For some people, a circuit breaker is that annoying thing you have to hunt down and flip back to the ON position when you plug one too many things in. But what exactly does a circuit breaker do besides shutting off the power and why do circuit breakers do that?
The short answer is, your circuit breaker detected that there was too much electricity flowing through that area of your electrical system. So, to prevent an electrical fire, the circuit breaker shuts off the flow of electricity to that particular part of your system. If you want the long answer, then keep reading cause your local electricians are here to help!
HOW DO CIRCUIT BREAKERS WORK
Your electrical panel is made up of many different circuit breakers. Each circuit breaker has a switch that controls the flow of electricity to a certain area in your home. If possible, it can be very helpful to label what areas the different circuits control since it can help you find the right breaker quickly.
In any case, these circuit breakers are chosen to regulate the voltage and amperage of electricity that moves through that area of the home’s electrical system. If the circuit breaker detects that there is too much electricity being drawn through its connection, it will shut off to prevent going over the set voltage and amperage.
Once you correct the overdraw of power, you can reset the circuit breaker and restore power to that section of your home.
WHAT CAUSES YOUR CIRCUIT BREAKER TO TRIP
That overdraw of electricity can be caused by a number of things, but normally, it is fairly obvious what has triggered a circuit breaker to trip. Some of the most common reasons why your circuit breaker will trip are:
Overloaded circuit – Ever plugged something in, only to have the power go out when you turn on your device? That is a classic example of an overloaded circuit. Simple, low electricity draw appliances like lamps and phone chargers generally aren’t an issue. However, energy hogs like space heaters, hairdryers, microwaves, and other appliances are sure ways to cause your circuit breaker to trip.
Ground fault – Most of the time, your electrical system is expected to stay dry, but there are exceptions. Specifically, the outlets in your kitchen and bathrooms can become damp simply from the steam put out by showers and baths.
If you have GFCI outlets installed, the built-in circuit breaker should trip and not shut off power to your entire bathroom or kitchen. If you don’t have this style of outlet installed, you may want to remedy it for your safety, as a circuit breaker may not trip quickly enough.
Short circuit – When there is an issue with wiring—whether it’s your home’s wiring or the device’s wiring—this problem is generally called a short circuit that triggers too much electrical current being pulled.
If the issue is with your device, you may have to call the manufacturer to have the device fixed. Or, if the problem lies with your home wiring, you may need it repaired by our electricians or have new wiring installed.
HOW TO FIND YOUR ELECTRIC PANEL TO RESET A CIRCUIT BREAKER
As most homeowners have little to do with their electrical panels until their circuit breakers trip, it can be tough to find the electrical panel while stressed about the power being off. In most cases, electrical panels are tucked away and out of sight. Places like the garage, basement, and storage closets are likely areas.
If you still can’t find your panel after searching your home, find your electrical meter and work from there. Generally, your electrical panel won’t be too far away from it.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CIRCUIT BREAKER FREQUENTLY TRIPS
There can also be the issue of the circuit breaker tripping too often. This problem can indicate that there is an issue with the circuit breaker itself, or that there is a problem with your wiring. You can access our troubleshooting service and have one of our electricians help you troubleshoot your circuit breaker over the phone.
Also, if you have an older electrical panel or a fuse-based electrical panel that has been giving you problems, then it may be time to consider having an entirely new electrical breaker panel installed. Our electricians can review your current electrical panel and make a recommendation from there. They may only recommend having a new circuit breaker installed, and maybe a new dedicated circuit ran, depending on your household needs.
Whether you need a circuit breaker replaced, a new electrical panel installed, or other electrical services, contact Hedgehog Electric and see how we can help you!