There are various reasons for a circuit breaker to switch off and cut off power to an electrical circuit. Circuit breakers are designed to shut off power to a line when there is danger of an overload of the circuit or when a irregularity in connectivity is present.

Although It may not seem so at the time power is lost, the tripping of a circuit breaker can prevent fires from overheating of electrical wiring and shocks or electrocution from loose wires or improper wiring.

Troubleshooting a circuit breaker issue

Overloading a circuit

The primary reason for the consistent tripping of an individual circuit breaker is overloading. This occurs when too many electrical appliances are powered by a single circuit.

This s caused by the ever increasing number of electrical appliances that are been added to homes, coupled with the use of power strips to multiply the number of appliances that can be plugged into a single circuit.

Overloading can also be caused by the addition of a single high consumption appliance such as a portable air conditioner.

These types of appliances may only trip a breaker when a surge of power is needed, such as when the compressor of an air conditioner turns on. However, this brief surge of power usage is enough to trip a breaker.

Compensating for an overloaded circuit

If you are experiencing repeated tripping of a specific breaker, you may choose to attempt to lessen the load on the circuit by moving some appliances to a different circuit.

When the breaker shuts off power to a line, check other outlets in various rooms to see if they are still powered and transfer some of the more portable appliances such as phone chargers to the powered outlets.

If all of the outlets in each room are on the same circuit, which is common in older homes, you may choose to have a home electrician upgrade a 15 amp circuit to a 20 amp line, or run additional lines from the breaker box to supplement  your current power supply.

Adding a line is usually the best choice for a single higher powered appliance, which often require a dedicated line to handle their power requirements.

Checking for loose or improper wiring

You can check your outlets and overhead lights yourself for wires that may have become loose over time or that have been connected improperly in the past.

You will need to keep the breaker off after it has been tripped to check for wiring issues. To check your outlets, simply remove the center screw on the cover plates to remove them, then loosen the upper and lower screws that hold the outlets inside the gang boxes in the walls. 

Pull the outlets from the gang boxes to inspect the wiring. All wires should be looped behind the screw terminals on the sides of the outlets and secured with the terminal screws. Black wires should be connected to gold terminals, white wires to silver terminals, and green or copper wires to green grounding terminals.

Overhead lights can be checked by removing the screws that hold them in the ceiling and letting them hang suspended by the wiring.

Only similarly colored wires should be joined together (black to black, white to white, and green or copper to other green or copper wires). The connected wires should be secured by wire nuts, which are closed plastic caps, and wrapped with electrical tape. 

Defective breaker

If a breaker keeps tripping for no apparent reason, it may just be defective. Replacing a breaker is simple, but it requires turning off the main breakers to the entire home.

If you decide to replace the breaker, you will need to check the amp rating. You will see either a "15" or "20" stamped on the breaker. It is important to replace the breaker with one of the same amp rating.

You must also check the manufacturer of the breaker box and buy a breaker from same manufacturer to ensure a proper fit in the breaker box.

To replace the breaker after shutting off the main breakers, simply remove the cover panel from the breaker box and pull the breaker from the slot.

Loosen the single terminal screw and remove the black wire, then connect it to the terminal on the new breaker.

Push the breaker into the slot until it snaps into place, replace the breaker box panel cover, and switch on the main breakers.

If you don't feel comfortable following these types of troubleshooting steps, contact a home electrician for help.   

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