Causes of circuit breaker tripping

ServiceEntranceMost people would agree: running outside and resetting a tripped circuit breaker is no fun. Especially when you consider the hazards of dealing with a circuit breaker, such as high voltage, high amperage or even high temperatures, tripped circuit breakers stop being a hassle and can become hazards. But why does it keep happening, and when should you call a professional to help you? For answers, read on.

The circuit breaker, as a system, exists as a kind of emergency back up: the circuit “trips,” or turns off, when it senses that there is more electricity flowing through than is safe. The three main causes are overloaded circuits, short circuits, and ground faults. Circuit overloads are the most common reasons. To remedy, plug in power-hungry devices into different circuits, and avoid running numerous power-hungry devices at once.

Circuit breakers can trip because the circuit may begin to overheat, annoying someone in the middle of drying their hair, vacuuming, watching TV and running the dryer and dishwasher at the same time. A short circuit is more dangerous and is caused when a hot wire (black) touches another hot or neutral wire in an outlet. This causes a large amount of current to flow, which overheats the circuit, which in turn shuts off. How to tell if it was a short circuit? Check your outlets and plugs for discoloration (short circuits can cause brown or black discoloration) and check for a burning smell. Finally, a ground fault, which is similar to a short circuit, is caused by a hot wire touching a ground wire on the side of a metal outlet box, which is in turn connected to the ground wiring. How to tell if it tripped due to a ground fault? The signs are the same as for a short circuit (discoloration and odor).

This article has summarized some of the main reasons for circuit breakers tripping. With this information, you may be able to better understand why your circuit breaker tripped. But rather than running outside and risking danger, why not let a pro handle it? You should always consult a professional, especially if you suspect there is an issue with the service entrance or wiring.

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