Troubleshooting Electric Circuit Breaker Problems

  • 2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 45
What You'll Need
Circuit breaker
What You'll Need
Circuit breaker

An electric circuit breaker is an important part of your home’s electrical wiring system. It is designed to discontinue the flow of electricity the moment a fault, such as an overload or short circuit occurs. Circuit breakers come in a variety of sizes, depending on the appliances that they cover. As a homeowner, it is important to know about some common electric circuit breaker problems and their solutions.

Understand Electric Circuit Breaker Terminology

To be able to properly troubleshoot an electric circuit breaker you need to be aware of the basic terminology involved. This includes the following terms:

  • Voltage: The force of electricity flowing through the wires.
  • Amps: The amount of electricity flowing through the wires.
  • Watts: Total power used by an appliance

Learn About Your Circuit Breaker

Remember where the main circuit breaker panel is located. In order to easily identify which circuit has caused a problem, label each circuit breaker on the panel.

Identify the Problem

To fix a circuit breaker problem you need to be aware of what the problem is, for which you need to know about some minor issues that often crop up with circuit breakers. These include:

  • Flickering or blinking lights: Turning on a particular appliance, or a light switch, all the lights in the room flicker. This could be due to faulty wiring.
  • Circuit overload: This results in a tripped circuit breaker. Resetting the circuit breaker might not help, as it does not decrease the load on the circuit.
  • Humming sound from the circuit breaker: Occurs when a circuit breaker is overloaded but has not shut down yet, or a connection problem has resulted in sparking. This could be a serious concern.
  • Wiring mistakes: In case there are problems in your electrical wiring, you may find your circuit breaker tripping continuously or, in severe cases, receive an electrical shock when working with certain appliances. You will need to get professional help to restore the wiring in your home.

Fix the Problem

There are a few basic steps that can be taken to solve the most minor problems. These include:

  • Reset your circuit breaker: You need to turn the switch off first and then move it back into the "On" position. The circuit breaker generally turns off when a circuit has overloaded or short-circuited.
  • Check for loose wires: Often problems such as flickering of lights are caused due to faulty wiring. Check for any loose wires and replace them. Employ a professional if needed.
  • Check the load: In case of a circuit overload, before resetting the circuit breaker, check all appliances connected into the circuit. If there are too many, shift some to another room/circuit.
  • Check the appliances: Sometimes a circuit breaker trips because of a short in the appliance. Check the exterior of the cord of the appliances. In case of any signs of burning or brown/black discoloration, you will need to replace the cord.

Always call in a professional for problems you cannot fix, as the safety of your family depends on it.