My Circuit Breakers Keep Tripping, Why is This Happening?
Electricity enters your home and goes to a circuit breaker box where it’s divided into a number of circuits. Each circuit is protected by a breaker or fuse. Bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms where only lights and small electrical items are usually used are normally on 15-amp circuits. Kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms and dining rooms, places where you’re more likely to use toasters, irons, hair dryers and other big-watt items, are usually served by heavier-duty, 20-amp circuits. Major appliances like 5,000-watt electric water heaters and 10,000-watt electric ranges demand so much electricity that they take their own 30-to 50-amp dedicated circuit, protected by big, “double pole” breakers.
The circuit breaker system is designed so that when you try to pull too much current through it and before a potential hazard may occur, the circuit breaker trips. A circuit breaker "trips", or shuts off and stops the flow of electricity through an electrical circuit when it senses more current flowing through it than it's supposed to have. By tripping, the circuit breaker protects the circuit and its wiring from overheating and causing damage, including fire.
You go to the electrical panel, reset the circuit breaker and it trips again when you flip the switch on again. At this point you need to stop and identify the root cause of the problem making the circuit breaker trip. Circuit breakers are designed to trip and turn off power when any of the following dangerous situations occur:
Circuit breakers trip mainly because of an overloaded circuit, in other words, there is more electrical load or current than there should be running through the circuit so they break or stop functioning as a protection.
As defined in the opening paragraph, circuit breakers come in different ratings that determine how much current they will allow to flow through the circuit. If a 15 Amp circuit breaker is protecting a 15 Amp circuit, and 20 Amps of current start to flow through it because a hair dryer, TV and small personal heater were all connected to the same circuit and were on at the same time (even if on different outlets) then the circuit breaker trips to prevent overheating of the circuit.
Once you have ruled out a circuit overload, you need to assess what else might be causing the short or trip to occur. A short circuit is a more serious reason for a breaker tripping. A short is caused when the hot wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a neutral wire (white). It can also be caused if there is a break in a wire in the circuit. Shorts are a bit more difficult to diagnose because they can be caused by the wiring in your home or in something you have plugged into an outlet.
To correct a short, confirm that power is off at the outlet into which your device is plugged. Inspect your power cords for damage or a melted appearance. Check your outlets and plugs for the smell of burning or brown or black discoloration. Check the insulation on the wires to make sure it is not cracked and touching a black and white wire together. If you do not find the problem, repeat the process for all the outlets in the circuit.
Once you have established you do not have short circuit or a circuit overload, your next option is to check for a ground fault. A ground fault condition exists when the hot wire (black) touches the ground wire (bare copper) or the side of a metal outlet box (because the metal box is connected to the ground wire). The ground fault is a type of short circuit. To correct a ground fault check that the hot wire (black) is not touching the side of the metal outlet box or the ground wire.
There are service providers and tools that will assist you in determining whether you have a short or a fault or another problem if you are not able or comfortable diagnosing your power issues.
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