Why is Circuit Breaker Tripping

Tips for Troubleshooting a Tripped Circuit Breaker

By Mark J. Donovan

Circuit breakers are designed to protect you and your home from electrical shock and electrical fires. When either too much electric current, or a sudden loss of current, is sensed by the circuit breaker it trips, which in effect shuts of electricity to the electrical circuit. If an electrical circuit did not employ the use of a circuit breaker, and an electrical short was somehow created in the circuit, either the electrical wiring could heat up until it potentially caused an electrical fire or someone could be electrocuted when they came in contact with the circuit, e.g. turning on a faulty grounded electrical appliance.

A circuit breaker can trip for several reasons. The electrical circuit can be overload, there is a ground fault or short circuit condition, or there is loose wiring.

The most common cause for a circuit breaker tripping is the circuit is overloaded. When a circuit breaker trips, think about all of the appliances that may have been running on the circuit when it tripped. Try turning them off and resetting the circuit breaker. If the circuit remains on after resetting it, try turning on all of the appliances again to see if the circuit breaker trips again.

If it does, use fewer appliances simultaneously or move some of the appliances to different circuits. Never replace a circuit breaker with a higher current rating. An electrical circuit breaker is selected based on the rating of the electrical wire used in the circuit. By installing a higher current rating circuit breaker you run the risk of overheating the electrical wires and causing an electrical fire.

A short circuit condition is a more serious and more difficult problem to troubleshoot.

Here are circuit breakers in a main circuit panel box.

A short circuit occurs when a hot wire (Black or Red) comes in contact with another hot wire or a return wire. They can also be caused by a break in the electrical circuit wiring. When you suspect a short circuit as the culprit to your circuit breaker tripping, check all of the wires associated with the appliances plugged into the outlets on the circuit. Check for melting or burnt wires. Also remove appliances from the circuit by unplugging them. This exercise will help to determine if it is an appliance that is shorting out or the home electrical wiring itself. Also look at the outlets and switches for any dark discoloration. Also smell them for smoke. If you still cannot find the short, call an electrician.

The other condition that could be causing a tripped circuit breaker is a ground fault. In a ground fault condition the hot wire has come in contact with a bare copper wire (ground wire) or the side of a metal appliance or electrical box. Check for a ground fault condition as you wood for a short circuit condition.

A tripped circuit breaker can also be the result of a loose wire. To troubleshoot this type of condition, remove all appliances from the outlets on the circuit to isolate the problem either to the house electrical circuit or one of the appliances.

If the circuit breaker no longer trips after removing all the appliances, plug them back in one at a time to see which appliance is the culprit. If the circuit breaker continues to trip after removing the electrical appliances you may want to check the wiring on each outlet to make sure there are no loose wires, wire nuts or terminal screws. Again, you may want to call an electrician at this point.

For help on building a new custom home, see HomeAdditionPlus.com’s New Home Construction Bid Sheet. The New Home Construction Bid Sheet provides you with the knowledge on how to plan a custom home building project, and what to look for when hiring contractors for your new home construction. It also includes a detailed cost breakdown table and spreadsheet for estimating your own new home construction building costs.

Related Information

Additional Electrical Wiring Resources from Amazon.com

Free Home Addition Price Quotes with No Obligation!

Fill out our 3-5 minute quick and easy form, and receive a free price quote on a house addition from one of our prescreened and licensed home addition contractors. This process is free and there is no obligation to continue once you receive your house addition price estimate.