Common Circuit Breaker Issues

What are circuit breakers?

Circuit breakers are essentially electrical switches that are built to detect faulty or undesirable conditions and interrupt current flow. Understand that they’re not a “one-thing use item”, they can actually be reset. Circuit breakers come in all sizes. usually, the smallest ones are for residential homes and the biggest one power up an entire community like Santa Clarita. 

Warning Signs That Indicate You’re Circuit Breaker Needs To Be Repaired or Replaced:
  • Lights aren’t “fully turned-on” & flicker
  • Tripping breakers: which indicate that too many home appliances are overloading the circuit
  • A burning smell that emanates from the electrical panel.
  • Breakers that are hot as a volcano when you touch them.

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Circuit Breaker FAQ
Why does my circuit breaker keep tripping?

There are a billion reasons why your circuit breakers trip, including faulty residential electrical wiring. There are kilometers of wires in the home, connecting your outlets to the breaker box, so how can you find out if faulty wiring is the problem? How can you tell if it’s not a faulty appliance causing the problem, or too many appliances running at once?

The answer to the general question is simple enough. Turn off and unplug all the appliances in the area the tripped circuit breaker has affected. Go to the breaker box, find the circuit breaker (or other model) and try to reset it by turning it back on. If the power stays on in that area of the home, you have a problem with the items plugged into the wall sockets rather than the wiring. If the circuit trips again right away, chances are good your wiring is to blame.

Fusible switch? What is that?
A fusible switch is a type of bus plug usually found in older homes or apartments. When electricity passes through the system, there is always a danger of overload. With no protection from overloads, your appliances would be destroyed and there is great potential for fires as a result. The fusible switch contains a fuse to protect the home. In the fusible switch bus plug, the fuses are designed with an element that is destroyed in the event of a power overload. When the fuse is intact, the circuit is complete and energy can pass through.

When the fuse element is melted, the circuit is broken and electricity does not flow. This keeps the overload from reaching your appliances. Once the element is melted, that fuse must be replaced. This type of bus plug is replaced in newer buildings by the more efficient circuit breaker system, which requires no replacement of burnt-out fuses.

How do I reset my circuit breakers?

When a circuit breaker “trips”, it interrupts the flow of electricity to prevent an electrical hazard. There are two types of circuit breakers in your breaker box–the mains, which regulate the electricity to the entire building, and the individual circuit breakers for specific areas of the home such as the kitchen, living room, and bedrooms. If your circuit breakers trip for a specific area of the home, power will remain on for the rest of the house. If your mains trip, all power is cut off until you can reset your circuit breaker.

Resetting the circuit breaker for the “single area” trip is simple; go to the breaker box and look for the circuit breakers labeled for the part of the building without power. You will see the switch for this breaker or set of breakers is in the “off” position or positioned in the exact opposite of all the other circuit breaker switches. Turn the circuit breaker back to the “on” position and you should have power restored. The procedure for resetting the mains is the same, but you will need a flashlight. Do not attempt to reset the mains in the dark without seeing the electrical panel–always use a light so you can see exactly where your hand is going in and around the breaker box.

What should I know about circuit breaker locking systems?

If you are considering installing a padlock system on your circuit breakers, there are several safety issues to consider. A padlock system can be handy for securing the circuit breaker system in any area easily accessible to others. Circuit breakers can be locked in either the “on” or “off” position. If you lock a circuit breaker in the “on” position, this does not prevent the breaker from tripping if there is an overload. This is an important safety feature that can prevent electrical fires and other mishaps, but if you are not available to unlock the breaker once it has tripped, power will remain out until you can reset that circuit breaker.

This has the potential to be a serious problem in cases where people require an uninterrupted power supply for assisted living equipment such as respirators or other health care gear. If you need to lock a circuit breaker system, make sure the keys are available to reset the power in your absence. When installing the lock system itself, use only a UL-rated padlock designed for use with the circuit breakers. Anything short of this can void the warranty of your locking system and the circuit breakers.

What is a low voltage circuit breaker?

If you are still learning about electric wiring, residential power supplies and how your breakers fit into the picture, it’s easy to misinterpret the purpose of low voltage circuit breakers. In this case, “low voltage” simply means a circuit breaker rated to handle a load of 600 volts or less. Since most homes use mains rated between 100-400 volts, they only require low voltage circuit breakers.

High voltage circuit breakers are made for heavy-duty use rather than in-home applications. Your low voltage circuit breakers are designed to trip based on heat measurements; the heat from a normal load is lower than a high current. When the heat goes above the limit the circuit breaker is calibrated for, the breaker trips and cuts the power. You can reset the circuit breaker, but if the high load continues, the breaker will trip once more.