A breaker makes sure that if one circuit gets overloaded by too much power, it will trip and shut off. This prevents any damage to your home’s wiring and is a vital feature of any electrical system.
Breakers are typically installed in the main panel of your house or building and each breaker has a different number that corresponds to each switch, so you can tell which one is turned off if you need to turn something off while working on your electrical system.
Circuit breakers also have a letter or number beside them that tells you what kind of circuit they are protecting, whether it is the lights, outlets, or other appliances. The numbers are vital during your panel maintenance or circuit breaker replacement.
Distinguishing between Fuses and Circuit Breakers
There are two main types of breakers: fuses and circuit breakers. Each has its purpose, but they both accomplish the same goal: to protect electrical devices from overloading current. The main difference between fuses and circuit breakers is their response time.
Fuses do not require an external control system and will respond instantly when a fault occurs. They are therefore suitable for use on circuits where frequent faults may require quick protection (e.g., switching surges). However, a fuse trips the circuit by blowing off, so it will need to be replaced to reinstate power to the tripped line.
On the other hand, a circuit breaker has an internal trip mechanism that opens before overheating occurs, unlike fuses which will continue to conduct electricity until they melt or catch fire. When you reset a tripped circuit breaker, it closes again without needing replacement.
How to Reset a Tripped Breaker
A tripped breaker is a common occurrence in homes and commercial properties. A breaker trips when it reaches its maximum load and it needs to be reset by a qualified technician. This can happen for several reasons, but overloading the circuit with too many appliances is the most common.
Resetting a tripped breaker is simple if you have basic electrical knowledge. If not, however, a Denver Electrician in Colorado is always on standby, awaiting your call for assistance.
To reset a tripped breaker, follow this guide:
1. Turn Off Power At The Main Panel
Depending on your home’s electrical system and the circuit breaker used, this may involve flipping one or more switches or pulling one or more levers.
Before resetting the breaker, look for melted plastic around the edges and ensure no sparks or flames are coming from its contacts. If you notice any signs of damage, contact a Denver electrician before proceeding with these steps.
- Unplug all appliances and turn off switches
Once you have turned off the power at your main panel, unplug all appliances within reach, including computers, televisions, and stereos to prevent accidental electrocution while working on your circuit breaker, and ensure any switches within reach are turned off so they don’t accidentally come back on when working with live wires or resetting tripped breakers later. This will also protect your gadgets from any possible risk when you reset the breaker. If you have an older appliance with fuses instead of breakers, failure to unplug it could cause it to overheat and possibly catch fire if power flows back in before being repaired.
3. Locate the room housing your electrical panel
Electrical panels are the brains of your home. They control the flow of electricity throughout your home and help to keep you safe by shutting off power in an emergency. Depending on the setup of your building, most electrical panels are located in the kitchen. You can find them in garages, basements, or hallways. You’ll know you’ve found it if there is a wall-mounted metal box with a small window.
4. Identify the breaker that is differently positioned from the rest
After locating your electrical panel’s location, find out which breaker has been tripped by looking at each breaker’s indicator light. The indicator light will be either off or red depending on whether it has been temporarily turned on or off by someone else. If it is red, that particular circuit is not active right now, but if it is off, that specific circuit is still active.
However, most modern home circuit breakers do not have any kind of visible indicator light, relying instead on a built-in mechanism that trips the breaker. Determine which breaker is out of place and/or is positioned differently than the others. This is sometimes easier if there are labels on your breakers with the section they power.
5. Shift the breaker’s position
Analyze the state of your circuit breaker in the panel box. Breakers gradually wear out and need replacement after several resets, so if your breaker arm is no longer shifting back when attempting a reset, it is possible that the breaker box is worn out. In that instance, call a qualified electrician to help with the panel replacement. If the breaker is shifting in any way, you need to move it fully to the off position before resetting it back to the functional (on) position.
Common Causes of Tripping in Circuit Breakers
Tripping is a common occurrence in circuit breakers and often indicates problems with the wiring or the breaker itself. Some of the most frequent causes of circuit protection tripping are:
This is often the most common cause of tripping and also one of the easiest to fix. As you connect more and more appliances to a single line, the breaker may trip as a result of an overloaded circuit. If you have more than one appliance on a single outlet, they will draw power from each other if they are not wired correctly.
This problem occurs when incompatible appliances are plugged into the same outlet. For example, if you plug a hairdryer into an outlet with a microwave, the voltage difference between them means more current flows through the circuit, causing more heat and current flow until the breaker trips.
When a breaker needs to reset, there are safety considerations. Older homes may have breakers that are not easy to reset, but with practice, you should have no problem resetting your breakers. You can seek help from a qualified ElectriCall technician whenever you feel you need a panel replacement. If necessary, the electrician will service and reset all tripped breakers for you.