We use more electronic devices than ever. As a homeowner, a day will come when you find yourself asking your neighbor, or a handy relative: “Why does my breaker keep tripping?”
Circuit breakers just seem to trip more often. Large TVs, laptops, gaming consoles, even a vacuum, can all put a strain on your home’s electrical systems. Today we will talk about circuit breaker problems and show you how to deal with them. If a breaker keeps tripping in your house, the following is essential reading.
We want to share an important point here – a tripped breaker is a good thing.
A circuit breaker is designed to shut down circuits that are on the verge of overloading from excess electrical current or a short. Don’t ignore a circuit breaker if the circuit keeps tripping. Instead, you should find out what is causing the tripped breaker. We’ll talk about specific instances of circuit problems, below.
How a Circuit Breaker Works
Circuit breakers are safety devices that detect when an electrical circuit is overloaded. The circuit breaker “trips” and breaks or turns off the circuit, preventing potentially dangerous electrical problems. A circuit breaker can be reset after an overloading event.
Electrical fuses work similarly, but they only work once. When a fuse is overloaded or “blown” it must be replaced. This is one of the reasons why circuit breakers are now used in homes.
If the incidence of a tripped breaker is infrequent, it is not likely a problem, especially in an older home, where you can expect that a circuit breaker may occasionally trip. You should pay attention if a tripped breaker is constantly occurring in your home.
It’s important to know where your main service panel is. This is where circuit breakers are located (or, in older homes, fuses.) It’s here that you can put circuit breakers back in place and know which circuit is the one with trouble. Note, how the main circuit panel can be outside or possibly in the garage.
“Why does the breaker keep tripping?” Answering the questions below may help you learn why.
- How many devices do I have on this circuit?
- Is a piece of electrical wire exposed somewhere?
- Might animals be chewing electrical cables, either in the walls or on exposed wiring? (Some pets are apt to do this as well)
- Is there a damp area somewhere along the circuit?
We’ll be going into the various types of malfunctioning circuits below. This should assist you and your electrician in determining the cause of the short circuit and dealing with the issue.
An overloaded circuit is one that has too many devices running on it. The electrical draw is too much for the circuit, and this causes the circuit to overheat, causing the breaker to trip.
When your circuit breaker trips, make sure that you remember to unplug any devices on the circuit that are running, including the last one you plugged in. Once you’ve unplugged these devices, reset the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker does not trip again then you know it’s an overload issue. Plug those devices into other circuits and in different outlets, to spread the load.
A short circuit is more dangerous. This is caused when a charged or “hot” wire touches another “hot” or neutral wire. This increases the current and causes the circuit to overheat and trip. If a circuit breaker keeps tripping with nothing plugged in, then it is probably a short circuit. Reach out to your local electrician to schedule an appointment.
If a circuit breaker keeps tripping, loose connections, improper wiring, faulty fixtures, or switches can be to blame. If possible, inspect the entire circuit, so that when the electrician arrives you can help them find the problem.
A ground circuit is when a hot wire touches a grounding circuit. It’s otherwise identical to a short circuit. Don’t try to repair this one either! Issues like this should only be tackled by a certified electrician with the proper equipment. Watch for if a breaker keeps popping. This may be the cause.
Arc circuits are usually witnessed outside when electrical discharge grounds into a tree from a transformer. Any discharge that leaps from a circuit into an unplanned place is an arc circuit.
How to Reset a Tripped Breaker
In most cases, you’ll just be resetting an overloaded circuit. If you don’t smell any smoke or don’t hear popping, then you probably have too many devices on the line.
You can reset a tripped circuit breaker with the following steps:
- Turn off anything you had running and unplug all devices on that circuit.
- Locate your electrical panel, aka the main service panel, as was discussed above.
- Do not flip any switches in the electrical panel until you find one or more switches in the “off” position. All the switches in the “on” position represent circuits that are still supplying power to other rooms and devices in the house. Find the switch that is in the “off” position. Some even have red and green markers or lights to indicate their status.
- Once you find the switch, switch it from OFF to ON, then to OFF again, then back to ON. This will fully reset the switch.
- Plug one or two devices into the outlet. You may want to have one person at the panel and one at the outlet for this. If these involve a power strip, make sure that the power strip is reset before plugging it in. Plug one device at a time back into the power strip. Carefully watch to see if the circuit breaker trips again.
If one breaker keeps tripping, then there may be a short somewhere on the circuit line. In this case, leave the breaker tripped and contact an electrician immediately.
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