What Should You Do When Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping?
Have you ever been at home and suddenly heard a loud click followed by a loss of power in some parts of the house? This is usually a sign that your circuit breaker has tripped. A circuit breaker that keeps tripping is more than just a minor inconvenience. It means that something in your electrical system is not functioning properly, so you need to take steps to address it as soon as possible.
Understanding Why a Breaker Trips
To handle the problem of a breaker that keeps tripping, it is helpful to understand how a circuit breaker really works. A circuit is a wiring loop that provides electricity to a specific set of outlets, lights, and switches in your home. The wiring is attached to a circuit breaker switch, which is a small black switch inside your big electrical panel. The circuit breaker is an essential safety mechanism. When it senses that something is going wrong in your electrical system, it automatically flips to off, shutting down power to the circuit.
You can temporarily solve the problem by just going to the panel and flipping the switch back on. However, the breaker will just keep tripping because you have not solved the issue that is causing the breaker to switch off. Furthermore, your tripping breaker might be a symptom of a big problem with your electrical system. To actually keep a breaker from tripping, you need to make sure your electrical system is in good shape.
Test to See if You Have a Circuit Overload
One of the most common reasons for a circuit breaker tripping is simply a circuit overload. This happens when more electrical current is being pulled through your wires then they can handle. The breaker trips because the circuit load can lead to fires when ignored. Circuit overload is increasingly common because many older homes are not built for the amount of power used by modern electronics. They most frequently happen in the kitchen and living room because these two rooms are often on the same circuit and contain many power-hungry appliances.
Seeing whether or not circuit overload is behind your breaker tripping is quite simple. Go over the affected area of your home, turning off all switches and unplugging any appliances or fixtures. Then flip your breaker back on and begin plugging in items and turning on switches once again. With each new item, you turn back on, wait a few minutes to see if the circuit will trip. You may want to also run your appliances while doing this test to get an accurate idea of how much power your circuit can handle. If your breaker trips at any point in this test, it is usually a sign that the circuit is overloaded.
If you have a circuit overload, the quick fix is simply not using everything at once. You can move some appliances or electronics to another room, or you can keep some unplugged when not in use. With a little experimentation, you can usually figure out just how many appliances you can use before the circuit trips. However, all this shuffling around of appliances and electronics can get tedious. A better solution is getting a professional electrician to adjust your circuits. Updating your wiring with extra circuits will ensure that you can use all your devices without getting a circuit overload.
Check for a Short Circuit
Another common cause of a tripped breaker is a short circuit. A short circuit happens when two wires that should not touch accidentally brush against each other. This results in a surge of electricity that can be dangerous if the breaker does not trip. Shorts can appear in many places. They can happen inside an outlet, within a light switch, or even inside of an appliance. Any time anything electrical is damaged, from rodents or general wear and tear, a short may develop.
To identify the short, start by turning off all switches and unplugging all appliances. Then, just like when testing for a circuit overload, flip the breaker back on and start flipping switches and plugging in appliances one by one. When the item with a short is activated, the breaker will trip immediately. To confirm that you have found the problem spot, turn off everything, flip on the breaker, and try the item again. If there is a short, the circuit breaker will trip even when no other power is being used.
When the breaker tripping happens while you use a wall switch, you have identified the short. If it happens when you turn on an appliance, you next need to see if the outlet or the appliance is the problem. Turn everything off, flip on the breaker, and try running the appliance in a different room. If that breaker trips, the appliance is the problem. However, if the breaker only trips when you use any sort of appliance in an outlet, the outlet is at fault.
After you identify the short circuit, avoid using the outlet, appliance, or switch again until the issue is repaired. You can potentially get shocked by using equipment with a short, so it is a good idea to play it safe. Appliances that cause a short will need to be replaced or taken to an appliance repair shop to get fixed. For shorts in your switches or outlets, you will need a licensed electrician to inspect your system and repair the problem.
Get a Professional to Examine Your System for a Fault
Not all causes of a tripped breaker are as easy to spot as a circuit overload. Sometimes, your breaker may be tripping over and over due to a fault. This occurs whenever there is an abnormal surge of electricity. It is often caused by water dripping among electrical wires or some sort of insulation breakdown. These can be fairly dangerous because you can get shocked if you come into contact with the ground fault. A potential fault should never be ignored because it can worsen over time.
Therefore, it is important to get help from a licensed professional if your circuit tripping is not caused by a short or an overloaded circuit. To fix the fault, an electrician will need to help you locate where the fault is occurring. If a water leak or other external problem caused the fault, you will need to fix it before proceeding. Then you will need to have an electrician replace the damaged wiring. This can help stop the circuit from tripping and keep dangerous shocks from happening.
[Company_name] is happy to investigate and find the cause of a tripped breaker for you, and we can help upgrade your system to keep it from happening again. In addition to electrical services, we also help Seattle residents with HVAC installations, repairs, and maintenance. To schedule your next appointment, give us a call today.