What to Do When Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping
- May 10, 2017
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Circuit breakers are one of the most important safety systems in modern homes and buildings – and when they send us warning signals, it’s time to listen.
One common red flag is a frequently-tripping circuit breaker. There could be a simple, relatively harmless rationale for this occurrence, or it could be a sign of a much bigger issue. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of a repeatedly-tripping breaker, as well as what to do next:
Too Much Load Causes a Tripped Circuit
This is the number one reason for tripping circuits. Circuit breakers are designed to trip when the current gets higher than a pre-determined point – but the circuit doesn’t know if that’s from a dangerous power surge, or from simply running the microwave and air conditioner at the same time.
If you discover that your circuit breakers are constantly tripping in direct relation to turning on a certain appliance (or appliances), chances are, it’s time to upgrade your system to allow for more current.
If you know you have an adequately large circuit, another culprit overloading your system may be an overheating appliance. Check each of your appliances on that circuit to see if you can identify the problem. If it’s none of these, you may have a different cause for your tripping circuits.
Short circuits are a primary reason to thoroughly investigate frequently-tripping breakers, as these can be extremely hazardous. Electrical systems consist of “hot” and “neutral” wires, and these must never touch. In the event that they do, there’s a surge of current, a tripped circuit, and possibly accompanying sparking or smoking. This scenario is called a short circuit, and is a leading cause of electrical fires.
A frequently-tripping breaker may indicate there’s a short somewhere. Maybe a wire came loose in an outlet receptacle, maybe one of your appliances is the culprit, or maybe a mouse or other animal chewed through wires in the walls and caused the contact. In any case, a stubborn breaker is an important red flag for this hazardous situation.
Aside from tripped breakers, you can also detect a short if you hear crackling, popping, or fizzing in the walls, notice blackened outlets, or smell burning with no obvious source.
A ground fault can also cause a tipping circuit. It’s similar to a short circuit, except instead of the hot wire coming in contact with the neutral wire, it touches the ground wire instead – which will cause an analogous result.
Panel or Breaker Issues
Much less common – but nonetheless serious – causes of frequently-tripping breakers are faulty or defective breakers or electrical panel components. Especially for systems found in older homes and buildings, a constantly-tripping breaker with no other discernable source warrants investigation of the panel itself.
Depending on the problem, you may simply need to replace a single circuit breaker, or overhaul the entire system if there is a serious issue. For obsolete systems or units like older Westinghouse circuit breakers, it can be a real challenge to source high-quality parts quickly, which is why we at Circuit Breaker Wholesale are here to help.
Whether you need to replace a single breaker or an entire system, we understand that time is of the essence. At CBW, we’ll quickly match you to the exact part you need to get your system back up and running in no time. Even for old, worn out units that are hard to identify – simply snap a picture and send it our way, and one of our expert techs will match your unit. Don’t let a constantly-tripping circuit slow you down; contact us today!