Knowing how to check a breaker is something that should be common knowledge for every adult. But you would be surprised by how many service calls result in an electrician simply driving out to the house and flipping a switch! Circuit breakers are designed to protect our homes from damage. Think of it this way: it takes heat to cause a tripped breaker. Excess heat in your house’s electrical wires would be a bad thing to happen.
The Most Common Cause of Tripped Circuit Breakers
What kinds of things can cause a circuit breaker to trip? If more power is drawing from the circuit than it’s designed to handle, the circuit becomes overloaded, and the breaker will trip. This is the most common cause of tripped circuit breakers.
Imagine having a bunch of family and friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. There could be half a dozen people cooking in the kitchen. The range and oven are cranked up. Crock pots, food processors, and stand mixers are working away. There are almost certainly one or two tablets or smartphones charging in the room. Having all those appliances drawing from your kitchen circuit is the perfect setting for an overloaded circuit. Spread out your appliances and electronics to other circuits, reset the breaker, and you should be good to go.
And once in a while, you will have a circuit breaker wear out and quit working. Just like everything else in life, these gizmos will eventually expire. Call an electrician to swap it out for you.
What Else Causes Tripped Breakers?
However, there are some circumstances when the cause of the tripped circuit breaker is not so obvious. Some of these scenarios can pose a real danger to your house – and everyone in it.
A short circuit is not just a cheesy 80’s movie. It’s a serious house fire hazard. When two black (hot) wires or a black wire and a white (neutral) wire touch, it can cause the circuit to short. A damaged wire within the circuit will have the same effect. These wiring problems could be occurring in an appliance’s wiring, or in the wiring inside your home’s walls.
To check out a possible short, unplug all the appliances on the circuit. Then, reset the breaker. If it doesn’t trip again, the issue is probably with the appliance’s wiring. Plug those back in one by one to identify the one with damaged wiring. If the circuit does trip with nothing plugged in, there isn’t an easy or safe way for the average person to diagnose a wiring problem inside the walls. Time to call an electrician.
Tripped Breaker Due to Ground Fault
Still another possible cause of a tripped circuit breaker is a ground fault. A ground fault is technically another kind of short circuit. It happens when the black wire touches either the copper ground wire or the metal box attached to the ground wire. Yes, fixing this issue can be as easy as moving the hot wire away from the ground wire or box. However, it’s crucial that you take some basic precautions to avoid hurting yourself.
First, leave the circuit breaker tripped so that power does not flow to the hot wire. Second, to be safe, move the hot wire away from the metal box or ground wire with a non-conductive tool. Definitely don’t move it with your fingers!
What If One of My Breakers Trips All the Time?
This is a common problem in older homes. An average modern household’s electronics and appliances draw far more power than old electrical systems were built to handle. Historic or retro homes look cool, but it can be frustrating when your daily habits are restricted by your house’s electrical capacity.
Repeated tripping can also be a sign that a circuit breaker is starting to fail. Whatever the cause of the constant tripping, frequently resetting a circuit breaker can put your home and devices at risk. A better course of action is to ask an electrician to assess your electrical panel and advise you on the best way to upgrade it to meet your needs.
Let Arc Angel Check Your Circuit Breakers
Our team of pros will be glad to assess your breaker box and any other electrical concerns you may have. For the past 15 years, we have committed ourselves to total customer satisfaction for our Atlanta-area customers. We work hard to surpass your expectations and deliver a level of service you won’t find elsewhere.
For more tips on how to check a breaker, call Arc Angel at 770.889.9243.