Circuit breakers are those protective devices that are used to keep people and their electrical items safe and free from injuries. When a circuit breaker trips(shuts off the electrical flow), it means something went wrong in the circuit: in general a circuit overload. A direct consequence is that an appliance or lamp connected to that circuit breaker goes dead. The lever of the circuit breaker is “off”. If you try to put it back to its initial position, and you hear it snapping and remains to that position, it means there is a deeper problem.
A faulty circuit breaker needs to be replaced in some cases.
No matter how smart you are, a strong background is strictly recommended to solve these kinds of issues.
Why does a circuit breaker keeps tripping
These are the main reasons :
- Short circuit: It happens when the hot wire comes into contact with the neutral or another hot wire. When this happens, a large amount of current flows through the circuit – due to lowered resistance – creating more heat than it can handle. A short circuit is caused by faulty equipment or appliances, outlets or plugs. That’s the reason it can be difficult to detect and fix. Short circuits are fire hazards.
- Overloaded circuit: The most common cause for a tripped circuit breaker is overloading. It occurs when power-hungry systems run in the same circuit. Consequently, more current will flow through that circuit. Since that current is higher than what the circuit breaker has been designed for, it trips.
Check out this link to know more about overloading.
Let’s take an example, a circuit breaker rated at 15 amps cannot handle 20 amps load. It automatically trips and shuts the current off. In this case, you have 02 solutions:
- Shut the appliances that caused the overload off.
- Disconnect those appliances and reconnect them in another circuit.
- Wrong circuit breaker: Electricians may connect the wrong circuit breaker. The type of circuit breaker should match with the application. It is not common to have bad circuit breakers as they can last for years. A type B circuit breaker, for instance, will never be able to start up a motor like a type D.
- Ground fault: A ground fault is similar to a short circuit. It occurs when a hot wire touches a ground wire or a portion of an appliance that is grounded. Most of the time, a ground fault results from an insulation breakdown. It’s harmful in areas of moisture like bathrooms or kitchen. For this reason, a GFCI must be installed there. It prevents electrical hazards like electrical shocks or electrocution.
- Arc faults: An arc fault circuit breaker is a special circuit breaker designed to detect arc faults. An arc fault is the flow of electricity over an unintended path. They are more sensitive and more accurate than ordinary circuits breakers or fuses. Arc faults receptacles are used as an alternative solution to arc fault circuits breakers at some places.
Locate a tripped circuit breaker
First things first, locate a tripped circuit breaker. It is mostly found in the utility area. Check the control panel. After opening it, there is a bank of circuit breakers arranged in the same manner and in the same position. If one of them is “off” ( a different position than the others) then put it down. If you don’t see any circuit box, then you might have an old installation made of fuses. In this case, the approach of troubleshooting is completely different.
how to fix a circuit breaker that keeps tripping:
- Put the level of the circuit breaker to its « ON » position. If you succeed and light comes back that’s good for the moment; it means there is no immediate issue, but it also means that you need to check your system again or call a licensed electrician.
- If the level of the circuit breaker goes to its initial position and trips again, it is due to one of the previous reasons. In that case:
- Unplug all the appliances.
- Then plug in appliances one after another to see which appliance is the faulty one.
- If no specific appliance trips the circuit breaker, chances are, your circuit gets overloaded. In this case, let an electrician upgrade your panel.
- If the circuit breaker remains at the “off” position, contact a professional. He will fix the problem and deliver the best solution for your home.
It is always recommended to avoid humid or wet areas when dealing with electricity, especially for non-experienced people.
Electricity can be dangerous and become harmful if not well handled. A circuit breaker that keeps tripping hides serious problems. Electricians are trained to take on every electrical challenge. Unless you are confident enough to tackle that kind of project, it’s smart to call an expert.