10 Steps to Take When Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

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Mark Jardine
April 18, 2024
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Is your circuit breaker driving you up the wall with its repeated tripping antics? It's like a mischievous game of hide-and-seek, leaving you in the dark and frustrated. But fear not, for we're here to shed light on the matter and equip you with the knowledge to outsmart that sneaky breaker.
Get ready to embark on a journey of electrical discovery as we unveil the steps to take when your circuit breaker keeps tripping. Say goodbye to the mystery and hello to a smoothly flowing-electrical system that won't leave you in the dark.

What is a Circuit Breaker?

It is a device used to safeguard electrical circuits from damage that can result from too much current flowing through them. It acts as a safety switch that automatically shuts off the flow of electricity when a fault or overload is detected. It is typically found in electrical panels or distribution boards and is composed of a switch mechanism and a tripping mechanism.
When a fault occurs, such as an overload, the tripping mechanism triggers, opening the circuit and preventing further damage. Resetting the breaker restores power to the circuit once the issue is resolved.

Take these 10 steps if your circuit breaker keeps tripping.

Experiencing a circuit breaker that keeps tripping can cause inconvenience and possible safety issues, leading to frustration and disruption. However, by following these essential steps, you can troubleshoot and address the issue, restoring the smooth functioning of your electrical system.
  • Step 1: Identify the cause
When a breaker repeatedly trips, it indicates a problem that needs to be addressed. To identify the cause, consider factors such as electrical overload, which happens when the circuit is carrying more current than it can handle. A short circuit happens when the hot wires come into contact with each other or with the neutral wire. On the other hand, a ground fault takes place when the hot wire touches either a ground wire or a conductive surface.
Additionally, inspect any recent changes in your electrical system, such as new appliances or equipment, as they could be placing an excessive load on the circuit. Faulty wiring or damaged devices can also lead to tripping.
  • Step 2: Unplug appliances and devices
When dealing with a tripping breaker, it's crucial to unplug all appliances and devices connected to the problematic circuit. This action helps prevent further overloading and allows you to isolate the potential cause of the tripping. Start by unplugging cords from outlets and turning off switches for all devices on that circuit.
Removing the load reduces the chances of the circuit becoming overloaded again when resetting the breaker. This step helps in troubleshooting by narrowing down the potential culprits and identifying whether the issue lies with a specific appliance or device on the circuit.
  • Step 3: Reset the circuit breaker
After unplugging the appliances and devices, the next step is to reset the tripped breaker. The breaker panel is typically located in the basement, garage, or utility room. Look for the breaker that is in the "off" position or not fully in the "on" position.
To reset it, switch the breaker all the way to the "off" position first, and then firmly switch it back to the "on" position. This reset process restores power to the circuit and allows you to test if the breaker continues to trip or if the issue has been resolved.
  • Step 4: Observe for immediate re-tripping
Once you have reset the breaker, it is important to carefully observe whether it immediately trips again. If the breaker trips immediately after resetting, it suggests a severe problem that needs the expertise of a professional electrician. Continuing to reset the breaker repeatedly without addressing the underlying issue can lead to safety hazards such as fires or damage to your electrical system.
If the breaker keeps tripping, it's a clear indication that there is a fault that requires proper diagnosis and repair by a qualified electrician to ensure safety and functionality.
  • Step 5: Determine the load
To pinpoint the exact cause of the breaker tripping, gradually reconnect the appliances and devices that were previously unplugged. Do this one by one, allowing sufficient time between each reconnection to observe the circuit's behavior. By systematically adding back the load, you can identify if a specific appliance or a combination of devices is overloading and triggering the breaker.
Take note of any equipment that causes the circuit to trip again. This step helps in isolating the problematic item or combination of items and provides valuable information for further troubleshooting or load redistribution.
  • Step 6: Assess the electrical load
Assessing the electrical load is crucial to determine if the circuit is being overloaded. Circuit breakers have specific amp ratings that indicate the maximum current they can safely handle, such as 15 or 20 amps for household circuits. Calculate the combined load of all appliances and devices connected to the circuit to ensure it doesn't exceed the amp rating.
If the total load exceeds the capacity, you must redistribute the load to different circuits. This can involve moving devices to other outlets with available capacity to prevent overloading.
  • Step 7: Divide the load
When the total load on a circuit is too high, it's necessary to redistribute the appliances and devices across multiple circuits. This involves plugging some of the devices into different outlets that have available capacity. By spreading out the load, you prevent overloading any single circuit.
It's important to note that daisy-chaining power strips or using extension cords as a long-term solution are not recommended due to potential safety hazards. Instead, consider installing additional outlets or consulting an electrician to distribute the load and properly ensure a safe setup.
  • Step 8: Address wiring issues
If you suspect faulty or damaged wiring is the underlying cause of the repeated tripping, it is crucial to seek assistance from a licensed electrician. Working with electrical systems can be hazardous, and attempting to address wiring issues without the necessary expertise can result in electric shock or fire hazards.
A licensed and expert electrician will have the knowledge and experience to inspect the wiring, identify any faults or damages, and perform the required repairs or replacements safely. They can ensure that your electrical system is functioning properly and eliminate the risk of further breaker tripping due to wiring issues.
  • Step 9: Consider professional assistance
If you find yourself unable to identify the cause of the repeated breaker tripping or if the issue persists despite your efforts, it's wise to consult a qualified electrician. They possess the expertise and specialized knowledge required to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your electrical system. By thoroughly examining the wiring, outlets, and other components, they can accurately diagnose the problem and implement effective solutions.
Professional assistance not only ensures your safety but also minimizes the risk of further issues or damage to your home. It's always better to rely on the expertise of an electrician when dealing with complex or recurring problems.
  • Step 10: Maintain regular electrical inspections
Regular electrical inspections conducted by a licensed electrician are essential for maintaining a safe and reliable electrical system. These inspections involve a comprehensive examination of your wiring, outlets, and other components. By scheduling periodic inspections, potential problems can be detected early on, such as loose connections, faulty wiring, or outdated components.
Addressing these issues proactively helps prevent overloads and tripping, reducing the risk of electrical hazards and ensuring the smooth operation of your system. Regular inspections also provide an opportunity to assess the need for upgrades or improvements to meet current standards and regulations.

Who should I call for an electrical repair service?

Experiencing electrical problems? Don't fret! Call Home Alliance today! Our licensed electricians possess the expertise and experience to handle all your electrical needs. We've got you covered, from breaker repair to electric panel upgrades, emergency electrical services, EV charger installations, and more.
Enjoy our friendly customer service, competitive pricing, and professional solutions. Contact us now for reliable electrical services that ensure the safety and efficiency of your home.