Why Do Circuit Breakers Commonly Trip? 5 Common Causes

Why Do Circuit Breakers Commonly Trip? 5 Common Causes

In every home, there’s a device that completely cuts off electricity as a form of protection. This is called the circuit breaker. Connected to your main service panel, this device stops the flow of electricity in case there’s a fault or irregularity in the electric current. In that way, the excess electricity doesn’t do any damage. In other words, a circuit breaker is like a switch, actively waiting for faults so that it can protect your circuit, and ultimately, your home.

While circuit breakers can be relied on for protection, it’s crucial not to overlook the root cause of these faults. Understanding the cause can help you address the issue effectively, and work towards preventing accidents in the future.

1. Overloaded Circuit

One of the most common causes of a tripped circuit breaker is an overloaded circuit. This is when a particular circuit tries to provide more electricity than it’s supposed to, exceeding its capacity. When a circuit is overloaded, it can lead to overheating, which can cause the appliances connected to that circuit to get fried.

2. Short Circuit

A more hazardous cause of tripped circuit breakers is a short circuit, which can occur when an active or “hot” wire comes into contact with a neutral wire. However, it can also occur if there’s a loose connection or wiring within an appliance.

During a short circuit, an excessive flow of electricity flows through the path it wasn’t supposed to take. This can cause the temperature to rise, increasing the risk of fire. If you notice burn marks near your outlets, immediately call an electrician to diagnose the issue.

3. Ground Fault

Similar to a short circuit, a ground fault is when an active wire touches a ground wire—the grounded area of the breaker box. When this occurs, a massive amount of electricity goes through the breaker box, causing it to become overloaded. A common sign of a ground fault is discoloration around the affected area.

4. Arc Fault

An arc fault occurs when an electrical current flows through an unintended path within a wire connection. This results in “arcing”, which typically occurs when there are loose connections within a switch. Arc faults are extremely dangerous, as they can create sparks that may lead to a fire. You can tell if you’re experiencing an arc fault if your light switches are creating a “sizzling” sound.

5. Faulty Circuit Breaker

In some cases, the reason why your breaker is tripping may be because the box itself is faulty. This is particularly true if your breaker box wasn’t well-maintained or has reached the end of its lifespan. If none of the reasons mentioned above seem to be the culprit of the circuit breaker trip, then it’s likely that you need to buy a new breaker box. Burnt smells and scorch marks are often signs that it’s time to replace it with a new one.

What to Do If Your Breaker Trips

The number one rule in dealing with a tripped circuit breaker is not to troubleshoot it yourself. Working with electricity is risky and could lead to fatal outcomes, so don’t tackle it on your own. If you ever encounter issues with your electrical system, make sure to contact the pros at Beeson Mechanical Service. Simply call Beeson Mechanical Service, Inc. at 317-535-9338 we’ll be more than glad to offer our assistance in any way we can.