I live in BC, so this is about 120VAC house wiring. I have an island in the kitchen that has two outlets on it. It used to have an electric cooktop (before I installed a gas cooktop) and that 30amp circuit is now just used for running the illumination for the gas top. The two outlets are on another circuit and wired strangely; one just simply chains off the other so let's ignore that. The supply line is a 14/3 with the red capped and not energized (checked with Klein tester).

When I put in my ET310 transmitter and check the service panel I find the Klein beeps when I hover over a double-pole 15 amp breaker (which has only ONE lever). This breaker is OFF all the time and when I attempt to turn it ON, it shorts out, there's a spark in the panel (!) and the breaker immediately opens. This was the situation when we bought the house and as it never seemed to affect anything I just left it off, thinking someday I'll get to it...

So, the primary outlet in the island started to act erratically, shutting off and on for no reason so I decided to investigate and this is how I found that the Klein traces the circuit to this double-pole breaker. Now, I'm thinking that the guy wired this circuit incorrectly and effectively somehow looped the two phases on the 14/3. I haven't yet opened up the panel (this is difficult for stupid reasons) to see what's up but was hoping someone had an idea of what's going on here?

Thanks guys but I guess I wasn't as clear as I thought I was being. Forget the 30A circuit used for the few watts the cooktop illumination uses; I understand that 30A is way, way too big a breaker and part of this job is to switch that over to the circuit the outlets are on (as the cooktop just plugs in anyway and isn't direct-wired). It was just temporary until I solved the other problem. This has nothing do do with a not-broken tab on the outlet; the 14/3 red wire is capped and the live/neutral are connected as normal. Of COURSE this circuit should not be on a double-pole 15A as it's just two outlets on the island. To restate the problem: the breaker these outlets are connected to via the 14/3 is OFF nominally because when it's turned ON, the breaker trips immediately. At least, this is what my Klein ET310 tells me. Given that this is a double pole 15A I'm wondering if the installer somehow looped the live wiresss and effectively bypassed the breaker so that resetting the breaker effectively "shorts" the circuit. Thoughts?

  • 3
    You can determine which breaker feeds the outlets without a wire tracer just by plugging something into it and turning off breakers one by one. It’s not clear to me what role your cook top circuit is playing in all this — could you clarify why you mentioned it? Finally, the most useful information is undoubtedly inside the panel so is probably worth dealing with whatever makes it hard to open. But be careful! If the panel sparks it may be energized. Don’t flip that breaker on again until you have more information. Jan 14 at 22:49
  • I'm concerned about "30amp circuit is now just used for running the illumination for the gas top." There's no way your new gas stove is using 30a worth of lighting. You probably need to switch out the breaker with a 15a or 20a one.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 15 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


The situation as described by @crip659 would be a place to start to try to fix this:

A double pole/single switch breaker can be for a 240 volt circuit or a multi wire branched circuit( two 120v circuits sharing a neutral). Possible someone changed an outlet/receptacle and did not remove the little tab between the two hot screws, causing the breaker to trip and just left it.

With this 2-pole 15A breaker OFF, use a voltage tester to look for a duplex receptacle which has no hot. If you find one, then check to see if the connections to it correspond to a multiwire branch circuit (black on one receptacle and red on the other, white on the neutral side) but with the connecting tab on the hot side still in place.

If you find this and no other miswiring, then you could break away the tab on the hot side and see if the breaker stays on.

Note that if find that there are no receptacles without a hot then it could be that other miswiring has been done to bring power to a duplex receptacle wired as a multwire branch circuit with the hot tab left in place. If you find that, then do not break the tab and flip the 2-pole breaker on. You would have to understand and correct this other miswiring before you could break the tab and turn ON the 15 A 2pole breaker.

  • My house was built in the US in 1979 and had a shared neutral in a junction box that was related to two 3-way light circuits. Another possibility.
    – Evil Elf
    Feb 15 at 12:34

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