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Old 10-18-2009, 06:25 AM
 
1,492 posts, read 4,469,009 times
Reputation: 1281
Default circuit breaker humming

This morning I heard a faint hum from the breaker box. I opened it and began flipping switches. It stopped when I flipped the breaker to:
refrigerator
microwave hood
kitchen lights

These are the things on the breaker. All new appliances and no lights installed (renovating and I have bare wire-light switches off and taped AND end of wires taped up, too)

The microwave hood was powering the LED lights for the clock
The refrigerator was powering the refrigerator and the door light
No lights were on, of course.

I let the breaker stay off a while but then turned it on and the buzzing has stopped at least for now.

My googling has resulted in:
old GFI sockets gone bad, a junction box w/ an old doorbell, water pump trying to kick the motor on in a dry well, etc.

None of these results showed a need to replace the breaker but I don't have a doorbell, GFI sockets, or a water pump...it's just these two appliances listed above.

Any ideas of what to check for?
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Old 10-18-2009, 08:30 AM
 
Location: Sometimes Maryland, sometimes NoVA. Depends on the day of the week
1,501 posts, read 7,565,097 times
Reputation: 992
Since you are renovating, take the opportunity to run new circuits and put your fridge on a 20 amp dedicated circuit. The humming now is probably just a power draw, but I'd be concerned it will trip when your microwave is running and the fridge compressor kicks on. Also, check to see what else is on the circuit, bc those lables are almost never right. I would bet the humming stopped bc the compressor wasn't running when you turned it back on. Also, your fridge, the motor start for the compressor could be faulty so rather than just drawing the start amp then switching to run amp, it stays at start amp.

There is also a chance there is a nuetral that is not tied tight on the return path to the panel. Check all the junctions. Or have your electrician check it when he puts in your dedicated circuit.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:18 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
11,490 posts, read 25,992,256 times
Reputation: 14006
Running a fridge (and freezer) on a dedicated circuit makes a lot of sense. You don't want another appliance kicking those off un-noticed. Some old breakers can hum without a whole lot of draw on them, so I wouldn't rule out that it is just the breaker itself. Get an outdoor extension cord and plug the refrigerator into a different circuit. If THAT one hums, you may indeed have a defective fridge. Better to find out now than later. I'd do that before calling in the electrician. If you do need to call one, it is best to have gone over the circuits and wiring at your leisure and include all the tasks in one visit, rather than discovering new issues a few weeks apart.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:55 AM
 
Location: Visitation between Wal-Mart & Home Depot
8,310 posts, read 21,032,096 times
Reputation: 6648
Harry has a good suggestion for eliminating the refrigerator as the culprit. There are a lot of possibilities for what the problem could be, but bear in mind that circuit breakers can and do simply "go bad" from time to time. My first guess would be that the breaker is telling you it is ready for retirement.

By the way, what is the amperage rating of the humming breaker?
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:26 AM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,142 posts, read 21,562,311 times
Reputation: 16183
By bet is also a third vote for a breaker that is nearing the end of its life.
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Old 10-18-2009, 02:37 PM
 
1,492 posts, read 4,469,009 times
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Thanks! I did replace a different breaker last year as a refrigerator, window a/c, and microwave were running. "don't run the microwave w/ the a/c" was often said.

That's why I put the refrigerator and microwave on the same one when I moved the appliances around. I've run the microwave, hood, lights, and refrigerator for a month now all at the same time and have had no problems...but it really may be a problem and it's just now showing itself.

I'll replace the breaker and figure out how to run a new circuit for the refrigerator. It's just a simple 20 amp breaker, a single one- not doubled like the one's for 220s.

Thanks again!
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Old 10-18-2009, 03:03 PM
 
Location: City of Central
1,708 posts, read 2,023,854 times
Reputation: 682
A 20 amp single pole breaker is cheap . Try that first . Make sure the bus bar where the breaker snaps in isn't discolored or burnt looking .
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Old 10-18-2009, 07:40 PM
 
Location: sowf jawja
1,912 posts, read 5,070,422 times
Reputation: 913
probably just the breaker.

How old is it?

Newer miniature circuit breakers are designated as HACR type; specifically made for hvac and refrigeration equipment. it was once that specific breakers were labeled that way, but now almost all of them are built to hacr standards; designed to handle the heat associated with running a compressor.
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:41 PM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan and Sometimes Orange County CA
15,820 posts, read 30,869,110 times
Reputation: 11756
I was told by our inspector that the fridge had to be on a dedictted circuit. I did nto look it up since I was still wiring at the tiem and it was no big deal, I just did it.

Your breaker may just be loose. Try pushing on the edges to make sure it is fully seated in the slot.
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:46 PM
 
Location: Sometimes Maryland, sometimes NoVA. Depends on the day of the week
1,501 posts, read 7,565,097 times
Reputation: 992
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coldjensens View Post
I was told by our inspector that the fridge had to be on a dedictted circuit. I did nto look it up since I was still wiring at the tiem and it was no big deal, I just did it.

Your breaker may just be loose. Try pushing on the edges to make sure it is fully seated in the slot.
The NEC does not require the fridge on a dedicated. However, it's a really good idea and most electricians will recommend it
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