Sometimes when you’re dealing with an electrical problem in your home, the easiest solution isn’t always the right one. When you have a circuit breaker that is constantly flipping off, you might think that it’s because it’s defective. But the real cause could be that it’s overloaded instead. Here is how to troubleshoot that circuit to pinpoint the problem.
Start By Figuring Out What’s On It
Flip off that circuit breaker and then go see which wall sockets or appliances are no longer working. If there are two or more heavy users of current on the same circuit that is most likely the cause. That would be something like your air conditioner, a space heater, vacuum cleaner, cooking appliance, or other obvious power user appliance.
Most circuits will only be able to handle one of these types of appliances running at a time. The object of having a circuit breaker is to avoid burning up your house wiring or causing a house fire, so don’t keep flipping the breaker, move one appliance to another circuit and see if the problem is resolved.
Some Circuit Breakers Are Just Bad
Lots of people don’t realize it but circuit breakers weren’t made to be flipped on and off like light switches. They wear out fast that way since they were made as circuit protection devices to protect you and your home from the danger of overloaded wires. If you find that the breaker in question easily flips back and forth with no clear “ON” or “OFF” position, it’s bad and needs to be replaced.
However, if it flips on and stays there for a few seconds before flipping off again, there maybe a short in your wiring and it’s doing its job. That’s why you need to check the appliances carefully before replacing a circuit breaker.
How Do You Find The Right Breaker
Breakers, in most situations, aren’t very expensive and can be found at the local hardware store. First, look on your electrical panel and see what brand it is, then check the breaker to see how many amps it’s supposed to carry. There are also double pole and single pole, double is when there are two breakers connected and they usually only are running one large appliance like a water heater.
Next, go online to several of the large online retailers or home improvement stores and find the right breaker, same amperage, same number of poles, and identical brand. You’ll note that a regular breaker of average amperage and single pole will usually sell for around $5 or so. Anything odd, double pole, high amperage, strange brand, and the price immediately rises. But still, $40 is an average high price when looking online.
If you know what you’re doing, changing a circuit breaker on your own with an identical one is very easy. You flip off the whole house voltage, usually the large double pole breaker marked “MAIN” and then remove the inside cover of the breaker panel.
The old breaker usually pivots on one end on a connection bar and unplugs on the other end, with one thick wire attached. All you have to do is unplug it, remove the wire, hook that wire onto the new breaker, and plug it back in. It’s a five minute job for an experienced electrician.
If you don’t have experience with electricity, you should probably hire a qualified electrician rather than electrocute yourself. There are online videos showing just how to do this, but you should play it safe if you’re unsure.