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Why Does My Circuit Breaker Keep on Tripping?

John Turpin is our resident home service repair expert here at Service Direct. He’s got the knowledge and experience to help homeowners like you make sense of most home repair issues. And with Service Direct, we connect you with top-tier service professionals to help with any repairs needed.

Don’t Panic If Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

Circuit breakers are an essential safety feature of the house’s electrical system. They’re designed to protect your home and its occupants from electrical hazards. But if your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it can be annoying and potentially dangerous.

Several reasons can cause the circuit breaker to keep tripping, such as short circuits, overloading, damaged wiring, and ground faults. In this blog post, we will explore some common causes of a circuit breaker tripping after a reset and how to fix it.

Electrical Circuit Breaker issues diagnose
Check out the list below for the most common causes your circuit breaker might be tripping at home.

Common Reasons Why a Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

If you are having trouble with a frequently tripping circuit breaker, we know it can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it happens at the worst times. Your instinct is probably to just reset and forget until the breaker tips again.

Circuit breakers help protect your home from various electrical hazards. But if they trip repeatedly, it usually means there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. We highly recommend reaching out to a professional. Still, can pay to know the possible reasons why it’s been happening.

Overloaded Circuit

An overloaded circuit is one of the most common reasons a circuit breaker keeps tripping. It happens when too many electrical devices are connected to a single circuit, causing it to draw more power than it can handle.

Since it’s the circuit breaker’s job to prevent your electrical system from overheating and potentially starting a fire, it’s no wonder an overloaded circuit causes the breaker to trip. This can be particularly common in older homes with outdated electrical systems.

The circuit breaker will continue to trip until you find and correct the cause of overloading, such as removing some electrical devices connected to the circuit. If the circuit breaker is constantly tripping, it could be a sign of a serious problem that a licensed electrician can only solve.

Our resident home repair guru, John Turpin, has provided a list of common reasons why your circuit breaker is tripping, along with suggested step-by-step diagnosis and resolution.

Short Circuit

A short circuit could be one of the reasons behind your frequently tripping circuit breaker. It happens when a hot wire touches a neutral wire, leading to a sudden surge of electricity that can trip the circuit breaker.

The normal way a circuit operates involves the current flowing from the electrical panel to an appliance, light, or other loads, going through the hot wire. The current then goes back to the panel through the neutral wire.

If the neutral and hot wires accidentally touch each other, the current doesn’t travel to the load and instead goes to the panel. The current takes a “shortcut” this way, which generates electricity many times higher than what a light or appliance uses.

This situation can be extremely dangerous and can lead to shocks and fires. Short circuits often result from damaged wiring, faulty appliances, or other electrical issues.

Ground Fault

A ground fault occurs when the current travels through an unintended path, like the ground or a person’s body, instead of the intended path. It also occurs when an electrical device has a fault or a break in the electrical wiring’s insulation, causing the current to escape from its intended path.

When a ground fault happens, and the current escapes the normal electrical circuit, the current exceeds the circuit’s capacity. As a result, the circuit breaker trips to prevent overheating and potential electrical fires. The circuit breakers detect safety hazards and avoid damage.

Electrician Power Outlet Test Install

Electrical Storms

Electrical storms can lead to the main circuit breaker tripping due to the atmosphere’s sudden and intense electrical activity. Lightning strikes and other electrical phenomena related to storms can induce electrical surges in power lines and wiring, causing circuits to overload and breakers to trip.

It occurs when the electrical surge produced by lightning travels through power lines and into homes and buildings. The surge, which exceeds your electrical system’s capacity, causes the circuit breaker to trip to protect your home from fire and other safety hazards.

Electrical storms can cause a frequently tripping circuit breaker, especially if it often happens in your area. But you can protect your home from potential damage by installing surge protectors, which limit the voltage that passes through electrical circuits.

Faulty Circuit Breaker

Sometimes, a circuit breaker keeps tripping because of the circuit breaker itself. Circuit breakers automatically shut off power to a circuit if there’s a short circuit, electrical overload, ground fault, or sometimes, electrical storms.

