How Circuit Breakers Work - Part 2

In our last article, we went fairly in-depth on just what is a circuit breaker, but we never really got a good chance to touch base on some of their more intricate details like how to identify why one of your breakers tripped and whether it is faulty or not. So today our amazing team wanted to bring you an article on the three steps to determining if your circuit breaker has failed or simply did it’s job to the best degree, and how do analyze exactly why the breaker tripped.


Most likely, at least once, you’ve heard that fatal click from your panel board - and upon investigation, you found that one of the circuit breakers is flipped in the opposite direction from the others. Is it time to sound the sirens, has it gone bad or kicked the bucket? Well, the short answer is - probably not. Depending on the manufacturer and build, most circuit breakers sold by retailers and wholesale carriers are made with reliability and long life in mind. So first let’s answer the all important question - is it really dead?


Step number one - go to your circuit panel and look for one of the following two things:


  1. A label next to the recently tripped and potentially deceased breaker.
  2. A diagram sheet on the door of your circuit panel.

Why are we looking at these? The real first and foremost step, in this case, is to determine exactly what circuit the breaker is set up to protect so that we can rule out any issues with the circuit itself that might cause the breaker to trip repetitively. These issues could include faulty appliances or electronics plugged on-to the circuit (these vary from lights to household appliances.) For this step it is best to consult with a professional or test the circuit with a voltmeter if you manage to reset the breaker and sufficient safety precautions in place.


Now - obviously enough, if the breaker can be reset, that means that the breaker itself is just fine. So, if you’ve reached this point - before you go doing any DIY handyman-spirit driven circuit testing, we strongly recommend to take heed and follow through with this next step. Step two, unplug all the electrical devices that are currently housed on the circuit corresponding to the breaker that tripped. Now don’t rush, unplug a few things at a time. This will help us rule out the case of “the overloaded circuit.” This is better known as the event where the circuit is taking on more amperage than it can possibly handle at a given time. As such, we recommend to unplug a few things - reset your breaker and monitor it for a short period of time to see if it is then tripped.


Now, if you find yourself down to a seemingly freeloading circuit and a breaker than clicks to a rhythm faster than any respectable 80’s jazz musician can bear; You may have found yourself at step 3 - that is the case of owning a faulty breaker. Of course, it happens occasionally, but this exact scenario is why it’s very important to buy high-quality circuit breakers from brands such as Siemens and Square D at retailers or online wholesale carriers such as Circuit Breaker Wholesale.Thankfully, the third scenario is very rare if you buy your breakers from established and trustworthy brands, with the consideration of what circuit they are meant to shield. And as always, we strongly recommend that you consult with a professional electrician before putting your master-plan analysis into full gear.

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