What causes circuit breakers to trip…a question we are asked regularly. Your circuit breaker has the important task of disrupting electricity to prevent shocks, fires, and other disasters—but sometimes it’s not clear as to what causes a circuit breaker to trip.
Circuit breakers protect your home’s electrical system by cutting off the flow of electricity to a circuit whenever problems occur. You might see a breaker trip if you have too many appliances or electronics plugged in, or there could be an electrical issue at hand. If you’re not sure why yours keeps tripping, here are a few common reasons to consider.
Possible Causes of a Circuit Breaker Tripping
There are many reasons why a circuit breaker trips, but the most common ones are circuit overloads, ground fault surges, and short circuits. Below is a breakdown of the signs and symptoms of each.
Circuit overloads are the most common reason that a breaker trips. Sometimes you want to microwave, blow-dry your hair and you finally convinced your kids to vacuum, all at the same time. Certain appliances can trip circuit breakers, so check out what you plugged in.
Your electrical wires have a finite capacity for electricity and can only handle a certain flow. When that load gets exceeded, your breaker will cut it off. This prevents the wires from heating to a dangerous level, potentially causing an electrical fire.
Ground Fault Surge
A ground fault is a specific type of fault where the flow of electricity goes astray and gets redirected to the floor or earth. This happens when a “hot” wire contacts a grounding wire, or any grounded part of the system (such as the metal electrical box). When your circuit breaker detects the sudden surge in electrical flow, this will cause the breaker to trip.
If there’s someone standing on the ground where the electricity gets directed, there’s a high risk of electric shock—especially if the ground is damp. This is also a common reason why your circuit breaker trips randomly. Should you suspect a ground fault, contact the professionals at High West Electric to investigate the issue.
A short circuit happens when a hot or active electrical wire and a neutral wire touch, causing a large amount of current to flow and overload the circuit. A short circuit should always cause a breaker to trip or a fuse to blow and may also cause sparks, popping sounds, or smoke.
It can be caused by issues like loose connections, a slipped wire, or even from damage caused by animals (mice or squirrels) chewing on wires. A short circuit can also be caused by a faulty electrical switch, receptacle, fixture, appliance, plug, or cord.
Do not try to trace the short circuit yourself. Short circuits can be dangerous due to the high temperatures from the current flow which can pose a fire hazard, if you think your home has an issue seek our professional assistance, especially if you can’t find the source.
How to Fix the Problem
Keep in mind that circuit breakers and fuses are safety devices for our protection when electrical malfunctions occur. Although, it may be frustrating when a circuit breaker trips or when a fuse blows, this action has served to protect us and our property. When troubleshooting or dealing with home electrical repairs, always take safety very seriously and never attempt to inspect or repair anything that you aren’t certain is safe.
If you suspect you have a faulty circuit breaker or need additional outlets installed contact a qualified electrician. High West Electric is based in Denver, CO, and serves the entire metro area. Our customer service-based approach ensures that each client enjoys the process from installation to the end product – no matter the size of the job. Our goal is to be YOUR electrician and offer an experience that goes Beyond the Wires. We offer free estimates. Visit our website to learn more.