Here’s Why Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

Circuit breaker box in a Minnesota homeOK, so you’re getting concerned. 

Your circuit breaker has flipped its switch one too many times and now you’re wondering if there’s a problem.

Most likely, there is. 

You see, a circuit breaker “trips” (flips the little switch) to stop the flow of electricity through a circuit to prevent the circuit’s wires from overheating and potentially causing a fire.

The circuit breaker, essentially, is a guardian angel for your home.

That being said, you don’t want to keep flipping the switch back to ON. At some point, the switch will stop tripping, leaving your family vulnerable to electrical fires. 

Instead, you need to find the cause of the tripping. 

Here are the usual suspects:

  • Overloaded circuit
  • Short circuit
  • Issue with the circuit breaker itself

We’ll explain what each of those problems in detail. 

Side note: Want to skip the details and just want it fixed? Contact an On Time Service Pros electrician for help. We’ll be there on time or your repair is free!

Overloaded circuit

An overloaded circuit is the most common cause of a circuit breaker tripping. An overloaded circuit is one that is taking in more amps (unit of electric current) than the circuit is rated for. 

For example, if you have a 20-amp breaker protecting a 20-amp circuit and 30 amps is flowing through that circuit, the breaker will trip (open the circuit) and stop the electric current.

Here’s a less techy example: Imagine you’re gleefully pouring yourself a cup of coffee. And, in your excitement, the coffee suddenly flows over the cup’s lip. You’d (hopefully) stop pouring because you recognize that you have “overloaded” the cup’s capacity. 

Your breaker is doing the same thing as you would to stop the flow of coffee. But substitute “coffee” for “electric current” and the “cup” for a “circuit”.

Make sense?

So what causes an electrical overload?

Typically, it’s caused by too many appliances running on one circuit. For example, your microwave may be sharing the same 15-amp circuit as your blender in your kitchen. So if you run them at the same time, it’ll trip the breaker.

In this case, you would want the microwave to have its own dedicated circuit, a circuit not shared by other appliances.

How will you know this is the problem? 

First answer this: What circuit was the breaker protecting? Second, think about what was happening when the breaker tripped. Were you running multiple heavy-duty appliances at the same time? If so, you may have found the problem.

Short circuit

If your breaker trips immediately after you reset it, you may have a short circuit somewhere in your home.

To explain short circuits, we need to explain circuits in more detail. 

In your home, electrical current flows in a “circuit” or loop. For example, when you plug in a lamp and turn in on, current flows in a loop from the outlet through the cord, into the bulb and back again. 

Electrical short circuit
Image source:

A short circuit happens when the electrical current takes a “shortcut” in that loop, passing by any resistors, which in this case is the light bulb. The shortcut is usually when two bare wires come in contact with each other.

Electrical short circuit

When this shortcut is created, there’s very little resistance in the circuit, which increases the electrical current dramatically, heating up the wires and tripping the circuit breaker.

Just as an hypothetical, let’s say your air conditioner’s circuit breaker trips every time the air conditioner comes on. The cause could be that the AC’s blower motor has a short circuit. 

Issues with the circuit breaker itself

The issue may not be with anything on the circuit but rather with the circuit breaker itself.

Common issues with circuit breakers include:

  • Wires connected to the breaker are loose
  • The breaker is bad or old and needs replacing

Your next step: Call a Minnesota electrician

Your best bet to solve this problem is to call an electrician. They can determine if the problem is an overloaded circuit, a short circuit or a breaker issue and then fix it.

We can help you out if you’d like. Just contact us online to request a service. We’ll be on time, you’ll see, or your repair is free!

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

Share |
View by Month

View by Category