It’s a hot summer day, and you and your family are enjoying the air conditioning inside your home. You’re relaxing in your favorite chair with a cold glass of iced tea while the kids are watching cartoons, and suddenly, everything stops. There are no lights, no television, and most importantly, no air conditioning. It’s now up to you to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it.
Your circuit breaker trips – it’s just a fact of life. We’re here to help you figure out a few things:
Why Your Circuit Breaker Trips
When you check your home’s electrical box and see that one switch is flipped in the opposite direction of the others, you know you’ve tripped a circuit.
When your circuit breaker trips, it’s protecting your home from having its electrical system overheat. If breakers didn’t trip, house fires would be a lot more common. The whole point is to keep you and your family safe, so if you have a circuit that has tripped more than once, it’s important to look into the cause.
What Causes Circuit Breaker Trips?
Every time your circuit breaker trips, it’s for a reason. And it’s usually one of four causes:
When you run too many appliances on the same circuit, the wattage may be too much for it to handle. Instead of overloading and causing a fire, the breaker trips and cuts off power to your appliances.
A short circuit happens when a hot wire touches a neutral wire. The current between the two will flow at a high speed, causing the circuit to overheat.
A ground fault is similar to a short circuit in that it involves a hot wire crossing another wire. Only in this case, it’s touching a ground wire or grounded junction box, causing the same reaction as a short circuit.
Individual appliances can cause a trip as well. If the wiring in the appliance is faulty, it will overheat the circuit.
After you know what causes are possible, the next step is figuring out which one is the culprit.
Finding the Culprit
Most of the time when a circuit breaker trips, it’s due to an overload. So ask yourself: what were you doing during the failure?
Did you turn something else on like the vacuum cleaner, the television, or window unit? Were you running multiple appliances at the same time? Did your central air conditioner just kick on?
If you notice that the failure happens after adding a new appliance to the mix of items running, there’s a good chance that you’re just overloading that circuit.
The problem could also lie with the air conditioner (or furnace during the colder months). If there seems to be no relation to an appliance, think about whether or not your system turned on right before the power went out. If it did, you have your cause.
Do you see any burn marks or sparks coming from an outlet or fixture or notice a burning smell? If so, you have a short circuit or ground fault, and that’s a much more serious issue. Signs like these means you need to contact a professional electrician right away.
If the trip doesn’t seem to relate to any of the above possibilities, you’ll want to start checking for a faulty appliance. Try using each of the appliances at a time to eliminate the ones which aren’t the issue. Did you spot one that has the same signs of a faulty outlet – overly warm, sparks, or a smoky or melted plastic smell? Then you’ve found the problem.
The Fix for When Your Circuit Breaker Trips
Once you have your cause, it’s time to resolve the issue.
If the problem was something like a bad appliance, you should either repair or recycle it.
Everything else is going to require a licensed professional.
Your electrical panel and circuit breakers weren’t designed to last an eternity. If you have an older home, chances are your electrical system wasn’t designed to keep up with modern demands. And even if you have a newer home, you may experience an overload in areas of heavy use.
The best solution in these cases is to schedule an electrical professional to look at your electrical panel and your home’s wiring. They’ll be able to provide a quote for any work they’ll have to complete to get you where you need to be.
If you are experiencing any of these issues in your home, contact Stack for a helping hand.