A circuit breaker is a safety installation that should trip if there is any electrical danger in the circuit. The circuit breaker should stay up if you reset it and the fault is no longer present. A circuit breaker that trips all the time signifies unresolved problems. Here are some of the reasons a breaker may trip.
Each electrical circuit has a maximum current it can handle. The circuit connects to the panel via a breaker that trips if the circuit current exceeds the limit. Without such a safety mechanism, you would be in danger of an electrical shock and your appliances would be in danger of damage if a circuit experiences an overload.
Some of the things that can create a circuit overload include:
- A malfunction at the power supply company
- A lightning strike
- The use of a wrong outlet for an appliance
- Too many appliances on the same circuit
The last two issues are under your control, and since they are the most common, you can avoid most circuit overloads. Just ensure you plug each appliance into the right outlet and don't plug in too many appliances on the same circuit.
An appliance malfunction or fault can trip a breaker in two main ways. First, a fault that allows electricity to flow through an unintended path (short circuit) can trip the breaker. Secondly, a fault that causes an appliance to draw too much power can also trip the breaker.
For example, a malfunction in a vacuum cleaner might cause an unintended contact between two different wires. Such a short circuit will trip the breaker to protect everything on and every user of the circuit.
A short anywhere in your electrical system may also trip the circuit breaker. Here are some common causes of a short circuit in a home:
- Wear and tear in an electrical system that damages the electrical insulation.
- Accidental damage, for example, when a tree falls on your house and damages the wiring.
- Faulty repair or service, for example, during a DIY rewiring.
- Water damage, for example, when a plumbing fixture breaks and a water leak affects your electrical wiring.
In short, anything that exposes and allows contact between electrical cables in your house can cause a short circuit.
A ground fault is almost like a short circuit, but there is a difference between the two. A short circuit occurs when two wires that should not touch each other come into contact. A ground fault is a short circuit where one of the wires is hot, and the other is a ground wire. A ground wire is a safety wire meant to channel excess electricity safely to the ground.
Your breaker may also trip if it is not the right one for the circuit. For example, your 10A breaker will trip if you use it on a 20A circuit. After all, the 20A circuit is likely to have more than ten-amps worth of appliances at any particular time.
Lastly, your breaker may also trip due to damage or fault in the electrical panel. An old panel, for example, may malfunction due to the accumulated effects of years of normal wear and tear. Other causes of breaker damage include physical damage (for example, during a storm) and water exposure.
If your breakers trip all the time, then your electrical system or appliances have a problem. Consult us at Supreme Electric for diagnosis and solution as soon as possible. Don't forget that an electrical problem is not just an inconvenience; an electrical fault is a hazard that can cause serious damage or injuries.