Why Does My Circuit Breaker Keep Tripping?

2013 Apr 19
Posted in: Electrical
Circuit Breaker Panel

Going outside to mess with your tripped circuit breaker over and over gets annoying after awhile.

A circuit breaker “trips” or shuts off the electrical flow to protect the circuit from overheating and causing damage--even possibly an electrical fire.

So, before you go and flip the switch on again, take a moment to determine what the root cause is of the tripping.

The three typical causes are:

  • Overloaded Circuit
  • Short Circuit
  • Ground Fault

Circuit Overload

The circuit overloading is the most common reason your circuit breaker is tripping.

That means you’re running too many heavy power consuming devices at the same time on the same circuit.

For example, if you have a 15 amp circuit with 20 amps worth of electricity running through that same circuit because your hair dryer, TV and air conditioner were all on at the same time, then the circuit breaker will trip to prevent overheating.

There are two solutions:

  • Redistribute the power-heavy devices on the overloaded circuit to another general purpose circuit.
  • Turn off some devices on the circuit to reduce the electrical load.

UPDATE: Another cause of an overloaded circuit is an overheating appliance. It pulls in more amps than normal, causing the circuit to overload. An overheating central air conditioner is notorious for this during the summer.

Short Circuit

The next possible (and more dangerous) cause is a short circuit.

A short circuit happens when a “hot” wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a “neutral” wire (white) in one of your outlets.

When these two wires touch, a large amount of current flows, creating more heat than the circuit can handle, so it shuts off.

You can tell if there was a short circuit by checking your outlets and plugs for the smell of burning, or brown/black discoloration.

These wires can cross for multiple reasons, but it could be as simple as a loose connection or improper wiring.

Ground Fault

Similar to a short circuit. A ground fault happens when a hot wire (black) touches the ground wire (bare copper) on the side of a metal outlet box which is connected to the ground wire.

Just like a short circuit, you need to see if anything looks out of the ordinary with your outlets.

Need help?

Our number one recommendation with electricity, is call us, and have one of our highly trained and knowledgeable electricians visit your home to make these determinations. Safety first, always!!! If you’re not sure which of the problems listed above is causing your circuit breaker to trip, and want on-site help with your circuit breakers or to check your wiring, contact George Brazil