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Published on
February 18th, 2021

Breaker Keeps Tripping? 6 Most Common Causes

Whether you are a single-family homeowner or the manager of a large property, a breaker that keeps tripping is a nuisance. Sometimes, a breaker that shuts off repeatedly is a sign of something dangerous. Here are the six most common causes of a tripping breaker. When you know what may be behind your issue, you can decide to either fix the problem yourself or call in the pros, like Bolt Electric of the Omnia Mechanical Group in New York City.

Overloaded Circuit

Reduce demand or rewire

A circuit that’s trying to supply power to too many items or provide too much amperage is overloaded. This is the most common cause we see for breakers that keep tripping.

The circuit breaker’s internal sensing mechanism heats up when this happens and forces the breaker to shut off. This breaks the circuit and shuts off the power until the breaker is turned back on and the circuit is restored.

A breaker that constantly trips due to an overloaded circuit is having excess demands placed on it, which needs to be remedied. The easiest way to handle this is to remove some items from the circuit and plug them in elsewhere. If this isn’t possible, you should talk to a licensed electrician about an electrical panel upgrade to accommodate the load or rewiring to split up your circuits.

We frequently see overloaded circuits with older properties. Even just a few decades ago, homes and offices did not have the demands placed on them for electricity that they do now. Modern appliances, electronics, and smart living have increased the amount of electricity needed on home circuits.

Short Circuit

Fix right away

A short circuit can occur in different types of electrical devices: switches, outlets, light fixtures, and appliances. It means wires that shouldn’t connect are coming in contact with each other. A short causes a surge of electricity in the circuit, which eventually trips the circuit breaker.

How do you tell a short circuit from one that’s overloaded? There’s an easy test you can do. Whereas with an overloaded circuit, you might have to plug in one item at a time until the circuit no longer has enough power to supply, with a short, the second you plug in any item, the breaker will trip again. This can also happen the moment you turn on a light switch if the short is in the switch.

If you have a short, it’s time to have your electrician check the wiring and repair it. While your breaker should cut power to the circuit, you don’t want to mess with wires that shouldn’t be in contact touching each other. If a switch is at fault, it should be replaced. Meanwhile, don’t use any items that you suspect of being involved in the short circuit.

Ground Fault Surge

Check wiring or install ground fault interrupters

A ground fault is actually a type of short circuit. It occurs when a hot wire (one carrying current) comes into contact with something it shouldn’t, such as a metal wall box, a ground wire, or wood framing. If a ground fault surge happens in the presence of water, it can be particularly dangerous, and electric shock can take place.

You can prevent shock due to ground fault surges around water by installing ground fault interrupter outlets (GFIs), also known as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These are now required by nearly all building codes in kitchens and bathrooms. If the outlet senses a change in current, it immediately shuts off to reduce risk to users. You can reset these outlets using a button on the front.

If you think a ground fault is responsible for your breaker tripping all the time or if you wish to install ground fault interrupter outlets, give us a call at Bolt Electric. We can usually make your wiring safe again with just a quick service call.

Arc Fault

Don’t ignore this fire hazard

Arcing is caused when electrical current passes between two wires that are not touching. This is actually a serious fire hazard, but you may not know about it because it usually occurs inside your walls.

If you have arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers, which are now required by numerous building codes, your breaker should sense an arc fault and trip. Regular old-fashioned breakers, however, do not detect arc faults. If you have repeated tripping of a breaker and have ruled out other causes, you should have your electrician check for an arc fault.

Appliance or Tool Problem

Repair or replace

As mentioned above, sometimes an appliance or other large electrical device, such as a power tool, is actually the problem and not your wiring. If your breaker trips every time you use a specific item, no matter where you plug it in (not just one particular outlet), it’s likely the item that’s at fault.

If this is the case, discontinue use of the appliance or tool. Either have the wiring fixed by a professional appliance repair person or discard the item and replace it.

Undersized or Malfunctioning Electrical Panel

Replace for convenience and safety

Older homes may have undersized electrical panels not made for today’s demands, as discussed above under “Overloaded Circuit.” Sometimes they’re simply old and too small. In other cases, breaker panels may be malfunctioning or on the list of recalled panels.

If you believe your panel is out of date, you’ll be pleased with the benefits of replacing it. Not only will your property be safer, you’ll be able to accommodate more electrical items, and you can set up dedicated circuits to avoid overloading.

If you have a breaker that keeps tripping and you can’t figure out why, give Bolt Electric a call at 212-434-0098, or schedule an appointment online. Don’t wait until you have an electrical hazard or fire. Reach out today.

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