Tripping Breakers: A Common Problem
A tripping breaker can be incredibly annoying. It can also be dangerous and lead to issues or even house fires. At Polar Electric, we’re often called on by business owners and homeowners for electrical repairs related to tripping breakers.
There are four main reasons breakers trip. Depending on the circumstances, there are plenty of different ways we can help resolve the problem once and for all.
First: Breaker Panels vs. Fuse Panels
In some older homes, you might find that the main service panel in your home is a fuse panel instead of a circuit breaker panel. Where a breaker has switches, a fuse panel will have circular fuses, which “blow” when they’re overloaded, cutting power and preventing a dangerous situation.
There are many downsides to fuse panels, which is why they’re not used in home construction anymore. A broken fuse needs to be replaced, whereas, in a circuit breaker panel, the breaker can trip and be reset dozens of times. Fuse panels also don’t offer as much power, and they may even pose hazards in your home. If your home still has a fuse panel, it’s important to have it replaced with a modern breaker.
Why Breakers Trip & What Can Be Done
When all the lights and electronics in a certain area of your home suddenly flick off, you most likely have a breaker tripping to thank for it (and you should be thankful, because this is a safety feature that prevents dangerous situations from happening!)
Usually, unplugging a couple of appliances and flipping the breaker switch will resolve the problem for a while. However, a breaker that trips constantly signals a larger problem in your electrical system. In these cases, it’s often wise to have an electrician in Edmonton out to your home or business for an inspection, and possibly a repair or replacement.
The most common cause of a tripping breaker is an overloaded circuit. Each circuit in your home brings power to a set of outlets, which in turn bring electricity to your appliances, electronics, and lights. When one of these circuits is “overloaded,” it means that you have too many devices drawing power at the same time.
Drawing too much power can cause heat to build up in the electrical wires. Breakers are designed to cut the power entirely before the wires heat up to a potentially dangerous level.
The Fix for Overloaded Circuits
As mentioned above, an overloaded circuit can usually be fixed by unplugging some electronics (especially ones that draw a lot of power, such as air conditioners and hair dryers). However, this is likely a temporary fix. If your circuit can’t power all of your appliances, you’ll likely want to add a circuit to prevent the breaker from tripping over and over. This is especially true if you’re adding new or large appliances to your home. It’s known as a service upgrade, and it’s easily completed by your local electrical company.
A short circuit is more serious than an overloaded circuit, and you can typically tell when there’s a short circuit if you reset the breaker switch and it trips right away. A short circuit occurs when the hot wire touches a neutral wire, causing a sudden surge in power.
The Fix for Overloaded Circuits
Short circuits can happen in your electrical system or in your appliances, making them more difficult to diagnose. If you think you might have a short circuit, you’ll want to get in touch with a professional electrician for a diagnosis and repair.
A “fault” is an interruption to the regular flow of electricity. Ground faults occur when current flows into the ground. In most circumstances, the electricity isn’t actually flowing into the ground, but the hot wire may come into contact with the grounding wire or part of the system that is grounded. Faulty insulation on wires is the typical cause of ground faults.
The Fix for Ground Faults
Ground faults come with a risk of electrical shock or electrocution, especially if the area of contact has any moisture, so be sure to call an electrician in Edmonton instead of trying to diagnose the issue yourself. GFCI outlets (receptacles) can be installed to protect against ground faults.
Arc faults often happen due to loose, corroded, or damaged terminals and wires, and if the heat melts the insulation around the wires, it may spark and catch on material nearby. You may be hearing the results of arcing if you hear a hissing or buzzing noise at your light switch (but it doesn’t necessarily signal an arc or that a fire is going to occur).
The Fix for Arc Faults
Most regular breakers do not have any protection against arc faults. If you’re concerned about arc faults, an electrician can provide you a quote for an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breaker, which senses arcs and breaks the circuit.
Smart Electrical Panels for Greater Protection
Polar Electric Contracting has helped hundreds of people fix faulty breakers. We focus on optimizing the system so that we don’t have to come back for future repairs. Many of our customers are opting for smart panels that help them with diagnosis and flag issues automatically. These are particularly helpful for businesses that have buildings which are left alone during evenings and weekends because they allow for remote alerts and troubleshooting.
Head to our blog post about the benefits of smart electrical panels to learn more.
Hire a Qualified Electrician in Edmonton
Polar Electric is here for your business and home any time an electrical issue arises. To learn more about our commercial electrical services, residential electrical services, and industrial electrical services, get in touch with the Polar Electric team today!