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Troubleshooting a Tripped Circuit Breaker

by Hickerson Brothers on April 19, 2018

What has caused your circuit breaker to trip? To help find the answer, you’ll need to perform some troubleshooting. Tripping is when a circuit breaker shuts off electrical flow when uneven currents are detected. Tripping is typically caused by ground faults, short circuits, and electrical overloads. Troubleshooting can help find which of these has tripped your circuit breaker, further assisting you in determining the right solution.

The experts at Hickerson Brothers recommend every Catlett homeowner have troubleshooting knowledge on tripped circuit breakers. Follow these steps below before contacting an electrical professional!

Which Circuit Breaker Has Tripped?

Each circuit breaker holds the power to a specific circuit. When one has tripped, only its associated circuit will lose power. Go to your electrical panel and find the area where the tripped breaker provides power.

It may be difficult to figure out which circuit is connected at first. Sometimes each circuit breaker is labeled which easily identifies their locations. Without labeling, you may have to examine your home to see which appliances have been turned off. Outlets connected to the circuit tend to be in the same room, which help to identify the corresponding breaker.

You can also purchase and use a circuit breaker finder. This tool uses both a transmitter and receiver to determine which circuit a breaker belongs to. More information about how to use a circuit breaker finder can be found here.

Did You Unplug All Associated Appliances?

After finding which circuit has lost power, you’ll want to unplug every connected appliance and device. We may not know the exact cause yet, but one potential reason for tripping is a faulty appliance. To be safe, unplug every appliance from the circuit.

Are Your Appliances in Good Condition?

After unplugging your appliances, you’ll want to check their condition. One common cause of a tripped circuit breaker is from damaged appliances causing a short circuit. For each appliance, check their cords, casing, and any exposed circuitry. Any signs of cracks, damages, or frayed wire can be a sign of the appliance causing a short circuit.

Another sign of a faulty appliance is a burning smell. Since short circuits happen when electricity transfers with no resistance, sparks can melt or burn plastic or other materials. If you notice a burning smell, it’s best to throw the appliance away.

Can Your Circuit Handle Your Appliances?

See how many appliances are connected to the tripped circuit. Another cause of tripping is an electrical overload. An electrical overload can happen when too many appliances are connected to one circuit. This can lead to unmanageable levels of electricity, tripping a circuit breaker.

The common type of outlet in American homes is a 15A outlet. As its name suggest, this outlet’s circuit can hold 15 amps of electricity. Most devices and small appliances work fine on a 15A outlet. However, you can overload the circuit by using multiple surge protectors and extension cords. This artificially extends how many outlets a circuit has and can lead to too much power.

Additionally, you’ll want to avoid plugging in different appliances that each require their own circuit. More info can be found here.

Are Your Outlets in Good Condition?

If your appliances seem to be in good condition, and your circuit seems capable of handling the connected appliances, then the problem may be the outlets themselves. Outlets that are damaged or have loose connections can cause a ground fault. A ground fault is when electricity transfers through a ground wire instead of the intended path. This current can damage the outlet along with plugged-in appliances.

It may be difficult to see the inner condition of your outlet without the help of an electrical professional. What you can do is check the casing for any burn marks or smell of melted plastic. Both can indicate a faulty outlet. Additionally, check the surrounding area for any moisture. Moisture is one major cause of ground faults and will cause your circuit breaker to trip if touching a hot wire.

After performing these troubleshooting tips, you may have figured out a potential cause of why your circuit breaker tripped. However, you’ll still need to contact Hickerson Brothers to further assess the issue. Our troubleshooting services will help discover the cost-effective solution that restores your electrical system to working condition. Give us a call at 703-594-3913 to schedule an appointment with Catlett’s leading electrical experts.