6 Reasons Why Circuit Breakers Trip (and What to Do About It!)

Juliet D'cruz

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Circuit breakers are a standard part of a home’s electrical system and offer protection from excess electrical currents. They are usually found in the main service panel of a home and are composed of a series of switches that trip automatically in the event of an electrical surge. Usually, when the lights go out in your home, the fix is to simply reset the breaker on the panel.

Why do circuit breakers trip? There are a few ways they can trip, each with preventative measures you can take. Read on for six reasons why circuit breakers trip and what to do about it!

  1. Overloaded Circuit

The most common reason circuit breakers trip, overloaded circuits happen when a circuit tries to draw more of an electrical load than it was made to carry. When you have too many lights or appliances on a single circuit, the breaker’s sensor heats up and it trips, usually by a spring-loaded switch. The affected circuit remains dead until the switch is physically reset on the panel.

  1. Short Circuit

One of the more serious reasons a circuit breaker trips, a short circuit happens when the black wire, which carries the power, touches a neutral wire, the ground wire, or even the side of a metal box. A short circuit allows for a sudden unimpeded flow of electricity. This increase of current flow trips the breaker.

  1. Ground Fault

A ground fault is a special type of short circuit, where the hot wire touches the ground wire, a metal box, or metal framing members. Be very careful with these types of short circuits, as there is a high risk of a shock. This is especially dangerous in kitchens or bathrooms, or any area where moisture is high.

  1. Arc Fault

Arc faults happen when electricity sparks, or arcs, between two contact wires. This can happen with loose terminal connections in a switch or an outlet. The National Electric Code has increased requirements in recent years to include a special type of breaker, called an arc-fault circuit interrupter.

  1. Old Circuit Breaker

When a circuit breaker is old, it can become overly sensitive. This can cause it to trip, even if the wires are carrying their normal load. If your breakers constantly trip and you are certain you aren’t overloading your circuits, then it is likely time to install a new breaker box, which you can shop for here.

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  1. Loose or Corroded Connections

When a breaker has a loose or corroded connection, it can cause excess heat to build up, which triggers the breaker. The wires heat up due to tiny sparks between the surfaces of the connection. This extra heat can help you diagnose if you have a loose or corroded connection.

Circuit Breakers Trip

Circuit breakers trip for many reasons, from an overloaded circuit to arcing between wires. In many cases, simple maintenance and planning can prevent these from happening.

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