I recently installed a ceiling fan in a bedroom, and when the fan is active the electromagnet was a little louder than I was use to, but figured it may just be a cheap fan.

However today when I went to label the correct breaker switch (for some reason the bed room one was only labeled living room), I noticed the room got quieter when I tested the breaker to ensure my memory was correct. Upon flipping the breaker back on the buzzing resumed. From there I verified that fan and light were set to off via the wall switch.

Is it normal for a circuit breaker with no load to buzz?

None of the other breakers in my box seem to be making noise.

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Buzzing breakers are not normal, but a common problem. The usual cause is an unseated magnet vibrating in the breaker. These magnets sometimes do not reseat into the correct position after tripping and resetting. This can cause the breaker to not lock into "on" position or hum under load. I am not sure if this trick will work on a AFCI breaker, but on regular breakers, we remove them and give them a firm slam on it's side. This sometimes jolts the magnet back into the correct position. You can then operate the breaker on and off a few times to confirm it is seated and operates freely. I have not experienced this sound with a AFCI yet. So the sound could be the magnet vibrating or a defective coil. When I attempted to reseat a magnet and it didn't correct after a couple of "slams", or the condition returned after a trip again, I replaced the breaker. Obviously there could be another problem and the breaker should be replaced, but the slam trick can be very effective.

The other test is to move the circuit feed to another breaker temporally to see if the hum returns on another breaker (not likely), thus confirming the problem is in the breaker.

  • I'd probably just replace it rather than try to reseat the magnet without any way to know if it's reseated in the right place or just jammed in enough to quiet it while making it less effective at tripping correctly. – Johnny Mar 22 '14 at 20:09
  • It certainly has to be tested. That is true. – shirlock homes Mar 22 '14 at 20:14
  • I tried removing, slapping it, then reinstalling, but it didn't remove the noise, so I replaced it. It's been about a yr and now the replacement one is also buzzing.... – virtualxtc Jun 8 '15 at 23:19
  • @virtualxtc Did you get any more info on this after the replacement breaker started buzzing? – GaTechThomas May 7 '17 at 6:12
  • Slapping the replacement breaker against a hard surface fixed the problem for a few months, but the problem came back. Fortunately I still had the box so I returned it and bought a better brand and it seems to be working a lot better & got rid of the low level hum that was barely noticeable but always there when the previous breaker was supplying power. – virtualxtc May 15 '17 at 3:46

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