Have you ever wonder why your circuit breakers trip? 

We When a circuit breaker in your electrical panel trips, it happens for a reason. 

But simply resetting the breaker won’t solve the underlying issue and may end up causing bigger problems in the future. In this article, we will discuss 3 common reasons why your electrical circuit breakers trip and what you can do about it.

Image of Exquisite Electric Bryan Kenly Performing an Electrical Inspection on an Electrical Panel

Post Takeaways:

  • Circuit Breakers trip for a reason. Don’t reset them unless you know why they tripped in the first place
  • Most if the time breakers trip because of an overloaded circuit
  • Wires can touch  and cause a short for a number of reasons, including loose connections or improper installation
  • Ground faults are often the result of the wire’s insulation breaking down or improper installation
  • Ignoring the underlying problem and resetting the breakers could result in fire, hazard conditions, or electrocution risk
Electrical Panel Circuit Breakers Tripping Exquisite Electric Blog Cover Image

What is a ‘Trip’?

“Why are my circuit breakers tripping?”

This is a question we often hear when customers call us for help. Without performing an inspection it’s hard to know what the cause is, BUT a breaker ‘trips’ because it senses an abnormal power draw and shuts off the electrical flow.

By shutting off the circuit, your panel prevents overheating and a potentially electrical fire. So, if you have to reset the breaker frequently, you may have a bigger issue that needs attention.

So, What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip?

There are three main reasons why your circuit breaker trips: an overloaded circuit, a short circuit, or a ground fault.


Circuit Breaker Safety

At Exquisite Electric, we don’t recommend resetting any breakers without understanding why the circuit breaker tripped and shut off power in the first place.

Ignoring the underlying problem and resetting the breakers could result in fire, hazard conditions, or electrocution risk.

Be Safe. Call a professional electrician for help.


1. An Overloaded Circuit is Causing the Breaker to Trip

The most common reason for a breaker to trip is an overloaded circuit.

Usually, having too many appliances running on the same circuit is what causes the problem. These appliances are generally high power devices, such as air conditioners, hairdryers, or heaters.

In addition, if one of those appliances becomes overheated, it can cause the whole circuit to overheat, causing the breaker to shut off power.

Solutions to Overloaded Circuits

Use Different Outlets For Different Devices and Appliances

You can try to disburse the devices or appliances to different outlets on different circuits. However, this can be inconvenient if there are no useable outlets within the area you want to use them in.


Unplug The Devices You're Not Using

Turning off or unplugging devices that are on the same circuit when they are not being used can help.

But remember, many appliances and devices will not save settings (such as the time) when they’re unplugged. And your settings will have to be reprogrammed every time they are plugged back in…fun.


Install a New Circuit

The easiest and most effective solution, in the long run, is to have an electrician add a dedicated circuit. Then, high-draw appliances will be on their own breaker and won’t interfere with the power to the rest of your circuits.


2. A Short Circuit is Causing the Breaker to Shut Off Power to The Circuit

When a larger than normal amount of electrical current flows through your outlet, your breaker will shut off power to that circuit.

This ‘short’ is caused when a “hot” wire (the wire the electrical current is flowing through) inadvertently touches another hot wire OR touches a “neutral” (white) wire.

Wires can touch  and cause a short for a number of reasons, including loose connections or improper installation. If this happens, your outlet will stop working.

Always keep a look out for brown or black discolouration or a burning smell from an outlet may indicate a short.


What To Do About a Short Circuit

If you have a short circuit, the best solution is to contact an electrician. They will inspect, repair, or replace any outlet you suspect may have a short in it. 

Important: Never leave anything plugged into a shorted outlet until it has been repaired.


3. A Ground Fault

A ground fault, like a short circuit, also involves “hot” wires.

In this case, the fault occurs when the black, energized wire comes into contact with the ground wire (copper) or the side of the metal outlet box.

The return path of the electrical current gets redirected through the grounding system instead of safely back to the breaker.

This means, anything or anyone that comes into contact with that grounding system will now also become a path for the current, so please BE CAREFUL.

Ground faults are often the result of the wire’s insulation breaking down or improper installation. You likely also have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices in your home. A GFCI is a device that ‘trips’ at the outlet, not the breaker, and is often seen in bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor applications.

To learn about GFCI devices, visit our Electrical Safety Page.


What To Do About a Ground Fault

As above, inspect your outlets for signs of damage. For your safety, unplug all devices from the defective outlet until you can get an electrician to your home to look at it.

With over 30-combined years of expertise in both home & residential AND business & commercial electrical service… we’re At Your Service!


Contact us with all of your home and business electrical questions. Because we’re YOUR local Red Seal, Master Electricians, and are always At Your Service!

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We’re proud to serve you as your preferred electricians, Calgary, Okotoks, and the Foothills area.


*Exquisite Electric works together with qualified solar panel installers so you can access and start using the sun’s energy at home or in your business. 

By: Exquisite Electric
August 12, 2017