The 20 amp circuit breaker that controls my man cave, my rear patio lights including a lampost, and some outlets in my back yard started tripping about two weeks ago. Currently the lights and outlets in backyard are not in use and have not been since late October.

As early as yesterday, I unplugged, and put all light switches in the off position that is controlled by that breaker. The breaker held for about 7 hours before tripping late last night.

The outlets and lampost in back yard are all new. They were installed last May when I had some work done on my back yard. Never was there any problem after installation up until 2 weeks ago. We live in NY and did have a major Blizzard about 3 weeks ago as well as freezing temp over the last week or so. I checked the outlets and all are dry and wiring is all intact.

Any other suggestions?? Quite stressful not being able to use my man cave and the thought of all the $$$ it may take to correct!

  • 1
    Is this a standard breaker in the breaker box with everything else? Its it a GFCI breaker or a GFCI outlet?
    – JPhi1618
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:22
  • So you were able to cut off power to the lights outside? If they're disconnected, then the storm shouldn't matter. Of course the guess is a short somewhere, but I don't know that it's anything we can help with. -- You're not using anything more on this circuit now, right? No more heaters, appliances, etc. than usual?
    – TFK
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:27
  • Standard breaker in box. One outdoor outlet is a GFCI outlet. Another outlet outside is not GFCI, but under cover of an outdoor bar. After resetting the breaker, the GFCI outlet works fine until of course the circuit breaker trips again.
    – George
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:28
  • 1
    First step would be to use a clamp on ammeter, and see how much current the circuit is drawing. If you're not comfortable opening up the service panel, you're going to want to contact an Electrician. NOTE: The clamp only goes around the ungrounded (hot) conductor, not the entire cable.
    – Tester101
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:37
  • 1
    You said you have an outlet under the bar. Is the light switch also outside? I am wondering if your supply line was damaged under the ground, now with water /ice it is conducting causing the breaker to trip. I have also seen metal boxes wear a hole through the hot wire insulation causing intermittent shorts. Can you isolate the outside power and see if the problem stops as a way to try and identify where the issue is.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 15, 2016 at 17:25

4 Answers 4


If you're getting a plain breaker trip, the usual reason is overcurrent. You have too much stuff on that circuit.

From your comments, a GFCI outlet tripping is not your problem.

You can get power monitor devices that will tell you what each device draws. The simplest is the Kill-a-Watt, which for about $20 and measures a single load. They make more sophisticated monitors too.

The breaker that's tripping has a number - either 15 or 20. That's the maximum amps. Multiply by 120 (i.e. 1800 or 2400), that's the maximum watts, and also the maximum VA (volt-amps).

By now you probably know which devices are on this circuit, so check every one with the tester, one by one. Check it in the same conditions that make the breaker trip. Tally up the amps, VA, and watts.

At this point, people often find a big surprise. I can't guess what your surprise is. Now you work the list, same as you would if you were trying to be "green" or save on your energy bill. Lots of people with those motives will help you with this problem.

FYI 1 watt of energy, run continuously, costs you $1/year or more. Some upgrades will pay for themselves.

If stuff is running continuously, you want your breaker capacity to be 125% of the continuous loads.


You have an earth leakage problem. Due to the outdoors nature of that circuit its a bet that moisture has gotten into the circuit be it the fixtures or into the cabling. Fluorescent lights can also be a culprit of this if you have any fitted. Ultimately the correct way to locate it which also is the easiest is to do insulation resistance testing. Im going to assume you have no electronics connected to this circuit aswell as they tend to have a higher than nomral earth leakage that can cause nuisance tripping


It is not earth leakage as only rcd/rcbos monitor earth leakage. A breaker tripping would only suggest over current/overload. You probably have a short somewhere.

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    – Stanwood
    Jun 1, 2018 at 12:27

Check insulation test of all the wires..in this case you can check if there's a current leakage somewhere than may cause the gradual increase of current which may trip your breaker..for the meantime,replace your breaker to a higher capacity and make it mccb and see if will not trip off.

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