What to Do When Your Circuit Breaker Trips

We’ve all been there. Someone in your family is using the microwave, the mixer, the dishwasher’s running— suddenly when you go to blend a smoothie amongst the kitchen hustle, your power goes out.

For a new homeowner, resetting a circuit breaker might seem tricky, but it’s usually something you can do yourself with relative ease. But not all circuit trips are caused by overloads— and sometimes you’ll have to troubleshoot to find the cause.

Let’s look at some of the dos and don’ts for inspecting the box and help you get your power back on.

Troubleshooting the Trip

There are a number of reasons you could have tripped your circuit, and you’ll want to make sure you investigate the cause to prevent it from happening again and ensure there are no future concerns.

If you live in an older home with a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker, read this article. Newer homes usually don’t run on a fuse, because once blown, it’s costly and more troublesome to replace than resetting a breaker.

For those with a circuit breaker, it could have tripped because of:

  • A general overload. This is the most common reason a circuit trips. You have too many electrical items running at one time, and once the current goes beyond its rated limit, your RCD (AKA the safety switch) detects the imbalance and breaks the circuit.
  • A short circuit. When a live wire touches another neutral wire, it sends a current somewhere the electricity shouldn’t be channeled to. This could be the result of loose wires, faulty insulation or a number of reasons. Your circuit will trip to halt unwanted heat build-up and possible fire.
  • A ground fault. Instead of a stray wire touching another wire like in a short circuit, a ground fault occurs when a wire touches the ground. When this happens, the current increases so quickly that it trips the breaker.
  • Moisture or a damaged wire or appliance. If a wire or unit is damaged or moisture is trapped with the circuit breaker, it could cause current leakage and trip.

How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

You can open up your breaker box and do some inspecting to see if the problem is obvious. The good news is, it’s usually pretty easy to reset a breaker!

  • Look for a flipped breaker. A switch might be down, in the opposite direction of all the others.
  • Check the power cords. Is any plastic insulation melted? Are any wires touching? If so, proceed with caution and contact an electrician.
  • Turn off your power. If there’s no problems with the cords, unplug any appliances associated with that breaker (hopefully they’re labeled so you know which part of the house it controls!). Then come back to the box.
  • Reset the breaker. For most breakers, this just means flipping the affected switch back to ON. If it immediately trips again, you might have a short.
  • Check your appliances one at a time. Maybe the hairdryer is the problem. See if it was an overload. If not, try step six.
  • Look for damaged outlets, a faulty switch or appliance. If all else fails, the problem might not be the box. Check for damage in your home. If there’s no obvious sign of fault, the problem might be occurring from within your walls and you might need to consult an electrician.

Does Your Circuit Breaker Trip Often? Get an Inspection.

Many of the above scenarios could be one-time situations, however, if your breaker is frequently tripping, you should have a professional come in to inspect it.

When wires overheat, the only thing stopping a fire from occurring is your trusted circuit breaker. Tripping means it’s protecting you, but from what? If the breaker were to fail, your possessions and family could be at risk.

Our expert electricians at SWFL Electric are trained to check for problems and troubleshoot what’s causing these trips. Contact us to schedule an inspection.

If you’re a new handyman, you will probably love our Electric Toolkit, which will show you how to check your outlets, ground your home and more. Download it today!

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