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Trough Heater Tripping Circuit Breaker-- Thoughts?

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  • Trough Heater Tripping Circuit Breaker-- Thoughts?

    I'm trying to reach the electrician to see when he can come take a peek, but thought in the meantime, maybe someone here might know what's going on. I have two trough heaters (one in each paddock) and they're plugged into their own GFI outlets at the fence (wiring is run underground from the fence to the barn). We have a breaker box in the tack room.

    I noticed one heater wasn't working a month or so ago, and since the GFI wasn't tripped, I just figured it finally conked out on me since it was several years old. Bought another heater and put it in. Then a few days later, I realized that the trough was frozen again. The GFI wasn't tripped but the breaker was. I reset the breaker and it's been fine for a few days at a time, then it trips again (presumably when it gets cold enough overnight to run the heater). I'm concerned not only about the trough freezing, but also about safety-- I'm paranoid about fire.

    I'm trying to figure out if I have a bad GFI or what. I've never had this problem in the past, have used the same type of heaters for about the past 5 years and nothing has changed about the set up. Thoughts?

  • #2
    One inexpensive thing you can try is to clean the heater.
    Unplug, remove from tank, scrub it clean and then (this
    is important) soak in vinegar or other hard water remover
    for several hours. If you have hard water, you need to do
    this once or twice each season to keep the heater working
    Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
    Elmwood, Wisconsin


    • #3
      Old circuit breakers can get testy. Have that electrician take a look and confirm you are not over loading things first. If not overloaded I would try replacing the circuit breaker with a new one.


      • #4
        How old is your stock tank heater? Does it have any visible wear and tear on the cord? Do you have any spare heaters laying around that you could switch out? I had the same problem last winter & it was my heater causing the circuit to trip. I replaced it and had no problems.
        "We're still right, they're still wrong" James Carville


        • Original Poster

          The thing is, the heater is new (less than a month old) and the circuit breakers are only about 5 years old-- we built the barn from scratch. I suppose I could try putting the "spare" heater in there and see if it still happens but I'm thinking it's not the heater. I think that's why the heater I just replaced wasn't working. I threw that one away before I realized I was having issues with the breaker tripping.

          I'll try the spare one this weekend when I have time to empty the trough and swap them out in the daylight. In the meantime maybe I can get in touch with the electrician. Thanks for the ideas!


          • #6
            What else is on the circuit? Breakers trip from overload. A 1500 watt heater at 110 volts is pulling 16.5 amps. (extension cords and long wire runs reduce voltage) Try removing all other loads or plugging the heater into another circuit.
            Equus makus brokus but happy


            • #7
              Interesting. I have a similar problem- except the GFI thingy trips. I've had 3 or 4 floating heaters over the past 5 years and I'm tired of getting new ones. I don't know if it's the heater or the outlet.

              I solved this issue by plugging in one of those blue heated much tubs. It always works and never trips anything. It is also only 250 watts, whereas the other heaters I had were 1250 watts. I don't know if it's the difference in the wattage, or if I just had a series of vaulty floating heaters, but this seems to work. Too bad it has to be filled at least one, more like twice a day, for 3 horses.


              • Original Poster

                hosspuller, there's not a whole lot on there, the only other things that use electricity on the whole meter up there are the lights and I only use them for an hour or so total each day. We have a separate meter for the house. However, I do have both trough heaters plugged in... so tonight I'll try unplugging the one in the other pasture (I only use one pasture at a time) and see if that makes a difference. I never had this problem before with both running, but who knows, maybe the newer heaters are pulling more voltage or something. I don't really need both running anyhow, it's just a pain to remember to plug the other one in when I switch pastures. Thanks for that idea!


                • #9
                  I am assuming both heaters are not on the same breaker?

                  My guess is the GFI is bad, but I have not seen one trip the breaker, they usually just trip and will not reset.


                  • #10
                    I just looked at my stock tank heater. (Gonna be cold tonight) It draws 1500 watts. @120 volts thats 12.5 amps. If you have two of them (like mine) when both come on thats 25 amps. Likely, your breaker is 20 amps. So the combination of the two heaters is tripping your breaker. Remember the heaters likely have a thermostat so they might not come on together immediately. But in the dead of the night, they both will turn on drawing 25 amps. As for lights... each 100 watt bult is about 1 amp. 50 watt bulbs are 1/2 amp. Two 40 watt flourescent tubes about 1 amp too.

                    It all adds up very quickly.
                    Equus makus brokus but happy