4 Reasons Why Your Circuit Breaker Is Tripping, And How You Can Fix It

Did your power shut off abruptly? It’s probably a tripped circuit breaker.

A tripped breaker is most likely caused by 1 of these 4 reasons:

  1. Overloaded circuit
  2. Short circuit
  3. Ground fault
  4. Wiring damage

In this article, we’ll cover each of these reasons and discuss how to fix a tripped breaker.

Let’s start with the reasons why your circuit breaker tripped:

Why your circuit breaker tripped

Reason #1: Overloaded circuit

The most common reason for a tripped breaker is an overloaded circuit. Circuit overloading means you’re running too much power at once on the same circuit. To prevent overheating the wires, your circuit breaker “trips,” or shuts off power to your electrical appliances for safety.

An overloaded circuit is common when there’s heavy demand on your home’s HVAC system, like air conditioners requiring lots of power in the summer.

Every circuit can only handle so much power at one time. This is called an electrical load. For example, a standard 20-amp breaker can support up to 2,400 watts on a single circuit. However, you should not load a circuit greater than 80 percent of its maximum capacity. So for a 20-amp breaker, you wouldn’t want to exceed 1,920 watts.

To see if your circuit breaker is tripping due to an overload, you’ll want to look at the total wattage of all the appliances connected to it. 

To calculate the total wattage, follow these 4 steps:

The amperage for this circuit is 15 amps. Image source: www.wikihow.com

1. Locate the amperage of your circuit breaker (see image above).

The wattage for this appliance is 1500W. Image source: www.energy.gov

2. Find the wattage rating printed on each device (see image above).
3. Add all of the wattage ratings. 
4. Divide the total wattage by 120, which will give you the total amps.

If you see that the wattage is above 80% of the circuit breaker amp load, you’ll know you’re running too much power on one circuit.

Don’t have the time to calculate wattage? Alternatively, you could just turn off and unplug electrical appliances and try plugging them in one by one into the circuit. This will let you know which appliances are requiring too much power and are causing the circuit to trip.

Reason #2: Short circuit

Short circuits are dangerous because they could cause an electrical fire, so you should contact a certified electrical technician to check this.

A short circuit is when a “hot” wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a “neutral” wire (white). A large amount of electrical current flows when these 2 wires touch, generating more heat than the circuit can handle. To prevent any problems, your circuit breaker will shut off.

If you smell burning or see a brown/black discoloration near your outlets, it’s a good indication you have a short circuit.

Reason #3: Ground fault

A ground fault is caused when a “hot” wire touches a ground wire (copper wire) or a metal outlet box that’s connected to the ground wire.

During a ground fault, large amounts of electrical current are forced through the circuit breaker, which causes the circuit breaker to trip to prevent overheating. The symptoms of a ground fault are similar to a short circuit: if you notice something strange going on with your outlet, you’ll want to contact a professional electrician for help.

Reason #4: Wiring damage

Your electrical wires could be faulty, which would cause your circuit breaker to trip. Wire damage is caused by any number of factors, including general wear and tear, animals chewing on the wiring, brownouts, a lightening strike or accidentally disconnecting the wires.

Is your circuit breaker still tripping?

Contact OTSP for circuit breaker and electrical repairs. We’ll figure out why your circuit is tripping and fix it for you.

We’ve been helping Minnesota families since 1945.

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