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changing 50 double breaker to 30 double breaker


mimsellis
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water heater was tripping breaker...home warranty plumber stated home warranty won't cover water heater probs if electrical is over required by water heater. water heater install infor states it requires 30. He went ahead and changed out element, but a few days later it started to trip again. Further research with ge revealed 50 double breaker when water heater calls for 30 breaker is a fire hazard. Ouch... Is this true? Do I really have to have electrician out for this? My main questions: Can I change out 50 double for a 30 double? Does wiring need to be changed for a breaker change such as this? If I can, where do I turn off power to panel? Do I have to call electric company to have main power turned off? What color wires can I expect...and are they different when changing from 50 double to 30 double? Once breaker is changed out, could wiring probs cause tripping or should I call home warranty people again?

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I didn't take it wrong, but I was hoping to get more info. Clearly, I am not an electrician, but do want to avoid unneccessary expense. If it was a fire hazard, I wondered why the plumber didn't mention that when he replaced the element. I believe there are no stupid questions. Previously, I have changed outlets, switches, and fixtures, but will call an electrician for this. Thanks for your time.

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Maybe the water heater has a ground fault within it and needs to be replaced. Could be the breaker too. They become fatigued with age sometimes and can't hold their rated amps as well, like old men who can't hold their liquor.

In either case, get a pro.

No, I ain't drinking.

Marc

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Not to be dis-respectful ... but "sometimes" Home Warranty companies don't always engage the most proficient or experienced professionals.

Understand your need/desire to utilize warranty and such, but it might be wise to reach out to an 'experienced' professional to help you out before someone gets injured.

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Hi,

Are you sure that the breaker is tripping or is power to the water heater being interrupted because the water is overheating and causing the high-limit cutoff switch to trip?

If it were an issue with a wiring short it shouldn't take days to trip, it should be instantaneous. If you have a faulty thermostat that's sparodically allowing that water heater to overheat, the high-limit cutoff will shut down power and then you have to kill power to the unit, reset the high limit cutoff and turn the power back on. Then it could be a day or two before it trips again, depending on conditions.

Why would he replace the heating element for a tripped fuse or breaker? He's a moron.

When's the last time you flushed the crud out of that tank? Is the lower element immersed in a layer of mud 10 inches deep that's preventing that element from maintaining the water at the correct temp and is forcing the upper element to work twice as hard and twice as long and causing it to get really, really hot?

Replacing a 30-amp breaker with a 50-amp breaker won't do you any good if you've got a faulty water heater that's tripping that breaker and it sounds like you've got a faulty water heater.

To answer the question,

Yes, it's true; if you swap out a 30-amp 2-pole breaker in a panelboard for a 50-amp 2-pole breaker, without replacing the wiring between the water heater and the panelboard with wiring that can handle a 50-amp load, you're liable to start an electrical fire and injure or kill someone and maybe even burn your house down.

Plus, if you've got a remote breaker/disconnect just before the water heater, instead of a cable that goes directly to the main panelboard from the water heater, you'd need to replace not only the wiring between the breaker/disconnect and the water heater but the wiring from the remote breaker disconnect back to the main panelboard too.

Again, you will have wasted your time and money if the water heater is faulty.

How old is that water heater? A really old water heater that's never been flushed can be about 20 to 30% full of muck and lime and needs to be tossed anyway - even if it isn't leaking.

The thing has 240 volts flowing to it. It can kill you quicker than you can blink. Stop dicking around with it and call a real plumber - not some warranty company hack.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Yes, it's true; if you swap out a 30-amp 2-pole breaker in a panelboard for a 50-amp 2-pole breaker, without replacing the wiring between the water heater and the panelboard with wiring that can handle a 50-amp load, you're liable to start an electrical fire and injure or kill someone and maybe even burn your house down.

Mike,

You've got his breaker question backwards. If on purpose, feel free to delete my thread.

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Yeah,

I read that but his syntax, subjects and verbs are a little bit tangled up. I think he meant what I said. I think he's got a 30 amp breaker and he thinks that if he replaces it with a 50 amp breaker it's going to solve his problem and he won't need to here an electrician or anyone do anything else; however, he's got reservations because he read somewhere that doing that would constitute a hazard.

