The circuit breakers in your house or building are there to protect you from the dangers of electrical faults. Still, it can be pretty stressful when one of those breakers repeatedly trips, no matter how many times you try to turn it back on.
When your circuit breaker trips, that means there’s an electrical fault in the circuit it protects. You can fix it by troubleshooting all appliances and electrical components on that circuit. For example, a device is likely faulty, or there’s damage to wall sockets and electrical wiring. Once you resolve the root cause, you can turn the breaker back on.
Unfortunately, troubleshooting a tripping circuit breaker isn’t always straightforward. Don’t worry, though. This guide will teach you to fix the problem much more effectively.
Is It Dangerous If A Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping?
Yes, it’s very dangerous if you have a circuit breaker that keeps tripping.
To know why you must first understand the purpose of that circuit breaker. You see, it’s very dangerous when too much electrical current flows through a circuit. So, a circuit breaker is added to that circuit to prevent that from happening.
Excessive current in the circuit will cause the breaker to trip. As the name suggests, that will break the circuit and stop the flow of electricity entirely.
However, if your circuit breaker keeps tripping, that means there’s an ongoing electrical fault somewhere on that circuit.
For example, there could be a fault in the appliance or their wiring.
Until you fix the fault and stop the circuit breaker from tripping, you run the risk of:
- Electrocution to anyone handling any part of that circuit.
- Electrical fires could spread throughout the house or building.
- Damage to any appliance on that circuit, requiring expensive replacements and repairs.
So, when you have a tripping circuit breaker, you must resolve it immediately. You should only fix it yourself if you have the necessary skills. If not, be sure to call a qualified electrician.
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How To Find What Is Tripping My Circuit Breaker?
Finding the root cause behind your tripping circuit breaker will require a bit of detective work on your part.
Use this 3-step process to find the root cause:
Step 1: Identify The Affected Circuit
First and foremost, you must identify the affected circuit, which the tripping circuit breaker protects.
To do that, start at the main electrical box and open the panel. That’s where you’ll find all of the circuit breakers for your home or building.
In some cases, you’ll find that each circuit breaker has a clear label telling you what it’s for. If that’s the case, you’ll have a much easier time finding the root cause of the problem.
However, if there are no labels, you’ll have to test them manually. Reset the circuit breaker and see which appliance or part of your house turns on. Pay attention to when it trips and see which parts of the house no longer have electrical power.
Once you identify the affected circuit, you can then troubleshoot the electrical components and appliances in that part of the house.
Step 2: Check All Electrical Outlets And Appliances On That Circuit
Let’s suppose that the tripping breaker is for your kitchen’s electrical circuit. In that case, you’ll have to check the electrical components and appliances in that part of the house.
What you’re looking for are signs of electrical damage or faults.
For example, look for burning smells or burn marks on your appliances and plugs.
Step 3: Test Individual Appliances And Look For Patterns
You’ll have to go through a lot of trial and error for this troubleshooting process. For example, suppose you suspect that a specific appliance is causing your breaker to trip. In that case, it’s best to test it on another circuit.
For example, plug your toaster into a wall socket at another part of the house. When that causes a different circuit breaker to trip, you’ll know that the appliance is to blame.
Besides that, look out for patterns when the breaker trips. For example, do you notice it tripping whenever the fridge compressor turns on? That’s a clear sign that you should get a technician to troubleshoot the fridge instead.
How To Fix A Breaker That Keeps Tripping?
Sometimes, it’s not an appliance that’s causing your circuit breaker to keep tripping. So once you rule out any problems with your devices, here are a few other things to consider.
Why Does My Breaker Keep Tripping With Nothing Plugged In?
Try not to get frustrated when your circuit breaker trips even with nothing plugged in. Once you’re sure that none of your appliances are on, you’ll have to troubleshoot for:
- Short circuits caused by problems with your electrical wiring.
- Excessive currents, like from power surges during thunderstorms.
- Ground faults, when a live electrical wire touches the ground.
- Faulty circuit breakers, if you have old circuit breakers at the end of their useful lifespan.
Troubleshooting the above can be pretty risky if you’re not sure what you’re doing. So, again, don’t be afraid to contact an electrician to do it for you.
Why Does My Circuit Breaker Trip Only At Night?
As you’ve seen in earlier parts of this guide, troubleshooting a tripping circuit breaker involves trial and error, as well as spotting patterns.
So, if your circuit breaker keeps tripping at night, focus your attention on appliances that only run during that time.
- Do you have automatic lights that only turn on at night?
- Do you have an HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system that runs at night?
- Do you have computer systems or similar equipment that run at night?
Once you narrow down the appliances that might cause the circuit breaker to trip only at night, troubleshoot them one at a time using the same steps described above.
For example, you can plug the appliances into different circuits in your house to see if they trip other circuit breakers instead.
Why Does My Circuit Breaker Trip After 30 Minutes?
After resetting a tripped circuit breaker, you might find that there’s a slight delay before it trips again. That delay could be 30 minutes or even a few hours before the breaker predictably trips again.
The reason that happens is that the circuit is overloaded but only barely over the circuit breaker’s limit. In other words, there is an electrical fault, but not enough to instantly trip the circuit breaker.
As a result, the breaker is constantly on the verge of tripping. Still, it often takes a bit of time before that happens.
So, whether your circuit breaker takes 3 minutes or 30 minutes to trip, you must troubleshoot the circuit using the same steps described above.
In short, you must check for electrical faults in:
- All appliances plugged into that circuit, like lights, TVs, kitchen equipment, and anything else.
- All power sockets and switches on that circuit, including wall switches and wall outlets that you plug appliances into.
- All electrical wiring for that circuit, which might have suffered burns or been chewed through by pests.
How Do You Reset A Tripped Breaker?
Resetting a tripped circuit breaker is very straightforward.
First, you must understand that a standard circuit breaker has 3 positions:
- ON: On one side, you have the ON position. That means the electrical current will flow through the breaker and the circuit.
- OFF: You can push the breaker to the OFF position on the other side. That will stop any electricity from flowing in the circuit.
- Center: More importantly, you have the center position. When your circuit breaker trips, it will not go to the OFF position. Instead, it’ll go to the center to indicate that it tripped and was not shut off on purpose.
Do not push the switch from the center to the ON position to reset a tripped breaker. Instead, do this:
- Firstly, move the switch to the OFF position.
- Secondly, move the switch all the way to the ON position.
When The Tripped Circuit Breaker Won’t Reset:
When you try to reset your circuit breaker, but it trips instantly, that’s a telltale sign that there’s a short circuit.
Do not try to force the circuit breaker to stay on. Instead, you must troubleshoot the circuit and fix the root cause first.
When The Breaker Keeps Tripping After Reset:
Suppose you successfully reset the circuit breaker, but it trips soon after. In that case, you likely have a ground fault in the circuit.
That’s when the electricity flows straight to the ground instead of going through the circuit normally. Again, you must resolve the root cause of this issue before you can turn your circuit breaker back on again.