Table Of Contents
Tripped Circuit Breakers
A sudden surge in electrical current or some other electrical fault can cause a breaker to trip. Other causes include damage to electrical appliances and posing health and safety hazards.
That is why a functioning circuit breaker is there in the first place – to prevent these consequences. However, you should have cause for concern when your circuit breaker starts tripping.
Read on to find out what can cause circuit breakers to trip. Also considered are the functions of a circuit breaker, locating circuit breakers, reasons for breakers tripping constantly, and their operating mechanisms.
Additionally, you can also read up on how to select circuit breakers, steps to take when they trip, their usual lifespan, how to test safety switches, understand signs of trips or when they go bad, and how to manage breaker trips.
Finally, we will list the services of licensed electricians.
Functions Of A Circuit Breaker
Circuit breakers are electrical safety devices for controlling and protecting people and home appliances from electrical faults.
The breaker cuts off electrical flow when you have overloaded circuits. Such electric loads can strain your electric system. Similarly, if the flow of the electric current is too strong, it is cut off.
Circuit breakers can act automatically or manually. Modern breakers act as automatic electrical switches. As such, overheating is prevented in the electrical wires. Subsequently, you can safely reset your circuit breaker. Then, power will be restored in your home. This emphasises the need for a circuit breaker in your home.
How To Locate Circuit Breakers
If your circuit breaker has tripped, you have to reset it back to normal. Usually, you can locate circuit breakers inside fuse boxes. Possible areas to find them are under staircases or inside garages. People sometimes install circuit breakers in the kitchen, living room, or bedroom.
Reasons Why Circuit Breakers Trip Constantly
Constant resetting and tripping of your circuit breaker can become annoying. As such, you may want to find out precisely what causes circuit breakers to trip. However, if you cannot pinpoint the cause, invite a licensed electrician for diagnosis.
Unattended electrical faults can cause constant tripping of your breaker. Circuit breaker tripping is meant to forestall damage to your home’s circuit. Examples of electrical defects that can cause breaker trips include faulty electric components, power surges, and excess electric current.
The following are some common reasons for circuit breaker tripping.
Shorted circuits occur when you have a fault in your electrical system. These faults can include old electrical appliances, loose connections, and interference from pets.
A naked live wire may touch a naked neutral wire. An appliance you have plugged in may have faulty wiring. Ultimately, excess heat is generated in the circuit. As a result, the circuit breaker trips, shutting off the circuit. Another consequence is that fuses blow or create sparks.
Dark or yellowish discolouration may appear around a circuit breaker. Consider this as a clear sign of a short circuit. Invite a licensed electrician immediately.
Grounding fault surges
Ground fault surges are similar in characteristics to short circuits. The difference is that live wires (or hot wires) touch ground wires. The ground wire allows excess electricity to travel back to the earth.
Also, grounding faults can arise when a live wire meets the framing of an outlet box connected to the ground wire. An excess flow of electric currents occurs in both cases. In turn, this causes circuit breakers to trip.
Grounding faults can occur due to defective components or appliances. Constant breaker trips can put your home at risk of an electrical fire due to high electrical flows.
That is why you must ensure specific areas in your home have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter GFCI. It prevents electrical shocks and fires. Thus, you should install them in areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, and poolside.
Circuit overloads occur when too many electrical devices are plugged into a particular circuit. In fact, they are among the primary reasons why circuit breakers trip. The plugged electrical devices exceed the capacity of the electrical circuit. Naturally, your breaker begins to trip.
This can result in the circuit overheating. It can even cause sparks, hot wires, and potential sparks. Second, the various lighting features and electrical appliances will be at risk. Take certain precautions as regards appliances plugged into a circuit. Your circuit breaker should not accommodate an electrical current beyond its capacity.
Do not plug in your dishwasher and dryer in the same circuit. This might result in an excess output of electric currents and circuit overload. Redistribute your electrical appliances properly. Again, licensed electricians near you can help with the redistribution or upgrade of your electrical system.
Here are some signs of circuit overloads.
- The power stops flowing to the circuit if the circuit breaker has tripped
- Dim or flickering lights
- Warm power points, outlets, and switches
- Buzzing noises at power points, outlets, and switches. You perceive a burning smell from outlets and switches
- Plugged in appliances may lack power or not work at full capacity
Electrical appliances may become defective, damaged, or simply malfunction. As such, they can draw excess power and initiate circuit overloads. Check all appliances when a breaker trips.
Tripped breakers can also be because of lightning storms. Lightning might strike nearby electrical cables and initiate circuit breaker trips. Either all of the breakers or a couple will trip. Invite a licensed electrician if you are unable to restore power yourself.
