What do you do when a circuit breaker continues to trip, but you can’t find anything wrong? Most people simply replace the circuit breaker on the assumption it’s faulty.
Intermittent circuit breaker tripping may happen due to a wiring problem, and if you don’t fix it, could lead to a destructive event. Until now the only way to determine the fault was to carefully check all wiring circuits; a tedious and potentially expensive route. Now we have a better, more cost efficient method…. A new instrument which uses the same technology as professional cable fault location equipment can quickly pinpoint potentially dangerous wiring problems.
Intermittent Wiring Faults and Their Dangers
Over a period of time, domestic wiring insulation may deteriorate, especially when wiring is accidentally damaged, stressed, or overheated. Under such conditions, it’s possible the live and neutral wires will touch intermittently, causing an arc. Usually, this arc is of a short duration and no harm is done. But, if not rectified, the potential is there for a sustained arc that will ignite flammable material around the wire.
If an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker has been installed and the arc is sustained, the circuit breaker will trip. The AFCI disconnects circuits the moment an arc is detected.
Finding the Fault
Finding the fault is difficult, because arcing cannot be found using conventional offline testers. Arcing occurs intermittently only when the circuit is energized. Usually, an electrician starts by replacing the circuit breaker. When that doesn’t solve the problem, the wiring circuit is carefully traced for signs of damage. This can be a lengthy process. There is no easy way of identifying the location of the fault, so every joint, socket, and cable have to be checked until the fault is found.
To solve this problem, Platinum Tools has introduced the Fault Trapper which stops the guesswork. This device uses Spread Spectrum Time Domain Reflectometry (SSTDR) to continuously monitor an energized dedicated circuit and captures the distinctive noise caused by short-duration arcs. Besides the ability to identify dangerous arcs, the instrument has the capability to measure the distance to the fault as well as to log the time an incident occurred. Fault Trapper can identify arc faults caused by a short or as a result of a loose connection.
To perform a test, a special line adapter is installed by a qualified technician in the affected dedicated circuit just beyond the circuit breaker. This adapter is rated for 40 Amps and 300 Volts, and it can be used on all domestic dedicated circuits. The adapter is connected by test leads to the Fault Trapper main unit (control unit) which displays the results on an LCD screen. The unit stores a maximum of two separate faults – the time since the faults occurred and the approximate distance to the fault. It’s important to note that the Fault Trapper only works on a single dedicated circuit and is inserted in the circuit after the circuit breaker.
Save Money and Speed Up Fault Finding With Fault Trapper
Fault Trapper is quickly becoming an indispensable tool for electricians as they struggle to cope with the increased numbers of callouts since AFCI breakers became commonplace. Its ability to monitor energized dedicated circuits means that it’s the ideal tool to catch intermittent, short-duration arc faults, and to give an indication of the distance to the fault. No other tester has this capability.
Fault Trapper’s unique ability to identify an intermittent fault on a dedicated circuit means electricians can first check the circuit, find out what’s wrong, and diagnose if the circuit breaker has failed or if there is an intermittent arc fault. Not only does this save time and money, but it builds customer trust and avoids the embarrassment of replacing a healthy circuit breaker only to discover there is a wiring fault.