But if the circuit breaker is faulty, it can trip even when there’s no electrical issue, also known as nuisance tripping. Various things, such as inrush currents, under voltage, poor coordination of circuit breakers, and ground fault leakage currents, can cause nuisance tripping.

Besides the constant tripping, faulty circuit breakers can be dangerous because they might fail to trip when there is an actual electrical issue. It can be a serious safety hazard since an electrical overload, ground fault, or short circuit can cause electrical fires.

If you think your circuit breaker is faulty, it’s important to contact a licensed technician to inspect your electrical system. They can identify and address the root cause of the problem, repairing and replacing what’s necessary to ensure your safety.

Electrician Circuit Breaker Test Problems
Some diagnosis steps can help you figure out why your circuit breaker might be tripping.

Step-by-step Diagnosis For Tripping Circuit Breaker

1. Identify the Circuit

The first thing you should do is find which circuit is tripping. Look for the circuit breaker in the “off” position and find which appliances or parts of your home are affected.

2. Unplug Appliances

Once you find which appliances are affected, turn them off and unplug them all from the circuit that keeps tripping. This will help you identify which specific appliance is causing the trip.

3. Reset the Circuit Breaker

After unplugging the appliances, reset the circuit breaker by switching it to the “on” position.” If it stays on, then the cause is likely one of the appliances you just unplugged.

4. Plug in Appliances One at a Time

To determine the specific appliance causing the breaker to trip, you need to plug each appliance and turn it on one at a time. If the breaker trips immediately after plugging an appliance, that’s likely the cause. Unplug it and move to the next appliance until you’re through.

5. Check for Damaged Outlets or Wires

If none of the appliances seem to be the cause, the issue might be with the outlets or wiring themselves. Check for signs of damage to them, such as loose wires or burn marks. If you see the damage, it’s best to call a licensed electrician to fix it.

6. Hire a Licensed Electrician

If you cannot find the cause or notice signs of electrical damage, contact a licensed electrician. A professional electrician can efficiently and safely diagnose and repair the issue.

Circuit Breaker FAQs

How do I know if my circuit breaker is faulty?

You’ll find out by taking note of various signs. If your circuit breaker constantly trips even after unplugging all devices, it could be a sign the breaker itself is faulty. You may also notice some signs of damage or burning smells coming from the circuit breaker panel. In any case, it’s best to call a licensed electrician to inspect and replace your malfunctioning circuit breaker.

Can you reset your circuit breaker too many times?

Circuit breakers are designed to be reset, but resetting them too many times is not ideal. Doing so can damage or wear them out over time. If you find yourself resetting the same circuit breaker many times, it’s best to call a licensed electrician to inspect it and perform the necessary repairs.

Can using too many extension cords cause a circuit breaker to trip?

Yes. Using a lot of extension cords or power trips can cause overloading and cause the circuit breaker to trip. It is best if you limit the number of devices you connect to a single outlet. Also, it would help to use high-quality extension cords and power strips specifically designed for heavy use.

How do I prevent my circuit breaker from constantly tripping?

You can prevent circuit breakers from tripping by not connecting electrical devices in a single circuit and instead distributing them across multiple circuits. Also, avoid overloading circuits by not plugging too many appliances into a single outlet. High-quality extension cords and power strips can also prevent a frequently tripping circuit breaker. If you see any signs of electrical issues or damage, call a licensed electrician immediately to inspect and repair them.

Is it dangerous if the circuit breaker keeps tripping?

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it could mean a potential safety hazard that needs to be addressed promptly. The tripping itself may not be dangerous, but the underlying cause could be. For instance, an overloaded circuit that keeps tripping the breaker could lead to electrical fires or damage to appliances. Therefore, it’s crucial to identify and address the root cause of the problem before they compromise your family’s safety.

Hire a Local Electrical Pro

The methods above are effective DIY tips to investigate, diagnose, and fix your faulty circuit breaker. But if you need professional help, then don’t hesitate to contact a local electrical pro using the phone number or form on this page.

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