What To Do When You Trip a Circuit Breaker
It's Monday morning. Your alarm clock goes off as you reluctantly rise from the comfort of your bed. After a quick shower, you remember that you have to dry your hair. You plug in your hair dryer and turn it on. But suddenly, the circuit trips, leaving you with no power. You roll your eyes and think "What a great start to my week."
As frustrating as this may be, you should thank the circuit for tripping. Circuit breakers were designed to protect the the electrical circuits in your home from being damaged. The damage that could be caused by periodic electrical overloads or short-circuiting are protected by circuit breakers.
Let's start first by understanding how electric is transmitted throughout your home.
An electric current is sent to your home by your power company. This electrical current is fed into your breaker box, which can usually be found in the garage or basement of your home. The breaker box then splits the current flow into a number of circuits. These circuits are wired to provide power to specific areas throughout your home. Each circuit delivering the necessary amount of power.
This specified power is important. Why? Small electrical devices, such as lighting fixtures or television, only need around 15-amps to make the devices function properly. Bigger electrical devices, which can be found in your kitchen or bathrooms for example, need a larger source of power. Typically around 20-amps. Your oven and clothes dryer can need anywhere between 30-50 amps.
Circuit breakers ensure that each spot in your home gets the specified power that is needed.
Circuit Breaker Trips
What does it mean when a circuit breaker trips? This term is thrown around quite haphazardly. There are many reasons that a circuit breaker may trip. What is most definitely certain is that the breaker has tripped because the circuit has detected a fault condition. This safety measure exists to protect the wiring from overheating and possibly bursting into flames, jeopardizing your home. As you can see, this protection is vitally important.
There are typically 2 main causes that will cause a circuit breaker to trip.
An Overloaded Circuit
A Short Circuit
In the following sections, we will explore each one of these main causes.
Overloaded circuits are the most common trigger of a breaker trip that we will observe in this article. If you have not experienced tripping a circuit the way in which we mentioned in our intro, it is likely that your wife, sister, or someone else has. An overloaded circuit is usually the cause for this taking place. Hair-dryers, though they are small, consume a high amount of power.
Simply put, the name gives away the cause. When an overloaded circuit occurs, there is more current flowing through the circuit than the circuit was designed to handle. Since damage could occur with the overloaded power flow, the breaker trips, or shuts off entirely. This prevents the wiring from obtaining damage, which could result in severe damage to your home.
In addition to hair-dryers, space heaters, toasters, and hair straighteners can also cause the same issue. A simple yet tried and true remedy for preventing this from occurring is to simply unplug the devices you are not using. If this does not work, you may need to call an electrician. As there could be loose connections somewhere else throughout your home. If this were the case, your home would be at risk.
If you have run through the possible causes of an overloaded circuit and the problem has still not been resolved, it is likely a short circuit issue. Short circuits, in comparison to overloaded circuits, present a slightly more serious problem. In this case, the hot wire (black) touches another hot wire or neutral wire. This, in turn, causes short circuiting. The easiest way to tell if this has occurred is to check your power cables for melted coverings or other damage.
You must absolutely make sure that the appliance you are checking is unplugged beforehand!
In addition to checking your power cables for damage, you will also want to check your outlets and the plug itself. Make sure to check for either a burning smell and or discoloration. Once again, if you cannot locate the problem you will want to bring in an electrician that will be able to resolve the issue.
If you live in the Pittsburgh region and are interested in learning more about what Intralux Electric can offer, we would be happy to assist you.
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