The occasional circuit breaker trip might not be too annoying. Sometimes you know when your circuit might be overloaded, and the solution is as simple as turning off something that is connected to the circuit and switching the breaker back on.
If your circuit breaker trips frequently and, especially if you don’t know why, this can be a more concerning problem. Circuit breakers are all about safety and having one trip all of the time could indicate that there is something wrong with your electrical system. You can get an electrician to help you with this issue. Or, if you’re comfortable with basic electrical work, there may be some ways for you to investigate the issue yourself.
Test the Circuit
It is possible that the circuit has too many devices making demands on its electricity at once. This is the most common reason that a circuit breaker trips. Sometimes it can be hard to tell though that the circuit is overloaded as it doesn’t trip the moment that you turn something on but instead seems to trip randomly.
You can test the circuit the next time it breaks. Instead of flipping the breaker right away, go to the spot on the house where the circuit is and turn off and unplug everything connected to it. Every lamp, appliance, and charging cable should be unplugged, and any lights on the circuit should be turned off. Now flip the breaker back on and plug in or turn on a single thing. Wait a few minutes and, if the circuit doesn’t trip, plug in another thing in and wait again. Keep going until you’ve plugged in everything or the circuit breaks.
If the breaker does trip during this process, then you know that you have an overloaded circuit, and you now know how much can run on it safely. You can repeat the process if you want and plug in those things that you most need on the circuit, so you can decide what should stay there and what you’ll have to move to another one.
Something that shorts the circuit interferes with the charge before it can complete the whole circuit. Sometimes this means that two wires are touching that shouldn’t be, one drawing charge from the other and shorting the circuit. Shorts trigger surges, which will force the breaker to trip (which is a good thing, because it could start a fire without that safety mechanism.)
In this case, you will probably need an electrician’s help to get to the bottom of the issue. The short may have been caused by poor installation of some electrical component, or damage to a wire from impact or a pet chewing on it. Sometimes appliances have shorts in them, and this is really the only kind you can test for on your own.
If you suspect a vacuum or another portable electrical device has a short, then you can try plugging it into different circuits. When you turn on the device it should trip the circuit, no matter which circuit you plug it into. Unfortunately, the best cure for this issue is to not use that device anymore. Hopefully, it is under a manufacturer’s warranty.
The last major cause of a circuit breaker that keeps tripping is a fault or fault current. Again, you will likely need an electrician’s help to sort this one out. Essentially, the electricity that is supposed to flow through your current gets diverted or plugged away by something to the ground. Water is a common source of a ground fault. If it runs over the circuit and to the ground, it can lead the electricity away and then the breaker will trip.
Obviously, if water or something else is diverting the electrical flow and then you come into contact with that thing, you could get electrocuted. So, if you suspect that there is a ground fault you should reach out to an electrician for help. Don’t try to investigate a ground fault yourself and if you see water near a source of electricity, do not approach it.
What if you can’t get to the bottom of why your circuit breaker keeps tripping? Keep in mind that leaving this issue alone is putting your home at risk of an electrical fire. Reach out to us at Bell Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical to get the professional help that you need to solve the issue.