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January 28,2019

What to Do If Your Circuit Breaker Trips

When a circuit breaker trips, it indicates that something on the circuit is drawing too much power. If this is a recurring problem, you need to determine why. You should consider hiring an electrician from Mr. Electric if it may be due to improper wiring or insufficient capacity. Some residential appliances are more likely to trip the circuit breaker.

A circuit breaker can trip for several reasons, but the most common is that too much electricity has been drawn through the circuit. This may have happened because you have too many appliances on at once or because one appliance is malfunctioning.

Before you do anything else, make sure that your family is safe and away from any electrical outlets that might still be hot. You don't want anyone to get hurt while trying to solve this problem.

What Items Are More Likely To Trip a Circuit

Many homeowners are unaware of what items are more likely to trip the circuit breaker. In some instances, it's simply a matter of using the wrong appliance in an outlet that isn't designed for its use. Other times, it could be because you're attempting to use too many high-wattage devices on the same circuit.

If you have a tripped circuit breaker and you aren't sure why, take a look at these common causes:

Your home's circuits may be overloaded with too many appliances. If you have several high-wattage devices plugged into one outlet (such as a washing machine, dryer, and refrigerator), consider relocating them to another circuit or installing a subpanel for more circuits.

If you have an older home with knob-and-tube wiring (uncommon but still found in older homes), this electrical system can only handle 15 amps per circuit. If you have several high-wattage appliances on one circuit, they will overload it and cause it to trip.

You may be trying to use an extension cord on an overloaded outlet or a faulty outlet that's not grounded properly (the ground wire is missing). Have an electrician check your wiring if this is often happening.

Light fixtures and lamps draw more current than outlets, so if too many are on a single circuit breaker, they may overload and trip the breaker (or blow fuses). If you have more lights than outlets in your home, consider adding another light switch and outlet so they can be on separate circuits.

Incorrectly wired switches. Switches are at risk of short circuits if they are not wired correctly. If a switch is installed with a neutral wire but no hot wire, it can cause a fault in the breaker.

Turn off affected items. If the breaker tripped because of overloaded circuits, your appliances were drawing too much electricity through those circuits. Therefore, unplug everything from those outlets until you figure out what's happening with them. 

Do you know where your circuit breakers are? Often circuit breakers are in the basement. In apartment houses, each apartment may have panels within its apartments. There is no standard place to find them, but they are often evident and typical gray boxes with a door. In some homes, there may be multiple circuit breaker boxes, one for each floor, another for an emergency generator, etc. 

Find the circuit breakers that tripped. The circuit breakers will be marked with their location in an ideal situation. Often inside the panel door is a chart identifying the bathroom, 1st-floor bedroom, kitchen, etc. Sadly, this step is sometimes skipped, and you are left trying to figure it out. 

However, when a circuit trips, the switch for that circuit will trip into the opposite position as every other circuit in the box, or it will be in the middle. If you cannot visually tell, slide your fingers over each circuit and feel which one is not like the others. Once you identify the tripped circuit - flip the switch back on. 

Turn everything back on. Once the circuit is back on, you can start turning your electronics, lights, and appliances back on. If you forget to shut them all off first, the circuit may trip again from the immediate rush of power. 

Repeated Circuit Breaker Tripping

Have you ever had a circuit repeatedly trip? In those cases, you may need more circuits added to the panel or perhaps even another panel. A good example is that you cannot run the microwave while running the air conditioner. If you do, it is guaranteed the power will trip the circuit. The solution should not be to remember to shut the air off if you are running the microwave. The solution should be to adjust the circuits - by adding circuits, circuit breaker replacement, splitting the load, adding a panel, and more. In either event, a qualified electrician from Mr. Electric knows which solution is best for your home.