Circuit breakers are essential for your home’s electrical safety. As a homeowner, you’ll only pay attention to this device when it trips. Although it may be annoying to reset, a tripped breaker is a sign that your electrical system avoided a more serious, even dangerous, issue.
We’ve seen a tripped breaker or two at Arnold Electrical Services over the years we’ve been in business. We’re here to tell you about the three main underlying reasons that your circuit breaker keeps tripping. Although you can always call a professional on our team for your electrical needs, it’s helpful to understand how your circuit breaker works and what causes it to trip.
What Does My Circuit Breaker Do?
Circuit breakers are an electrical safety net that prevent electrical fires or injury. When this system senses a complication, it shuts off the circuit that is being overloaded, shorted or faulted. When this happens, the appliances and devices that are connected to that circuit will stop working, and you’ll have to manually reset the breaker. So, what causes a tripped circuit?
1. Overloaded Circuits
If your breaker trips when you try to use a few appliances at one time, it’s probably because of an overloaded circuit. Every appliance uses a certain amount of amps, which are the base units of electrical current. Similarly, every outlet has a circuit that has an amp capacity. When the capacity is overloaded with an amp input that exceeds the limit, the circuit breaker trips.
Old homes are more likely to experience overloaded circuits. A modern kitchen may use seven twenty-amp circuit breakers to distribute the power to the various appliances. In contrast, an old kitchen might only have three fifteen-amp circuit breakers to distribute power to the kitchen appliances. Most kitchen appliances use eight or more amps of power, so the older kitchen will experience more frequent circuit breaker trips.
2. Short Circuit
Your breaker may also trip because of a short circuit. Short circuits are diagnosed when your system constantly trips even after you’ve just 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 homeowner attempts to wire in a switch or outlet themselves.
A lack of electrical maintenance or old age can also cause short circuits. Breakers, switches, outlets and wiring all deteriorate over time, so it’s important to maintain your home’s electrical system. Electrical repairs for a short circuit, even when done by a licensed electrical service provider, are oftentimes like piecing a jigsaw puzzle together. There is a process of elimination, and it takes some focus to rewire the short circuit.
3. Ground Fault
Ground faults are another common cause of a tripped circuit breaker. 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 or flexible metal conduit that is grounded. When a hot wire is damaged and touches the grounded metal, you will experience a ground fault, which trips the circuit breaker.
In short, the electricity travels to the ground instead of to your appliances. This issue is usually caused by a lack of maintenance or the age of your electrical system. It may also be caused by a pinched wire which could mean the wire was installed improperly. The solution usually requires rewiring or wire replacement.
Seek A Professional At Arnold Electrical
As you can see, a tripped breaker is more than a nuisance – it can be a sign of a serious electrical issue. If you have a circuit breaker that frequently trips, contact Arnold Electrical Services for assistance from an electrician in Chicago. We perform Chicago electrical services to promote city-wide electrical safety. We’ll get a licensed technician out to your home to take care of the issue!