25
Jul

What causes a circuit breaker to trip?

When a circuit breaker trips, it forces you to outside, out to garage, or down to your basement to try and get the power back on again. And if this is happening over and over, it can become very frustrating very quickly.

So what’s causing it to happen? Our professionals at WIREONE have broken down the facts for you.

“Tripping” means to cut off the flow of electricity, and circuit breakers do this to keep your circuits from overheating and causing more damage. If circuit breakers didn’t trip, house fires would just be a common part of our everyday lives.

Before you back out to flip the switch yet again, you should consider what the root cause of your problem might be. Circuit breakers trip for three main reasons: short circuits, overloaded circuits, and ground fault surges.

Here is a quick look at what exactly those terms mean to you and your Monroe home, and what you can do to prevent further damage from occurring:

Circuit Overload

Circuit overloads are the number one reason that circuit breakers trip. All this term means is that you’re asking a particular circuit to provide more electricity to you than it has the capacity to do, which will cause it to overheat.

If you’re running a computer and a television through the same circuit, using 20 amps of electricity in a circuit that was meant to run 15 amps, the circuit breaker trips to prevent the circuit from possibly overheating and catching fire.

There are a couple of solutions to this problem. The first is to redistribute your devices and keep them off of the same circuits. You could also turn some of the devices off to reduce the electrical load.

Short Circuits

Short circuits are another common cause of breakers tripping, but they’re more dangerous than an overloaded circuit.

A short circuit occurs when a “hot” wire comes into contact with a “neutral wire” in one of your outlets. When this happens, a large amount of the current flows, which creates more heat than the circuit can handle. Again, the circuit shuts off to prevent any dangerous outcomes.

If you’ve had a short circuit, it should be easily recognizable by the smell of burning that will be left around the breaker, and you may notice a brown or black discoloration around it. These wires could cross for any number of reasons, and it may be as simple as loose connections or faulty wiring.

Ground Fault Surges

Ground fault surges are actually very similar to short circuits. A ground fault happens a hot wire touches a ground wire, which is made of bare copper, or the side of a metal outlet box which is connected to the ground wire. As was the case with short circuits, you should be able to see a discoloration around your outlet if this has occurred.

Any of these problems have the potential to be very dangerous, so if your breakers are tripping frequently, it’s worth having a professional electrician inspect your electrical system.