I have a circuit in my home that started periodically tripping recently. I have tested removing each appliance one-by-one, but even with everything removed it still trips after some amount of time though never immediately, typically after an hour or so (sometimes more, sometimes less).

There are no GFCI outlets, and the breaker doesn't seem to be AFCI.

Is there anything I can do to further isolate the problem? Most likely at this point it's beyond my capabilities, but I'd rather have the electrician spending time fixing, not diagnosing.

Here is a picture of the breaker: enter image description here

Checked the change in the power draw after flipping on, only saw a change of .02 kW, so should be safe.

Went around with an IR temp gun, and none of the outlets were noticeably hot.

Outlet inspection will need some more free time to check...more coming I'm sure.

edit 2: breaker was also not hot directly after tripping. Starting outlet inspection soon

Edit 3: found a wire in an outlet wrapped in duct tape (the stuff I find in this house..). The wire was partially stripped underneath. I replaced that wire. Still going so far, half an hour later. I'll update in the morning if we're still going. Edit 4: that wasn't it lol It's probably electrician time, though in the meantime I'll do some research on working with breakers, they just seem scarier than outlets to me

Edit 5: Did some research and it's a lot easier than I expected, plus my whole-house shut-off is outside so significantly less dangerous than others. Once I can afford the time to shut off the whole house I'll test switching the wires.

  • Great. This rules out (a) a GFCI or AFCI breaker (a lot of people don't know what they are, but these are definitely ordinary breakers) or (b) a known-problem type of breaker (Zinsco, Federal Pacific, etc.) as this is a CH panel (same type as I have and considered top quality). Which leads to more troubleshooting as described in user71659's answer. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 23:28
  • Is the breaker getting warm/hot when it trips? Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 0:32
  • do you get the same volts from the outlets as other household outlets, even when some of the bad outlets are pulling current? If so, it's not a poor/failing connection.
    – dandavis
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 19:51
  • Exchange wires with breaker 23 and see if that cures it - note that if the hot wire is part of a /3 cable (red-black-white), you should only exchange that black and that red. If the breaker proves faulty, contact Eaton for a replacement under warranty. Lifetime warranty on CH lol. Might be able to just take it into a CH dealer (certain electrical supply houses). Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 21:27
  • Try the IR temp gun immediately after a trip - if something is intermittently bad and causing it to trip, that might find it. And consider whether anything could be hard wired in, anything with timers or thermostats, etc.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


The next thing I would do is swap the breaker with another circuit's to see if the problem follows. This would be helpful for diagnostic purposes, as it isolates the problem to either the breaker or the wiring. Working inside the breaker box can be hazardous, thus it requires some level of skill.

Another task, which is simpler, is to shut off the power, remove the faceplates to every outlet and visually inspect for any obvious damage or burning. If you have the skill, you should pull out each outlet from the wall and check all the wiring and connectors for damage, and ensure the outlet terminals are tight.

Crip659 mentions the possibility that you have a short that's drawing a little over the trip limit. Feeling the face of each outlet may give a hint, especially immediately after a trip. Also, watch your power meter and noting if there's a noticeable increase in power when the affected circuit is turned on. If this the case, it's extremely dangerous and the circuit should be left off until repair.

  • Anything in the breaker I'd definitely leave to an electrician, not a fan of live electricity. But definitely something I can bring up with them. For visual inspection is there anything beyond burning to look for? I wouldn't expect major damage since it's taking so long for it to trip -- no sudden booms
    – john
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 19:55
  • If you're paying for an electrician, you should get them to replace the breaker, saving you a trip cost if it is indeed the problem. You should pull out the outlets from the wall, check the integrity of all insulation, wire nuts, and connectors, and carefully re-install them. That of course requires a more skill and comfort than simply removing the face plates and peering in.
    – user71659
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 20:27
  • The timing points to a slow/low overload condition, pulling 16/17 amps on a 15 amp breaker. I would guess a loose connection heating up with nothing on the circuit or the breaker is bad. One of those hand held temperature readers should find a hot outlet.
    – crip659
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 20:41
  • replacing/pulling out outlets is definitely within my comfort zone, I'll probably do that, thanks! Sweet, i've got an IR temp gun, I can check that too.
    – john
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 21:05

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