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About two to three weeks ago, my circuit breaker that controls my outdoor outlets and lighting began to trip. Also on this breaker is my ring doorbell which is how I discovered I had an issue with that specific breaker. Only outlet being used at the moment is for my sump pump which is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

Three days ago, while troubleshooting, I discovered I had a set of Bluetooth speakers plugged into another GFCI outlet via an extension cord. After inspection of the extension cord, I discovered it was damaged/cracked. I removed it from the outlet and tossed it. Breaker was fine for nearly two days. I thought problem was solved.

Unfortunately, last night it tripped again. The only items plugged in on that circuit are a sump pump and my Ring doorbell. It's been pouring in NYC since midnight and sump pump has been working fine. It's been nearly 17 hours since resetting my breaker without a trip.

I'm sure it's a matter of time before a trip. Any other suggestions to troubleshoot before calling a pro?

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  • Is the breaker: (a) an ordinary breaker, (b) an AFCI breaker (I suspect that's the case here), (c) a GFCI breaker (should not be because then you wouldn't need GFCI at the receptacles), (d) an AFCI/GFCI breaker (also should not be)? Assuming (b): When it trips, is it an overcurrent trip or an AFCI trip? Feb 25, 2022 at 14:24
  • It's an ordinary square 20A single circuit breaker.
    – George
    Feb 25, 2022 at 14:41
  • "sump pump has been working fine" does not mean that it doesn't have a problem.
    – brhans
    Feb 25, 2022 at 14:53
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    Anyway I can troubleshoot the sump pump to see if that's the issue?
    – George
    Feb 25, 2022 at 15:02
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    "It's been pouring" "outdoor outlets" Hmmm, what to check.... (see if the outdoor outlets have water in them). Feb 25, 2022 at 15:10

1 Answer 1

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Based on comments, this is an ordinary breaker, not AFCI or GFCI. Which really only leaves three possibilities:

  • Bad wiring which intermittently causes a short circuit - e.g., mouse chewed through insulation (first breaker trip = dead mouse) and now the bare wires occasionally touch and trip the breaker.
  • Bad breaker.
  • Sump pump overload

Almost definitely it is the sump pump. A pump, or any large motor for that matter, can overload and trip a breaker. That happens a lot on startup because motors need a lot more current to start than to keep running, but can happen at other times too.

Once the rain stops, check the pump. Depending on condition, it may need repairs or it may be easier to simply replace it.

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    I gotta agree with manaass... regarding rodent damage, I've experienced this twice in a house I previously owned: Breakers tripping for no apparent reason. Turned out to be damaged caused by mice. It could also be issues with your sump pump. If, and only if, you are comfortable working around a live panel, get a meter with an "amp clamp", put it around the wire from the breaker feeding the pump. take a reading when the pump is running. That will tell you if the pump is going bad when you compare the amperage draw to the rating on the pump. Feb 25, 2022 at 15:39
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    @GeorgeAnderson A 2-person job. Need to have one person watch the meter while the other triggers the pump. My hunch is the pump mostly has trouble on startup. Perhaps depending on the exact position of the motor when it last stopped, sometimes the startup works, sometimes it overloads. Feb 25, 2022 at 15:42
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    Great point, motors use a lot more current at startup than when running. Feb 25, 2022 at 15:45

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