Why Circuit Breakers Trip
by Damien Andrews
Breakers are much more costly to buy and install than fuses, but they are safer to reset than fuses are to replace. You don’t have to keep buying a variety of fuses to keep on-hand, either. All things considered, using fuses today has very limited reasonable applications.
This following explanation is a very simple one, and I won’t get into the relationships between voltage, amperage, and watts. I’ll simply use the words ‘electricity’ and ‘power’ – just to keep it simple, understandable and useful to you.
If you run any electricity through a circuit, it generates heat. The more electricity you run through the circuit, the more heat is generated. The same is true for wires. Ever notice how warm the cord of your electric hair dryer gets if you use it on high heat for ten or fifteen minutes? That won’t happen if you turn it to the cool setting and run it for the same amount of time. This is because the hair dryer is pulling less electricity through the wires when it is set on cool.
Now, how can you use this information in your home? Simple: do not run too much electricity through any breaker at any time.
Household breakers most commonly trip from electricity being used in the kitchen and the bathroom. If you’re drying your hair and the breaker trips, you likely have something else drawing electricity through the same circuit. So, find out what other electrical items shut off when the breaker tripped. Turn one or more of those things off, and then go reset the breaker. Finish with your blow dryer and then turn the other device(s) back on.
Follow the above procedure in the kitchen, also. If you’re using the crock pot, the coffee pot, the vegetable steamer and you turn on the mixer and the breaker trips, turn something off for a few minutes while you use the mixer.
If the above process does not stop the breaker from tripping, then you likely have a faulty appliance. Though you could have a problem with a receptacle or the wires in a receptacle. The third most common cause is a faulty switch that is on the same circuit as the receptacle(s) being used. If this is the case, do NOT reset the breaker again. Contact an electrician. In the meantime, unplug everything from all of the receptacles.
Circuit breakers are marvelous, convenient safety devices. They are easily understood and easily reset. Quality circuit breakers almost never break or fail. If your breaker is tripping constantly, you need to look elsewhere for the source of the problem. Most often, in my experience, redundant circuit breaking tripping is the result of the addition of electrical devices on the circuit. The best fix for this is to add one or more new circuits.
Important safety note: if you are resetting a circuit breaker and it trips immediately after resetting, do NOT attempt to reset it again. The circuit breaker is designed to prevent much more serious incidents. Repeated resetting can cause some wholly undesirable events. Contact your electrician and have the problem’s source identified and rectified.
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