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Breaker box buzzing

Electrical - A/C & D/C - Community Forums -
Sometime this morning we tripped a lesser circuit that handles part of the kitchen, an open, unused wall outlet, outlets where coffeemaker, dishwasher, garbage disposal and microwave are plugged in -- none were on at the time I noticed the trip. The double oven and range top unit is 220 and not on the same breaker. The fridge is 110 but it's on a different breaker -- fridge was on, though it's cold enough it's not running the compressor too much or too hard.

When I reset the tripped breaker I noticed the breaker box was buzzing. Not arc crackling or popping, just a buzz or hum, like sometimes you'll hear out of a transformer -- in fact remind me of an old Lionel train transformer I had when I was a kid, except louder. Checked all the other breakers and they were locked down and not warm. The tripped breaker was not warm, either. In fact all breakers and switches are pretty much stone cold to the touch.

So I reset the tripped breaker, which brought the kitchen circuit back. Still had the buzzing. It's not screaming loud, just buzzing you can easily hear when that closet door is open.

It's been extremely cold overnight, the electric heat and water heater are going to beat the band, the kids had two modern games consoles on, two HD TVs on, about every light in the house on, etc. We've got a fair amount of other stuff that sits in "suspend" mode so they're not drawing lots of power but they're drawing more than totally off.

I went around and turned everything off -- with the electric heater definitely running and I suspect the water heater running, too -- and the buzzing stopped immediately. Brought some things back on all over the house -- some lights, a couple game consoles, the larger TV -- also with the previously tripped breaker on, the buzzing returned, but very slight, more like exactly how that old Lionel transformer used to sound, probably wouldn't have even noticed it had it not been notably louder a few minutes before. Then the hum quickly faded out completely and stopped.

I think it's likely power overdraw with the heat -- electric furnace and air handler is in the attic, which stays cold, too -- and the water heater -- in a garage closet, likewise stays cold. Plus all the other stuff on with kids home one more day for winter break.

On the chance that tripped breaker is going bad I switched it off again and I'm leaving it off for now, see if anyone her on DIY has any ideas before I turn back on and leave it. Based on seasonal power bills, our central system running compressor and air handler for cooling draws a good bit of power, the electric furnace draws A WHOLE LOT OF POWER.

Right now, no hum. The furnace isn't running, either, though. And no one's used much hot water in the last while.
Date: Jan 6, 2014   

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