use a regular breaker. I have had more than a few problems on lighting circuits and electronic breakers the electronics have problems with the wave shaping electronics but usually on larger loads than a single lamp it sounds like that may be your issue. Since it is working I would contact the MFG I haven’t had that exact problem.

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  • Ed's got a good point. It's a hardwired overhead light, now. It was originally used in a plugged-in manner without AFCI/GFCI. I was upgrading it to permanent and had run a new circuit and probably "crossed the streams" (Ghostbusters, anyone?) and decided to 'fix' the lack of code compliance on the outlet but didn't need to because it's now hardwired. I'll probably back that off to using just a normal breaker and eliminate this particular issue. I'm emailing with the MFG, and will put that convo in as an answer for future knowledge seekers. Gist: Ignore the lights except when it trips. !?!? Jun 2, 2021 at 20:15
  • I am lucky in my state if can prove it’s a nuisance and related to the breaker and not an electrical fault I can (with AHJ approval omit NEC required protection) I agree with your updated question and that your paraphrased answer from the company, I have sent power logs megger test results and received similar responses (although required by code the breakers can not identify the difference in electronic wave shaping my paraphrase)
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 3, 2021 at 5:29
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This is an Eaton dual-mode GFCI and AFCI breaker.

It's not a mystery gadget. Aside from its normal overcurrent job (of any breaker), it also has Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor and an Arc Fault circuit interruptor.

It's not a mystery gadget, it simply has three functions (which is really six):

  • Overcurrent - mechanical magnetic instant trip for dead shorts (200A+)
  • Overcurrent - mechanical thermal delayed trip for overloads (21-200A) to allow motors to start, etc.
  • Overcurrent - electronic detection (21+ amps; faster action than thermal trip)
  • Ground fault detection - leakage out of the normal current path e.g. shocking someone
  • Arc fault detection (series) - bad connection creating an arc across the connection (but limited by appliance current)
  • Arc fault detection (parallel) - An arc between hot and neutral that is not serious enough to cause an overcurrent trip. (H-G and N-G arcs are already detected by the GFCI section).

You troubleshoot each one differently. For overcurrent you look for shorts or simple "too many appliances" overloading. For arc faults you look for loose connections generally. For ground faults you disconnect equipment first, then look for any wires shorting to ground or metal box.

So if you're trying to chase a trip, you'll want to know which one it tripped on. Further, since such trips can be intermittent, it's really nice if the breaker stores the last trip reason for you.

Square D has a way to do this without any LEDs at all, but it's awkward as can be. LEDs are better.

Eaton flat states a new breaker out of the box will have stored the code for the last test that was done at factory QA. Yes, they really test each breaker.

As far as testing each of these functions:

For overload testing, you don't test that, because there's no non-risky way to do so.

For ground faults, you install a receptacle (ground is required for this) and you use any of those $5 "GFCI testers" and push "Test".

For arc faults, you can operate a switch halfway so you dwell at the make/break point (i.e. exactly what Technology Connections says not to do)... or plug in a load halfway so the plug blades are just on the edge of making contact. That will offend an AFCI if you do it long enough.


Here's what Eaton says about the LED codes.

AF/GF breakers are equipped with a red diagnostic LED that blinks a repeating pattern, from 1 to 6 blinks, indicating the cause of trip. This pattern is the “trip code”. The LED will blink the trip code for 30 iterations after being turned back on.

No code recorded: Mechanical disconnect (thermal, short circuit, manual disconnect)
No trip code is recorded for mechanical actions. These include:

  • Loss of power from the utility or upstream breaker
  • Manually switching the breaker OFF
  • Pressing the TEST button
  • Short circuit
  • Thermal overload trip caused by mechanical part of breaker (This is rare. The electronics should trip on thermal overload before the mechanical side in most instances.)

1 - Series arc
A low-current arc has been detected within one of the current pathways. Low-current arcs are typically series arcs, and are typically found in worn or degraded appliance and extension cords, poor connections in appliances or fixtures, or in contacts within equipment.

2 - Parallel arc
A high-current arc has been detected between two conductors. Look for damaged insulation usually found in installed wiring where the wire has been compromised by a nail or screw, tight staple, or damaged insulation.

3 - Overload
The circuit is drawing more current than the breaker is rated for. [and this was detected by the electronics, not the mechanical thermal trip]. Remove some load from the circuit.

4 - Overvoltage
The breaker will trip if it experiences voltage of 160 V rms or greater. The breaker can be reset and the TEST button can be pushed to verify that the breaker is working properly. Most likely caused by a loose or floating neutral, either in the service entrance or at the transformer.

5 - Ground fault / grounded neutral
Current has found an alternate path to ground, or the neutral and ground are in contact downstream of the breaker; this could cause harm to people or property.

6 - Self test failure
The breaker continually tests the internal electronics and software to ensure that the arc fault and ground fault detection technology is working properly. If the self-diagnostics fail, the breaker will trip. The built-in self-test features will not allow the AF/GF breaker to re-latch if it detects a malfunction in the AF/GF detection circuit. Replace the breaker.

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  • I appreciate the thorough response, but it's not the 1-6 flashes from the "last trip" that I'm experiencing a problem with. Two problems: 1st) the 1-3 blinks that occur within 0.5 seconds of when the breaker is first turned on. And 2nd) that after the breaker is on for 5 seconds it turns the LED on solid red, it should just be off. It works fine when tripped, etc. It just happens to indicate (from #1) that it has an "uncommon" condition at startup, and (from #2) isn't capable of accurately displaying an LED as OFF when nothing is wrong. I'll leave the exact first response from Eaton above. Thx Jun 2, 2021 at 23:36

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