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3 Reasons Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

May 15, 2020 | Blog

We’ve seen a tripped breaker or two at Arnold Electric over the 13 years we have been in business servicing old homes throughout Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods. Old home or new home, there are really only 3 underlying reasons that your circuit breaker keeps tripping. Even though we have seen some creative ideas from DIYers and non-licensed electricians and handymen on how electricity can be used, it still comes down to the big three: Overloaded circuits, short circuits, and a ground fault.

1. Overloaded Circuits

Tripping breakers are a huge nuisance. Not only is it a hassle to run to reset your breaker when you want to use your toaster and coffee pot at the same time, but a tripping breaker also means there is something not quite right with the wiring in your homes electrical system. If you are experiencing a tripping breaker and you DO notice it when you try to use one or more small appliance, you have an “overloaded circuit”.

Kitchens in old homes are a good example of where we see this a lot! A basic, standard, modern kitchen that is wired in 2020 would take seven individual 20-amp circuit breakers to distribute all the power needed to run our kitchen appliances appropriately. A Chicago bungalow, for example, that has not had any recent modernization with the electrical system, might have one 15-amp circuit to control the countertop outlets and maybe two more 15-amp circuits for the fridge, dishwasher, microwave, stove, hood, disposal, etc.

As you can guess, two or three 15amp circuits will not suffice for a kitchen these days when you consider the average kitchen appliance uses 8 or more amps of power. Any good residential electrical service provider can evaluate your needs for you if you are experiencing these same issues, and they can advise you on the proper course of action to get your home’s electrical system to function properly and prevent unnecessary trips to the basement to reset the breaker.

2. Short Circuit

“Johnny 5 Is Alive”. That is a quote from the 1988 movie “Short Circuit”. A short circuit is another cause of tripping breakers. And when there is a short circuit it may seem like your electrical system is alive with a constantly tripping breaker that will trip the instant you attempt to reset the breaker. When a hot wire is crossed with or touching a neutral wire you will experience a short circuit and your breaker will trip. This can happen when a DIYer attempts to wire in a switch or outlet themselves and gets the wrong wires crossed.

A short circuit can also happen from lack of maintenance or because of the age of your home’s electrical system. Breakers, switches, outlets and wiring all deteriorate over time and can cause a short circuit. This repair, even when done by a licensed electrical service provider, is oftentimes like piecing a jigsaw puzzle together. There is a process of elimination and it takes some focus to efficiently identify and rectify the short circuit. It may also mean some form or rewiring that particular circuit or other portions of the home.

3. Ground Fault

Similar to a short circuit is a “ground fault” and is another common culprit of tripping breakers. A ground fault is when a hot wire touches a grounded metal portion of your electrical system. For example, in Chicago, most homes are wired with tubing/conduit or flexible metal conduit. The metal conduit is grounded. When a hot wire is deteriorated, nicked, frayed, or damaged and touches the exposed copper part to the metal conduit, switch or outlet box, you will experience a ground fault and thus a tripping breaker. Again, this situation is either a maintenance or age or the system issue. Sometimes it can also be a pinched wire which would mean the wire was installed improperly.

Seek A Professional

As you are able to see, a tripping breaker is more than a nuisance. If you are experiencing any of these issues and need help sorting through the matter, contact Arnold Electric Services, Inc. We’ll get a licensed technician out to your home to consult with you and get a plan in place to get the situation fixed so you can enjoy your home. We can be reached Monday – Friday from 7:00am – 5:00pm, and 24 Hours at (773) 647-1120 for all your emergency needs.

– Jack Arnold

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