I'm just pointing out all of the other stuff that would need to be done in addition to changing the breaker and also the fact that, even if he did all that, it isn't going to fix the problem. I probably should have posted that picture of those two guys fried by electricity in that other thread to this one.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks for the input. I apologize for the muddled post. The situation began with 50 double breaker tripping - sporadically at first and then after a week or so, repeatedly tripping even a few minutes after resetting. Home warranty plumber said he checked thermostat and it was good. His test showed the lower element was bad. He replaced that element adding that Home warranty would not cover water heater that needs 30 double and like mine has a 50 double. He went ahead and submitted to home warranty company. Water heater worked fine for several days, then tripped breaker again. I knew it was possible plumber misdiagnosed problem, but did not want to call home warranty again until I researched the issue regarding breaker size. Research revealed using a 50 double when water heater install info states water heater requires a 30 is a fire hazard. I feel pretty confident that the research is reliable. My question regarding replacing the old 50 double with a new 30 double was prompted by other internet diy info on installing a breaker. That info seemed incomplete so I posted here because I recognize my limited education in the electrical arena. I also recognize the potential danger. If the problem is not resolved with a breaker change, I'll most likely be back posting more questions. In the meantime, I will contact an electrian. Thanks again for all the info. It is appreciated.

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Thanks for the input. I apologize for the muddled post. The situation began with 50 double breaker tripping - sporadically at first and then after a week or so, repeatedly tripping even a few minutes after resetting. Home warranty plumber said he checked thermostat and it was good. His test showed the lower element was bad. He replaced that element adding that Home warranty would not cover water heater that needs 30 double and like mine has a 50 double. He went ahead and submitted to home warranty company. Water heater worked fine for several days, then tripped breaker again. I knew it was possible plumber misdiagnosed problem, but did not want to call home warranty again until I researched the issue regarding breaker size. Research revealed using a 50 double when water heater install info states water heater requires a 30 is a fire hazard. I feel pretty confident that the research is reliable. My question regarding replacing the old 50 double with a new 30 double was prompted by other internet diy info on installing a breaker. That info seemed incomplete so I posted here because I recognize my limited education in the electrical arena. I also recognize the potential danger. If the problem is not resolved with a breaker change, I'll most likely be back posting more questions. In the meantime, I will contact an electrian. Thanks again for all the info. It is appreciated.

If the water heater is causing a 50-amp breaker to trip, it'll cause a 30-amp breaker to trip even more.

You're question is like asking, "When I try to lift a rock with this string, the string keeps breaking. Should I use a smaller string?"

You need a smaller rock. In other words, something is seriously wrong with your water heater if it's causing a 50-amp breaker to trip. Furthermore, if the circuit is wired with cable that's intended for 30 amps, all of this repeated tripping and resetting is probably overheating that cable and it is, indeed, a fire hazard.

Here's what I recommmend. Hire an electrician to install a 30-amp breaker. It will probably trip immediately. Leave it off. Then call the warranty company, and tell them to come out and fix your water heater.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I understand exactly what you are saying. Initially, my reaction to info from plumber was similiar. My thoughts: water heater will use only what it needs - how can bigger be a prob? Apparently, if it gets more than it needs, the wiring will heat up and can be a fire hazard (please tell me if you think my assumption is wrong). Home Warranty's basis for denial could be improper installation. I've come to realize the bottom line for me: without changing breaker Home Warranty will not cover water heater. Thank you for your time, the dialogue and your thoughts.

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I understand exactly what you are saying. Initially, my reaction to info from plumber was similiar. My thoughts: water heater will use only what it needs - how can bigger be a prob?

The water heater *will* use only what it needs -- as long as it's working properly. You can't force more electricity into it. However bigger can be a problem because, if something goes wrong, the bigger breaker will allow the water heater to draw 50 amps before the breaker trips. That's a problem because the wire can only safely carry 30 amps.

Apparently, if it gets more than it needs, the wiring will heat up and can be a fire hazard (please tell me if you think my assumption is wrong).

It won't "get more than it needs" unless something's wrong. If it's a properly working water heater, you could hook it up directly to the main cable coming into your house, with no fuse or breaker at all, and the water heater would still only draw what it needs -- usually about 4,000 or 5,000 watts. Heck, you could hook it up to the grid and it would still only draw the same.

The reason the bigger breaker is a fire hazard is that it won't limit the voltage to the ampacity of the wire if something goes wrong -- as has clearly happened with your unit.

Home Warranty's basis for denial could be improper installation. I've come to realize the bottom line for me: without changing breaker Home Warranty will not cover water heater. Thank you for your time, the dialogue and your thoughts.

The bigger breaker has nothing to do with the reason that the water heater is misbehaving.

BTW, one thing that could cause your problem is both elements cycling on at the same time. They're not supposed to.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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