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Thread: Arc Breaker Problem - Using treadmill in new home

  1. #1

    Default Arc Breaker Problem - Using treadmill in new home


    I am wondering if someone can help with my problem,

    - New home...moved in two weeks
    - Arc breakers mostly used.

    I tried to use my year old treadmill for the first time this past weekend. I turned it on and it runs normally. Problem is that the other rooms start progressively losing power due to the arc breakers for the other rooms in the house tripping. The treadmill continues to run, so the breaker running it is not tripping. I can easily duplicate this problem everytime. The treadmill runs 120V and has a built in 15A breaker that is not tripping.

    I called in a service order. The contractor that installs it sends technicians out and do some testing and then tell me it is the treadmill causing the problem. They ran an extension cord and plugged the treadmill into the GFCI outlet in the bathroom and no breakers tripped.

    They basically are refusing to help and say it is the treadmill. I cannot help but think something is wired wrong as I would expect the breaker that the treadmill is running on to trip only if the treadmill is the problem.

    Thanks in advance for all help!!

  2. #2


    I would suggest getting an outlet tester to start testing outlets with.
    Then when you find something bad, you can go back and ask why does this test bad when you say it is good?

    I have a generator load bank tester at work I can use, but I am not sure how you could get one.

    When you buy a new home you get blue prints, (house plans), with it.... yes???????

    Blue prints would or should show the wiring layout.

  3. #3


    The treadmill is a motor load... and motor loads are "unusual", because a motor is both a motor and a generator. Basically, while the house is supplying 120VAC power to the motor, the motor generates what is call Back-EMF.

    Arc-fault breakers work (in part) by looking for the electrical "signal" of what an arc-fault looks like.

    While I would expect it to be vary rare, it's not out of the question that your treadmill is generating a signal that effectively feeds back into your entire house that looks similar to an arc-fault, and so the other breakers start to trip. If I am right, by plugging the treadmill into a GFCI outlet, the electronics in the GFCI is acting like some sort of filter that prevents the treadmill "signal" from feeding back into the rest of the house electrical system.

    If I am correct, then a < $15 solution is a portable GCFI ( Simply plug this GFCI into your treadmill outlet, and the treadmill into the GFCI. If your electrical handy, you could also replace the wall outlet with a GFCI outlet.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Welland Ontario


    Check to see if the tread mill and the GFCI are all on the same leg of your service. Perhaps mvong the treadmill breaker to the opposite leg as the AFCI will solve the problem.

  5. #5


    Arc fault will trip if just a white wire touches a grounding wire. Commonly in houses multiple whites enter say a double gang switch from multiple circuits. Commonly the electrician will hook all unswitched whites together regardless if coming from different circuits. If this is done all will work fine till a load is applied. When the load is applied it can pick up current from two different ground aka white circuits. This tends to mimic arcing in the registering of the circuit board of the AFCI. Just for giggles go to the panel and find the white wire of the circuit going to the AFCI. Disconnect that certain white wire that is supposed to be serving as a return path for that AFCI circuit. Go to your tread mill and test for power testing from the black and white wire of the receptacle where the tread mill is plugged in. If it reads 120 volt then this would prove you have two white wires from two different circuits intermixed, most commonly found in double gang switch boxes.

    Just an idea


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Kent, WA


    If the whites we intermixed, I'd expect any load of 50 watts or more on that same receptacle to cause the AFCI to trip because the return current will be splitting between two paths. If other loads plugged into this circuit aren't tripping the AFCI's, then it may be the treadmill. Try a vacuum cleaner as a device to test AFCI integrity, as they are pretty noisy and have brushes that arc.

    I have heard of AFCI troubles with treadmills. However, they usually trip the AFCI protecting the circuit the treadmill is plugged into and not other ones.

    I would not expect much of a power filter in a GFCI, but there is a toroid coil that may dampen some small things. If you had a heavy duty power filter, that would be one way to test the treadmill. Even a power strip with noise filtering, not just surge suppression, may help. I think I'd also try the following:

    • See what circuits the treadmill will run on and not trip AFCI's.
    • Make note of the AFCI's that trip and look for something common (all on the same power leg as the treadmill, all adjacent in the breaker panel to the treadmill circuit, etc...)
    • Will just using a long extension cord on the receptacle you've been using solve the problem (a length of wire will act as a small filter)?
    Kent, WA

  7. #7


    I tried the plug-in GFCI shock buster from Lowes, but it did not resolve the problem. I have my builder on the hook to answer why the other breakers are tripping. I may just end up fully installing a regular 15amp breaker in the room where I run the treadmill before its all over.

    Thanks for help!!

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Tiger33 View Post
    ... I have my builder on the hook to answer why the other breakers are tripping. I may just end up fully installing a regular 15amp breaker in the room where I run the treadmill before its all over.

    Thanks for help!!
    But doing that would be violating the electric codes (something your builder most likely won't do). Plus, if the issue is noise backfeeding into the other breakers, I don't think replacing the breaker that fees the treadmill is going to prevent the other breakers from tripping.

    Have you tried the combination of extension cord and GFCI outlet? (Sort of recreating the "experiment" of plugging the treadmill into the bathroom?) And what if you try that same experiment in other rooms? All that combined with where these various circuits are in the house and in the breaker panel relative to each other might be able to find a solution... after all, we know at least once running the cord to the bathroom worked... if we can just recreate that fix elsewhere.

  9. #9

    Default Motors can cause a little arc.

    I remember reading on my arc fault breaker that some motors can trip them.

    Sometimes there is an arc when the motor contacts are not quite contacting.

    I have tried my arc fault using a Drill.

    I have heard the following:

    1) Use GFCI to protect people
    2) Use AFCI to prevent fire

    I was using on 70 year old romex wire with cotton/tar/paper insulation.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Welland Ontario


    It's one thing for a treadmill to trip a AFCI breaker that is is plugged into. It something very different and strange to be tripping AFCI breakers on other circuits.

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