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Why Is My Circuit Breaker Tripping?

Posted on: August 23, 2017

Your Maryland home’s electricity flows through your lights and appliances through an electrical service panel, which has a breaker to control an overload or error. You know that the circuit breaker tripping indicates a problem, but do you know WHY the breaker has tripped?

We at Goudie Electric take the safety of our customers very seriously. It is important that you know how to handle an electrical emergency while you wait for the professionals from Goudie Electric to arrive. The following are the most common reasons a circuit breaker trips:

Short Circuit

A short circuit is the most dangerous cause of a tripper breaking, due to the risk of fire. It is caused by one of three events: a hot wire (black) touching another hot wire or a neutral wire (white), a wiring problem in an appliance, or a device plugged into an outlet within the circuit. Short circuits can be difficult to diagnose due to the numerous potential causes. However, they are easy to identify: your outlets and plugs will give off a burning smell or have black/brown discoloration.

If a short circuit occurs, it is best to use outlets in other circuits until you have the shorted circuit examined by a professional.

Circuit Overload

Circuit overload is the most common reason for circuit breakers to trip. An overload is caused by too much power being run through the same circuit all at the same time. Infrequently, overload can also result from a lightning strike. This can come from too many appliances demanding too much power all at once, or from a single overheating appliance that is pulling in more amps than normal (this is common in air conditioners during the summer heat).

To combat circuit overload, you can turn off some of the devices running on the circuit. Alternatively, you can redistribute the heavy hitters to a different circuit to avoid future overloads.

Ground Fault

Ground faults are similar to short circuits. They occur when a hot wire comes in contact with the ground wire (bare copper) on the side of the outlet box or a wood framing member. They are caused by damaged wiring or old appliances accidentally directing electricity to a ground wire.  Ground faults create electric shock, so they can be particularly dangerous if they occur in a high-moisture area like a kitchen or bathroom.

Ground faults don’t always trip breakers, so you should always take precautions to avoid them in the first place by making sure your wiring is set up correctly. If a ground fault occurs, unplug your appliances and reset the circuit breaker.

Resetting Your Circuit Breaker

Resetting the breaker is simple: flip the breaker switch to the OFF position, then flip it back to the ON position. If it immediately trips again, do not try to turn it back on. If everything returns to normal, you can continue about your day.

If you cannot find the source of what tripped your breaker, or it continuously trips, contact Goudie Electric. One of our experienced electricians will examine your electric system to find the source and get your home’s electricity back to safe state.

Contact us online or call us at (301) 710-5968 to schedule an appointment in southern Maryland to examine your circuit breaker.