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Old 04-06-2010, 03:56 AM   #1
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Default My Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping: Why?

I plugged in my kettle/element to my control panel for the first time tonight. Everything was going great. I had my water temp from 51 - 112 in about 10 minutes. Then, suddenly, the breakers tripped (both my 50a breaker in my service panel and the GFI breaker I have in a spa panel). Now I can't turn the element on without both tripping.

If I unplug my kettle/element from my control panel, no breakers trip and my multimeter shows voltage flowing correctly to my receptacles.

I have included a wiring diagram below of my control panel (please excuse its crudeness). My element is a 4,500 watt ULWD Camco.

Any ideas? Or suggestions on where to troubleshoot next?

Thanks in advance!



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Old 04-06-2010, 05:50 AM   #2
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It sounds like you have a short somewhere on the kettle.

Unplug the kettle from the box and use a multimeter to see if it thinks there is connectivity between the hot lines and the ground. You should be able to do this by just checking the prongs on the plug.


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Old 04-06-2010, 05:58 AM   #3
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Oh... And I assume that the breakers do not trip wih the element plugged in, but the contactor turned off?

(I hope that's true, but I wouldn't know what to think of they tripped with the contactor off.)
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:13 PM   #4
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Oh... And I assume that the breakers do not trip wih the element plugged in, but the contactor turned off?

(I hope that's true, but I wouldn't know what to think of they tripped with the contactor off.)
This is correct. Nor does the control panel itself ever trip the breaker - whether I have the contactor on or off.

I tested the cord. I set my multimeter to 2k ohms and then used any combination of the red/black probes on both hots and the neutral. The reading always came in at about .015. When I set the multimeter to 200 ohms, and repeated the procedure, I got readings of about 11.5.

Was I even testing the cord correctly? I have never used my multimeter on anything other than receptacles...

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Old 04-06-2010, 02:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAleMaster View Post
I tested the cord. I set my multimeter to 2k ohms and then used any combination of the red/black probes on both hots and the neutral. The reading always came in at about .015. When I set the multimeter to 200 ohms, and repeated the procedure, I got readings of about 11.5.
(Yes, it sounds like you were using the meter correctly....)

Ok.... then you definitely have a short. There should be NO connectivity AT ALL when testing the ground prong vs. either of the two hots (I am assuming that when you say "neutral" you really mean "ground" here, right?)

There should be resistance between the hots (the heater element), but the ground should not show any connection to the hot lines!

When I set my meter to check resistance, it shows a "1" until I touch two things that are connected, then it gives me a resistance reading. If I touch two things that are not connected, the meter stays at "1" to indicate no connectivity.
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:24 PM   #6
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Yeah, sorry. I meant ground. I wonder where the short is at? And why didn't it short out for the first 15 minutes? I tried to ground the element to itself by soldering the ground wire to the base of the element. Should I clip that off and ground to the kettle instead?
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:27 PM   #7
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Yeah, sorry. I meant ground. I wonder where the short is at? And why didn't it short out for the first 15 minutes? I tried to ground the element to itself by soldering the ground wire to the base of the element. Should I clip that off and ground to the kettle instead?
I think most folks tend to attach the ground to the kettle, but attaching it to the metal base of the element should also be OK.

As for why it worked at first and then suddenly had a problem..... maybe something melted as the kettle heated up? I really don't know for sure.

You have any pictures showing your cable connections to the heater element that I can see?
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:45 PM   #8
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I don't with me. But I'm not sure you'd be able to see much. I can describe it fairly easily.

1. I connected my wires to the screws using some forks.
2. For the ground, I initially used a concept similar to this with the copper ring between the nut and the factory provided o-ring. I had that little tab a bit longer than what he shows and I bent it up around the nut so I could put a spade on it for the ground.
3. All three wires, the two hots attached to the screws on the element and the neutral attached to the copper ring were then inside a PVC coupling.
4. I then used JB Weld to pot the connections.
5. The copper ring never could get flat enough and was causing leaks. So I cut it off and soldered the little bit sticking out from the potting to the side of the element nut.

So I can't even really get to the wiring. If my description does not make sense, I can probably try to sketch it out in Visio or something and upload it.
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Old 04-06-2010, 03:01 PM   #9
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JB weld should never be used to pot electrical connections. It contains metal and metal conducts electricity. when it got hot enough the epoxy started to break down as an insulator.
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Old 04-06-2010, 03:03 PM   #10
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I followed you fine you until part (5) when you mentioned the ring not being flat enough and needing to cut it off. But, you are right that pics probably wont do much if it is all encased in PVC and JB Weld.

Are you able to detach the element from the kettle (is there a nut inside the kettle that you can unscrew?)

If so, try detaching it and doing the connection test again on the prongs. That would at least remove the actual kettle from the equation and let you know if the short is inside the potted part or is being caused when you attach the element to the kettle (I suspect the potted part is the culprit, to be honest.)

What kind of cord and plug are you using? Did you buy an electric dryer/range cord, or did you by cable and a plug to build your own cord?


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