When a circuit breaker in your electrical panel trips it happens for a reason. Simply resetting the breaker will not solve the underlying issue and may cause bigger problems in the future. In this article we will discuss 3 common reasons why your electrical circuit breakers trip and what you should do about it.

What is a ‘Trip’?

A breaker ‘trips’ because your breaker senses an abnormal power draw and shuts off electrical flow. Shutting off the circuit prevents it from overheating and potentially causing a fire. You may not have a problem if this happens only occasionally. If you have to reset the breaker frequently it is likely because of an issue that needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.


Please Note:  We do not recommend resetting any breakers without determining why the breaker shut off power. Ignoring the underlying problem and resetting the breakers can result in fire hazard conditions or electrocution risk.

What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip

There are three main reasons why your circuit breaker will trip; an overloaded circuit, a short circuit or a ground fault.


1. An Overloaded Circuit is Causing the Breaker to Trip

The most common reason for a breaker to trip is an overloaded circuit. An overloaded circuit has too much electrical load, usually because of having too many appliances running on the same circuit. Usually these appliances are the heavier power devices, such as an air conditioner, hair dryer or heater. In addition. If one of those appliances itself becomes overheated, it can cause the whole circuit to overheat causing the breaker to shut off power.

Solutions to Overloaded Circuits

Disburse 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 Devices When Not In Use

You can also choose to turn off or unplug devices that are on the same circuit when they are not being used. However, remember that many appliances and devices will not save settings, such as the time, when unpowered. These setting will have to be reprogrammed every time they are plugged back in.


Install a New Circuit

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


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

This issue is created when a larger than normal amount of electrical current flows through your outlet and results in your breaker shutting off power to that circuit. A short is caused when a “hot” wire, the black wire that has electrical current flowing through it, inadvertently touches another hot wire OR it touches a “neutral” (white) wire.

Wires can touch for a number of reasons including loose connections or improper installation. Check your outlets for brown or black discolouration or a burning smell which may indicate a short. Your outlet will no longer work if it shorts out.


What To Do About a Short Circuit

The solution to this problem is to contact an electrician to inspect and repair or replace any outlet you suspect may have a short in it.  You should never leave anything plugged into a shorted outlet until it has been repaired.


3. A Ground Fault

A ground fault involves “hot” wires again. In this case the fault occurs when the black energized wire inadvertently comes into contact with the ground wire (copper) or the side of the metal outlet box. The return path of the electrical current is now redirected through the grounding system instead of safely back to the breaker. Anything or anyone that comes into contact with that grounding system will now also become a path for the current. Ground faults are often the result of the wire’s insulation breaking down or because of 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 seen most often in bathrooms, kitchens and outdoor applications.  To learn about GFCI devices visit our Electrical Safety Page.


What To Do About a Ground Fault

Again, you will need to inspect your outlets for signs of damage. For your safety, please refrain from having anything plugged in to the defective outlet until you can get an electrician to your home to look at it.

We recommend contacting a licensed and insured electrician for any maintenance to the electrical systems in your home or office. We are trained professionals and are available to help 24/7. Call Exquisite Electric today!

By: Exquisite Electric
August 12, 2017