My Sylvania - ground fault 15 amp breaker (32740)
A circuit breaker can go bad, but usually not in the way that you describe. That's not to say that it can't happen, but just not typical. GTE Sylvania breakers were once popular - I installed quite a few GTE / Sylvania electrical panels in homes in the late 80's. You may have trouble finding replacements; do not put an breaker that "fits" into the panel, unless the breaker is designed for use in the panel you have.
The first thing to do is determine the source of the problem. The breaker will trip, but not indicate if it was the result of a heavy electrical load or a ground fault condition. A 15 amp circuit breaker is designed to carry up to 12 amps continuously. The greater the load, the more quickly it will trip. it may carry a 14.5 amp load for several minutes to an hour before tripping, and a 20 amp load may be carried a second or two. GFI breakers are designed to carry 5 thousandths (.005) of an amp (or 5 milliamps) to ground, or the 12+ amps to neutral before they trip.
The way I would attack the problem is to install a new GFI outlet in front of the old wiring, by "inserting it" between the panel and the other plugs and lights, switches, etc on that circuit. The GFI outlet will provide the same GFI protection that the circuit breaker provided at a fraction of the cost.
Turn off the old GFI breaker, and remove it completely. Install a new, standard (non-GFI) single pole 15 amp circuit breaker in its place. Completely remove from the panel the cable that the old GFI breaker fed. Buy a new electrical outlet box (surface or flush mount as desired) that is large enough and deep enough for a GFI plug and 2 cables (if surface mount, use a 4" square deep box and appropriate cover - or if flush mounting use a deep plastic / fiber single gang box). It will be installed in a place close to the panel, but where the old cable will be able to reach inside. Bring the old cable removed from the panel into the new box. Run a new cable that has the same number and size wires from the panel into the new box, too. Connect the circuit neutral and circuit ground to the neutral and ground bars in the panel (they are probably the same bar) and the hot wire to the circuit breaker. make sure that the circuit breaker is OFF. Twist the two ground wires together and combine an 8 inch length of bare or green insulated wire with them in a wirenut.
Next, wire a new GFI plug in the new box. Connect the green wire from the wirenut to the green terminal of the GFI outlet.
Connect the plug's LINE terminals to the neutral and hot wires in the cable that you ran from the panel to the outlet box.
Now, connect the GFI plug's LOAD terminals to the neutral and hot wires in the cable that you removed from the panel and reinstalled into the new outlet box.
Secure the GFI outlet into the box and install the cover. Cover the electrical panel.
Power up and test. if the GFI trips, there's a ground fault in the circuit. If the circuit breaker trips, the circuit is overloaded.
Your One Source...
on Jun 13, 2011