Do you have problems with a circuit breaker tripping repeatedly? If you are asking this question, you are in good company. It’s one of the questions we get asked most often at Haas & Sons Electric. If you’ve got a problem with your circuit breakers, here are a couple of scenarios that might be familiar to you…
Scenario #1: You’re cooking dinner for the family with the two children upstairs, and your significant other, 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 you’re using to cook the meal.
Scenario # 2: You’re working in the garage, using a bandsaw 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.
FAQS When Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping
Why Does My Circuit Breaker Keep Tripping?
Circuit breakers trip when there is a problem with your electrical system. Sometimes your breaker may be old or worn, and it trips easier than it should. Conventional circuit breakers and fuses are designed to trip when you overuse electricity or there’s a short in the circuit. Different types of circuit breakers protect against certain types of electrical situations. There are also Ground Fault Circuit Interrupts (GFCI breakers, often misnamed RFI breakers) which trip when the circuit becomes grounded, most frequently used around water sources. Lastly, there are Arc Fault Circuit Interrupts (AFCI breakers), which continuously monitor the electric use on the circuit. If they sense bad arcing, they turn the power off, avoiding damages to your home.
How Do You Fix a Breaker That Keeps Tripping?
When your circuit breaker trips repeatedly, it can be fixed in a number of ways, depending on what caused them to trip. First, start by resetting the breaker – turn it off and back on. Next, unplug everything on that circuit and turn all the switches off. Try resetting your circuit breaker. If it holds for a few seconds, then trips again, and/or creates a humming sound, there is likely a short in the circuit. The cause for this is often a motor that is locked up. If, after resetting it, the breaker trips again and has a bit of pop, that would indicate there is what we refer to as a “dead short.” This means the circuit has zero resistance and must be examined and repaired. At this point, we recommend calling in an electrician to track down the issue and repair it properly.
Why Would a Circuit Breaker Keep Tripping?
Breakers that keep tripping are older or weaker circuit breakers. If the electrical panel system is over 25 years old, it may be time for a panel upgrade. Over time, circuit breakers can degrade and cause issues within the electrical system of your home. Sometimes you can figure out what is causing them to trip all on your own, like every time you turn on the dining room lights, the circuit trips. Or perhaps you notice the circuit breaker tripping every time you turn your space heater on high.
How Do You Stop a Breaker From Tripping?
To get a breaker to stop tripping, you need to find out why it’s tripping in the first place. Try to unplug everything and turn all the switches off to do the initial level of troubleshooting. If the circuit breaker is holding after that, turn the switches back on, one by one, and finish up by plugging in your appliances back in, one by one. By doing this, you may be able to find the exact cause. If this doesn’t show you where the problem is, you will need to take all the switches and outlets out to trace out where the short is. We strongly recommend calling a licensed electrician to assist with this.
How Do You Know if You Have a Bad Breaker?
Bad breakers often will not reset at all. Other indications are when there is minimal electricity being used and it still trips off. Other times, you might attempt to turn it on and it flops back off like it never clicked into the on position. These are all indicators that your circuit breaker has just gone bad, and you need to replace it.
A Few More Things That Could Indicate That You Have a Bad Circuit Breaker:
The circuit breaker trips even when nothing is plugged in – A breaker that still trips even when there are very few amps demanded of it will most likely need to be replaced.
The switch does not stay on or off – Usually a breaker switch will click when you move it from the on and off positions and back again. A breaker switch that does not click and will not move to the on or off positions when reset is likely faulty and will need to be replaced.
Is Your Circuit Overloaded?
In both scenarios we described at the beginning of this article, 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 must first understand the critical role of this 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 through overuse. What has often caused the breaker to trip is that it is overloaded with too many devices, pulling too many amps. In other words, we’re asking it to do more than it is designed to.
For example, if the breaker is a 20-amp breaker, it’s designed to handle 20 amp of electricity and because of the design of the breakers, they often won’t trip until 22 or more amps are being used. It will become too hot after a while, and the breaker will trip. Let’s revisit that first scenario. In the kitchen, we might have been running the stove, dishwasher, microwave, and toaster simultaneously. This load is too large, and we need to unplug one or some devices. Another solution is to wait until one of the machines – the dishwasher perhaps—is finished running, and then use the toaster.
After unplugging the toaster, the homeowner can open the electrical panel. One of the breakers will appear to be slightly out of line. The breaker should be firmly pushed into the “off” position, then back into the “on” position. If 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. Let’s say the homeowner is using an extension cord to run an electrical hedge trimmer or mower outside. If he damages the extension 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.
Your circuit breaker has tripped in this instance because of a dangerous situation that can develop with the damage to the cord. Recognize that when a circuit breaker is tripped, it’s sending you a message. If it’s repeatedly tripping, it’s sending a message that should not be ignored and should be remedied!
A third reason that the circuit breaker keeps tripping as soon as it is reset is that the breaker can no longer carry the load for which it was designed. In this case, you need to have it replaced. It goes without saying that this is a job for a licensed electrician. Don’t put your largest financial investment, your home… at risk. You need to ensure that this job is done professionally and will be built to withstand the test of time. This is not a DIY project.
Tips for Dealing With Tripped Circuit Breakers
Ensure that the breakers are 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 home’s teenager uses a hairdryer in the bathroom to groom 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 licensed 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.
Understanding circuit breakers is a must, especially if you intend to troubleshoot and maintain a robust circuit breaker panel in your home. We hope you’ve found the information in this article to be useful. If you have any questions or would like to have us come out and inspect your circuit breakers, we are available.
To schedule a visit from one of our licensed electricians, contact Haas & Sons online today. We will help pinpoint precisely what is wrong with your circuit breakers and how best to fix the problem. Trust the experts at Haas for something as important as the electricity in your home.« 11 Electrical Updates for Your New Home