Operating Mechanisms Of Circuit Breakers
Circuit breakers can interrupt current flow using several mechanisms. These mechanisms include the following:
Circuit breakers rated for 30 amperes
The mechanism here depends on the thermal expansion of metal with increasing temperature. The link-bonded contacts or free-swinging blades are made from extruded copper or aluminium alloy.
Circuit breakers rated for 60 amperes
These circuit breakers combine both magnetic and thermal mechanisms.
Circuit breakers rated for 100 amperes
These breakers use both magnetic and thermal mechanisms. Fault currents that exceed 100 amperes result in a thermal expansion that forces the blades to trip. After that, they cause an arc within the circuit breaker, interrupting the flow.
The return mechanism is activated once the fault clears and the current is reduced below trip level.
Do not try a DIY repair when you experience problems with breaker panels such as arc fault - It can be dangerous. Such electrical repairs are best left to a licensed electrician.
How To Choose Circuit Breakers For Your Home
Circuit breakers come in various shapes and sizes. You have to choose a breaker that suits your home. In addition, as you install a circuit breaker in your home, you should make sure you have enough space for it.
Steps To Take If A Circuit Breaker Trips
A single circuit or the entire circuit in your home can go off. This causes the breaker in your fuse box to trip. You can take the following steps when this happens.
Find a torch
You should have another light source to find your way around if it is dark. That is why you need a torch or phone to illuminate your way. It will also illuminate the fuse box as you make your checks.
Switch off appliances
Switch off all electrical appliances. Unplug them and make sure they are not connected to the faulty circuit.
Turn off the master switch
Check the power board and turn off the master switch. This enables you to access the fuse box safely once power is cut off. The circuit breaker panel or breaker box hosts circuit breaker switches.
Check safety switches
RCD (Residual Current Device) safety switches are essential safety devices in the home. They act as protection from electrical shock.
Reset the circuit breaker
Next, you should see several switches or breakers inside your fuse box. Just turn on the one that has switched off. Check to see if the appliances and lights are working well upon resetting the specific circuit breaker.
Confirm that power is back
The short circuit may be in the system if the power does not return to that circuit or the breaker instantly trips. The electrician will confirm that the tripped breakers are not because of overloaded circuits.
In addition, they may advise you to replace a breaker that constantly trips rather than repairing it. After all, they only cost a few dollars. Invite a licensed electrician to sort out the problem.
Lifespan Of A Circuit Breaker
Generally, the lifespan of a circuit breaker is around 30 years or more.
Frequency Of Safety Switch Tests
Safety tests should be done at least once every three-six months.
Steps To Test Safety Switches
You can use the systematic checklist below to test your safety switches.
- Inform everyone in the house of the test
- Move to your switchboard
- Press the “t or test button” of the safety switches
- You should hear a kind of crunching sound as the switch automatically trips to the off position
- Confirm that all your appliances are off
- Flick the button to the on position to reset the safety switch. Confirm it stays on
- You should replace your switch if it does not turn on or makes a crunching sound
- Also, you could install RCD switches or circuit breakers on each circuit to avoid future trip switches
Circuit Breakers Or Fuses: Which Is Best?
Circuit breakers or fuses protect electrical systems in the home. Modern homes typically have circuit breakers located in the main switchboard. If your electrical system has not been updated within the last two decades, it possibly has fuses.
Fuses are sacrificial devices; they have to be replaced when they blow out. The metal strip within melts when excessive current flows through.
Circuit breakers work much more effectively. You may find multiple breakers represented by switches in modern electrical panels. These circuit breakers automatically turn off and break electrical connections upon detecting a surge. After that, you simply switch the breaker back on again.
Signs Your Breaker Or Fuse Has Tripped
The following are signs of a tripped breaker or fuse.
- Most breakers have a red or orange marker that indicates they have tripped
- Others use the “off” or “on” position to indicate their status
- You can identify blown fuses by a smoky odour and a black smear on the glass
Signs Your Circuit Breaker Is Faulty
Here are signs of a bad circuit breaker.
- The breaker will not stay reset
- Circuit breakers trip frequently
- A burning smell from the electrical box
- Presence of scorch marks
Tips On Managing Circuit Breaker Trips
- Carefully identify each switch and what area they control. This helps save time if a circuit trips or blows.
- You should replace circuit breakers or electrical panels that have not been serviced in the last ten years. They may have reached their life expectancy and become worn out.
Services Of An Electrician
Here are the tasks that are better left to a licensed electrician.
- Repair of loose electrical outlet boxes
- Issues with electrical switchboards
- Service of electrical panels
- Led lighting home repairs
- Repeating electrical codes
- Other general electrical repairs
- Other failures in home electrical systems
Invite An Electrician To Check Your Breaker
You do not have to limit yourself to only asking for an electrician’s help with the above electric system issues. If you are unsure how to handle tripped breakers, simply switch off all appliances and power and call electricians near you.