Circuit breakers have become an essential part of electrical engineering. They were created to replace outdated and obsolete fuse boxes in old homes. However, you may be facing a circuit breaker that keeps tripping. Circuit breakers disconnect (or “trip”) as a safety measure when they are overloaded with electricity. Power is automatically shut off to prevent house fires or injuries. If a fuse box gets overloaded, the fuse “blows” (the metal ribbon inside the fuse melts) and needs to be replaced. Luckily, an overloaded circuit breaker simply trips the breaker, and you can turn it back on using a switch. Nevertheless, when a circuit breaker trips repeatedly, there is usually an underlying issue you should address. We will discuss the leading causes and when to contact a professional for help. Remember, fixing an electrical engineering problem by yourself is dangerous, and it is always better to call on an expert.
How Do Circuit Breakers Work?
First, it is essential to discuss how circuit breakers actually work. The electricity that flows in your home runs through your electrical panel. The electrical panel hosts all of the individual circuits you have in your house. That being the case, each circuit breaker has an ‘ON/OFF’ switch that tells you if a circuit is currently running out not. Homes require individual circuits for different areas of the house. If all of the electricity were to run through a single circuit, the breaker would constantly trip. If a circuit breaker trips, it shifts to the ‘OFF’ position. Again, this is to prevent potential electrical fires that could get started because of excess electricity.
3 Reasons Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping
Now that you understand why circuit breakers shut down or “trip,” let us go over the top reasons your breaker keeps tripping.
Circuit breakers trip as a safety precaution to protect you and your home, so it makes sense that the top reason your circuit breaker keeps tripping is circuit overload. Individual circuits overload and trip when too much electricity runs through them. For this reason, electricity is cut off from the circuit to prevent sparks, fire, or general explosions. Otherwise, excess energy would flow into one loop wiring, which can cause excess heat. However, we understand how frustrating it is when a circuit breaker keeps tripping. This issue is pretty common in older homes, as older homes have different wiring configurations than new ones. Certain rooms in your home are potentially insufficiently wired to handle modern appliances and powerful electronics. If your circuit breaker keeps tripping in one room, it is likely because you are using too much power in that specific area of your home. You may need to shift the amount of power you are using in the area where the circuit breakers keep tripping. However, this may be difficult if your home is already set up the way you want it to be. If this is the case, it is best to consult with a professional because a re-wiring job might be necessary. A professional electrician will inspect the electrical wiring in your home, troubleshoot the overload problems, and offer an estimate for a solution.
Testing for Circuit Overload
If you are unsure that circuit overload is the actual issue, you can run a simple test. First, switch off the circuit breaker. Turn off and unplug every electronic device in the area connected to the circuit breaker, including all appliances, such as AC units, computers, and so forth. With nothing plugged in, switch the breaker back to ‘ON’ and start turning on your electronics one by one. After turning on and plugging in one appliance, wait a few moments to see if your circuit breaker keeps tripping without load. If any device causes the circuit breaker to trip again after reset, you are facing circuit overload. The best solution is to have a professional restructure your electrical system when this occurs. A trained professional will rewire your home so that it is able to handle all of your electronics at once. The professional will do so safely and expertly.
Another potential cause of circuit breaker trips is short-circuiting. Short circuits occur when an electrical wire that is active and hot comes into contact with a neutral wire. This connection causes a large amount of current to flow and overload the circuit, also known as an arc fault. Generally, this means your wires loosened over time and are not maintaining the proper distance away from each other. However, there are not many solutions for preventing wires from slacking. They can loosen due to lack of maintenance, incidents with children or pets, or pests nibbling on the wires. The wires can also be loose in an appliance, a switch, or an electrical outlet itself. Since there are many potential culprits, locating a poorly connected wire yourself can be difficult. For this reason, we highly recommend contacting a professional electrician if you suspect short-circuiting. Short circuits are hazardous because of high temperatures from the current flow, which stands as a fire hazard.
Identifying a Short Circuit
You can run a few tests to identify whether your outlet or appliance is causing a short circuit. If plugging any device into a specific outlet constantly trips your breaker, the outlet probably has a short. Do not plug any other devices into the outlet until a professional comes to repair it. A short circuit is a potential fire hazard even with a low load. Your appliance may have a short circuit if it causes a circuit breaker to trip in any outlet it is plugged into. So if your appliance trips on multiple breakers, immediately stop using it until a technician fixes the issue.
Ground faults can also cause tripping circuit breakers. This occurs when electricity diverts from its intended path and moves into the ground instead. Typically, this results from loose wiring touching metal or if a pipe leaks into a switch box or outlet. Essentially, electricity can change its course when another conductive source, like metal or water, presents itself. However, ground faults are mostly a problem of the past because modern wiring includes ground wires, which provide an electrical current with a route to the ground. Nonetheless, ground faults can still occur if your appliances, outlets, or switches are exposed to moisture.
Testing for Ground faults
If you think a ground fault is causing your breaker to trip consistently, we recommend contacting an electrician. It is highly dangerous to play around with any electrical currents gone astray without proper training. Ground faults can occur from scrappy wiring, and you may have to deal with potentially dangerous live wires. Electrical injuries can be extremely severe or even fatal, so DIY projects should be avoided at all costs. A professional will be able to diagnose and solve the problem safely.
Contact a Professional Electrician
Considering there are over 51,000 electrical fires throughout homes each year, calling on professional electricians is essential. If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, the team at Safe and Sound Electric is here for you. We are the number one rated residential electricians in the area because we prioritize customer satisfaction and safety. Our service area covers Lower Fairfield County through to Westport, CT. Our goal is to diagnose the root problem causing the circuit breaker trips and provide a detailed solution. The well-being of your home is just as important to us as it is to you. As homeowners ourselves, we understand how vital it is to keep you and your family safe. Do not hesitate to contact us today if your circuit breaker continues to trip.