Yes, circuit breakers can wear out and need to be replaced. But, it’s infrequent.
We say this because we get this question a lot when a circuit breaker:
In these situations, homeowners have a tendency to immediately blame the circuit breaker.
But that’s like immediately blaming your light switch when a light bulb won’t turn on. (The most likely cause is a dead bulb, not a problem with the switch.)
The most likely scenario is that the circuit breaker is doing its job and protecting your home from a fault or overload somewhere in the circuit.
That being said, there are 3 sure-fire signs a circuit breaker needs to be replaced. We’ll start with those and then give you some troubleshooting tips you can try yourself if you don’t have those signs.
If you notice any of the following, turn off the power to your home and call an electrician immediately.
1) Burned spots/burning smell
If you notice a burning smell or see signs of burning in your panel, there’s likely a malfunctioning circuit breaker (or other serious problem).
2) Circuit breaker is hot
If you go to flip your breaker and notice that it is very hot, the breaker may be shot and overloaded.
3) You have Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) or Zinsco panels
These 2 brands of outdated breakers can get stuck in the ON position, leaving your home vulnerable to house fires.
OK so if you don’t have any of those 3 sure-fire signs, but still suspect the circuit breaker what can you do? Well...
If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, try this:
If the circuit breaker is on but the circuit has no power, there are 2 things you can try.
First, look for an AFCI or GFCI outlet on the circuit—these are outlets with “test” and “reset” buttons on them.
Left: GFCI outlet, Right: AFCI outlet
One of these outlets can trip and stop other outlets on the circuit from working. Learn more about AFCI and GFCI outlets.
Try pushing the “reset” button on any of the dead outlets.
If that doesn’t work, you can try testing your outlets with a receptacle tester like this one. Even if the outlet appears dead, this tester can tell you if the outlet is getting power. And, if so, what’s wrong with it.
If you’re still unsure if your circuit breaker needs to be replaced, have a professional electrician take a look.
Contact George Brazil’s electricians. We serve the entire Phoenix metro area (yes, even all the way out to San Tan Valley).