How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

A Tripped Circuit Breaker is Telling You Something so Think and Act before Resetting It

By Mark J. Donovan

All of the electrical outlets, switches and appliances in your home are fed from electrical circuits emanating from your home’s electrical panel or main circuit breaker box. Each electrical circuit is protected by a circuit breaker that is housed in the main electrical panel.

A circuit breaker protects your home and family by automatically tripping and turning power off to the circuit when it senses a current load higher than what the circuit wiring and breaker are rated for. By automatically turning off the power to the circuit the circuit breaker can help to prevent electrical fires and even life threatening electrical shock.

The high current load that causes an electrical circuit breaker to trip could be the result of too many appliances operating on the circuit simultaneously, or an electrical short between the line current and ground. For example, if for some reason the high voltage/current were to somehow come in direct contact with the grounded chassis of an electrical appliance a tremendous current load could immediately occur. If the circuit breaker did not sense this condition and current was allowed to continue to flow on the chassis of the appliance it could potentially cause an electrical fire, or if someone touched the chassis they could be fatally electrocuted.

So when a circuit breaker trips and power is cut-off to the circuit, immediately check what appliances were running when the power was cut-off to the circuit. Make sure none of the appliances, or their electrical cords, look damaged in any way and make sure they are in the off position. Also, you may want to unplug a few of them if you suspect the circuit may have been overloaded with appliances.

Next, open up the main electrical panel cover and check to see which circuit breaker tripped.

Here are circuit breakers in a main circuit panel box.

Typically the tripped circuit breakers switch tab is out of alignment with the other circuit breaker switch tabs. It also feels loose to the touch.

Flip the offending circuit breaker tab to the OFF position and then flip it back to the ON position. If the overloaded circuit or short circuit condition is no longer present the circuit breaker will remain in the ON position.

After resetting the circuit breaker close the panel. If the circuit breaker immediately trips again, then call in an electrician.

Warning: When working with electricity use extreme caution to avoid the risk of electrical shock. Make sure to first shut off power at the main circuit panel and then confirm all power to the electrical fixtures and boxes are off prior to beginning any electrical work.

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