Do you often find yourself tiptoeing around your home in the dark to reset a tripped circuit breaker? A breaker that frequently trips could be caused by a potentially dangerous problem with your electrical system. Read on to find out what might be causing your problem - and what you can do about it.
Reason #1: Overloaded Circuit
What Is it?
If all of the appliances plugged into an individual circuit draw more current than the breaker can handle, the breaker will trip to disconnect power from that circuit.
If this happens once, you can reset the breaker. However, if it continues to happen, then you'll want to take further action.
How to Fix it
The first thing you'll want to try is distributing your appliances more evenly across circuits, so there's not too much draw on any particular one. If the breaker is still tripping, it's possible that an appliance is drawing more power than usual; in this case, the next step would be to repair or replace that appliance.
Another potential cause is inadequate wiring that can't handle the current flowing through it. This can be very dangerous because overloaded wires can start a fire. If you think you have a wiring issue, call an electrician right away.
Reason #2: Short Circuit
What Is it?
A short circuit, commonly called a short, occurs when the hot and neutral wire of an electrical circuit make contact. This results in a big spike in current, which trips the breaker and kills the power to the circuit.
It's a good thing, too, because a short circuit can produce enough current to start a fire in a matter of seconds. A short can happen anywhere in a circuit - from a junction or outlet box to a light switch, to the wiring itself.
How to Fix It
Fixing a short circuit is usually a job for an electrician because tracking down a short in your electrical wiring can be tricky - not to mention dangerous.
However, electrical appliances can also cause shorts, and there are some telltale signs to look for. Inspect any electrical devices that are plugged into the affected circuit. If you see any melted power cords or the appliance is producing smoke or a burning smell, there's likely a short within the device itself.
Reason #3: Ground Fault
What Is it?
A ground fault occurs when the hot wire of a circuit makes contact with the electrical ground. This can occur within appliances - if electricity makes contact with the exterior casing of the device, the casing becomes electrified, and you'll be shocked if you touch it. Ground faults often, but not always, cause a power spike that will trip the circuit breaker.
Corroded/degraded insulation on electrical wires is another frequent cause of ground faults; when the jacket is stripped off, the bare wire can come in contact with the conduit enclosing it, or another potential conductor. Receptacles, junction boxes, and light switches are also common ground fault locations.
How to Fix it
If you ground fault circuit interrupter - outlets in your home, look to see if any of them have tripped. This can help you narrow down the location of the fault. If you suspect that an appliance is causing the issue, unplug it and reset the breaker. If you're still having issues, you should call an electrician.
If you have a circuit breaker that frequently trips, there's an underlying problem that you need to address - so make sure you take action sooner than later.
While you might be comfortable doing some light electrical work, remember that nothing beats the experience of a qualified electrician. If you're having issues with a breaker, or anything else electrical, contact Express Electrical Services.