Circuit Breaker Tripping?

Do you have problems with a circuit breaker tripping?  Have you experienced a scenario like this?

Scenario No. 1: The wife is cooking dinner for the family with the two children upstairs and a husband, just home from work, is doing office work on the computer. Suddenly the power shuts off for half the appliances in the kitchen, including the electric stove the wife is using to cook the meal.

Scenario No. 2: The husband is in the garage using a band saw to cut some wood to use to replace a leg on a table that recently cracked. Suddenly the power shuts off for all the circuits in the garage, including the overhead light.

Overloaded circuit

In both these scenarios, the homeowner needs to learn what to do if the circuit breaker keeps tripping. He or she must begin by knowing how to check the circuit breaker. If he has not used a circuit breaker before, he needs to first understand the function of this crucial device in a home’s electrical system. The device is designed to trip – or break the circuit – when it is overloaded. The breaker prevents the circuit from being damaged. Often what has caused the breaker to trip is that it was overloaded with too many devices pulling too many amps.

For example, if the breaker is a 20-amp breaker, it is designed to carry continuously only 80% of that. If the devices are pulling 16 amps, after a while it will build up too much heat and the breaker will trip. For example, in the first scenario, the wife might have been running the stove, dishwasher, microwave and a toaster at the same time. This was too big a load and the wife needed to unplug one of the devices.  Or wait until one of the devices –dishwasher perhaps—is through, then use the toaster.

After unplugging the toaster, the homeowner can open the electrical panel. One of the breakers will be slightly out of line. The breaker should be firmly pushed into the “off” position, then back into the “on” position.  If the reason for the overload has been taken care of, the breaker should remain in the on position. If there is another problem, the breaker will quickly flip back offline.

Extension cord problems

Another reason for the circuit breaker to trip is extension cord problems.  Perhaps the homeowner is using an extension cord to run an electrical hedge trimmer or mower outside. If he damages the cord, the breaker might trip.  Once again, the problem is easily fixed.  The homeowner unplugs the damaged extension cord and flips the circuit breaker into an on position. Then, of course, he must repair the extension cord or head to Home Depot for a new cord.

Breaker problem

A third reason that the circuit breaker keeps tripping a soon as it is reset is that the breaker is no longer able to carry the load it is designed for and must be replaced. Caution, this is a job for a professional. Remember you are dealing with electricity.  And you are messing with probably your largest financial investment – your home. You want it done right and not have to worry about it again for years to come.

Make sure that the breakers are clearly marked for which circuit they go to—kitchen, living room, garage, bedroom, etc. This will make it easier if the breaker flips at night or in bad weather, and you will know which breaker might be the problem.

Often outlets in the “wet areas” – bathrooms, kitchen, outdoors—will have a button that can be pressed to reset the circuit. For example, if the teenager in the home is using a hair dryer in the bathroom to primp for a date and the circuit is tripped, the homeowner can press the button on the outlet and reset. Frequently primping can continue, but just on another circuit that is not overloaded.

The main breaker controls the flow of electricity into your house. If there is a problem with this breaker, call your electrician immediately.  This is not for the “Harry Handyman,” but for an expert.

Repeated Circuit Breaker Tripping

One frequent cause for the circuit breaker to keep tripping is the air conditioner. Your technician might go outside the home and disconnect the wiring to the compressor on the air conditioner, then go back inside to flip the breaker back to the on position to try to isolate the problem. He will probably pull the fuse on the compressor as well. If the fan runs when the power is restored, then probably the compressor is the cause of the overload. The technician will then make suggestions on fixing the compressor.

The homeowner needs to be familiar with the basics of what to do if the circuit breaker keeps tripping. Perhaps the home is relatively new and will experience few problems with its electrical systems. However, when the circuit breaker trips after a power outage, he must be prepared. One or more persons in the home should know about how to reset a breaker that has been tripped. Just as important, the homeowner needs to know the obvious line between a job for the homeowner and a job for the professional.

If you are experiencing issues with your circuit breakers, call today for a free quote - 443-396-3797

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