There are 3 main reasons that are surprisingly common for your circuit breaker to begin tripping.
- Circuit Overload
- Short Circuit
- Ground Fault
Here’s some information about the differences between a circuit overload, a short circuit and a ground fault to help you solve your circuit breaker and electrical system issues.
You go to plug in something or reach to flip on a switch and nada, nothing happens. Your circuit breaker has tripped again. Sure, you can just reset the circuit breaker each time it trips, or you can figure out the cause of the problem so you can fix it once and for all!
How Do You Know If a Circuit Breaker Has Tripped?
If the power has gone off in a certain area of your home rather than a whole-house power loss, the problem may be a tripped circuit breaker. Electrical circuits of your home are protected by either circuit breakers or fuses. All homeowners should know the location of their electrical panel or fuse box, and the opening should be easily accessible and not blocked by shelving, storage, or furniture. If each circuit breaker or fuse isn’t already labeled, take the time to identify each switch or fuse and the area it controls – Farryn Electric can help you label your panel if you would like our help. This will save you time and effort if a circuit or fuse trips again. If there are two breakers or fuses for one area, such as the kitchen, take care to detail which part of the kitchen each of the two switches controls. For example, you might label one switch “kitchen appliances” and the other switch “kitchen counter outlets” or other designations as appropriate.
If a circuit breaker trips because it has exceeded its maximum amperage, the switch handle will have moved between the on and off position and may show a red area alerting you that it has tripped. Depending on your electrical panel, sometimes the “trip” causes only a slight movement of the handle, and you’ll have to look closely at the switches to discern which one has tripped.
How Do You Reset a Tripped Circuit Breaker?
To reset a tripped circuit breaker, turn off the breaker by moving the switch or handle to the off position, and then turn it back on. For safety, it’s a good idea to stand back or to the side of the panel, just in case any sparks come from the breaker when it’s moved, or to wear safety goggles when resetting a circuit breaker. It’s also smart to keep a flashlight and batteries near your electrical panel to help light the area if the power is off. Rest the circuit breaker for a few minutes before unplugging and plugging items to determine what might have overloaded the circuit or caused the trip.
What is a Circuit Overload?
A circuit can become overloaded when an electrical wire/circuit receives more amperage than it’s intended to handle or may be caused by loose or corroded wires or connections. If a circuit trips because it has been overloaded, you can try disconnecting something from the circuit and using another circuit for the electrical power instead.
To help determine what caused the problem, unplug all the items on the circuit before resetting the breaker. After it’s reset and rested for a few minutes, turn on or plugin items, one at a time, to determine what may have caused the overload. If circuit overloads continue to happen in your home on a regular basis, you may need to install a new dedicated circuit and outlet for the area to handle the amperage load.
What is a Short Circuit?
A short circuit happens when a hot or active electrical wire and a neutral wire touch, causing a large amount of current to flow and overload the circuit. A short circuit should always cause a breaker to trip or a fuse to blow and may also cause sparks, popping sounds, or smoke. It may also be caused by issues like loose connections, a slipped wire, or even from damage caused by animals (mice or squirrels) chewing on wires. A short circuit can be caused by a faulty electrical switch, receptacle, fixture, appliance, plug, or cord. You can try to trace the short circuit yourself or call Farryn Electric for help. Short circuits can be dangerous due to the high temperatures from the current flow which can pose a fire hazard, so proceed with caution if you think your home has an issue and seek our professional assistance, especially if you can’t find the source.
What is a Ground Fault?
A ground fault can happen when a hot or active wire makes contact with the ground wire, a grounded portion of the junction box, or a grounded area of an appliance (Hot wires are usually black, neutral wires are usually white, and ground wires are usually green). When contact is made between a hot and ground wire large amount of current go through the circuit breaker which can cause it to trip. Many areas in the home are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) to be protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) to prevent electrical shocks and fires, including kitchens, bathrooms, garages, unfinished basements, outdoor areas. Ground faults usually happen when equipment is damaged or defective and can pose danger since live electrical parts may no longer be adequately protected from unintended contact.
Keep in mind that circuit breakers and fuses are safety devices for our protection when electrical malfunctions occur. Although, it may be frustrating when a circuit breaker trips or when a fuse blows, this action has served to protect us and our property. When troubleshooting or dealing with home electrical repairs, always take safety very seriously and never attempt to inspect or repair anything that you aren’t certain is safe. Always follow these electrical safety tips from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), including:
- Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized.
- Have a qualified electrician inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.
- If working in damp locations, inspect electric cords and equipment to ensure that they are in good condition and free of defects, and use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
- Always use caution when working near electricity.
When your home’s electrical system malfunctions, you need expert assistance. Enjoy the reliability and security of having a comprehensive electrical diagnostic and repair by Farryn Electric, which includes a lifetime warranty on our workmanship, for as long as you own your home and a 5-year warranty on any new part replacement – our workmanship is guaranteed! Even if the part’s manufacturer has a lesser warranty, we still cover the part for 5 years.