Your home has an electrical box with circuit breakers that stop the flow of electrical current to a circuit when they are turned off. When your circuit breaker trips, it is an automatic safety measure. The breaker trips (flips off) when the circuit is in danger of overloading and overheating more than the corresponding circuit can handle. The only reason a circuit breaker trips is because of potential overload, and it protects your electrical system from potential damage or electrical fires. If the circuit breaker continually trips, there is an underlying problem that must be addressed.

How Can You Tell if a Circuit Breaker has Tripped?

You can usually flip the breaker all the way to the “off” position, then push it to the “on” position until you hear it “click” into place. Power to your home should be restored after this step.

What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip?

There are three main causes of a circuit breaker tripping.

Circuit Overload
Short Circuit
Ground Fault
1. Circuit Overload

The most common cause of circuit breakers tripping is a circuit overload. When you have too many power-consuming appliances plugged in, the breaker will shut off to prevent damage to the circuit.

To figure out which combination of appliances or devices is causing the overload, unplug all the appliances in the blacked-out part of your home. Push the circuit breaker back to the “on” position. One by one, plug in the appliances. When you see the breaker trip, you will have isolated what appliance is causing the power overload. Note: electric hair dryers, space heaters, electrical strips with multiple devices plugged in, or portable air conditioners are often the culprits.

2. Short Circuit

In short circuits, a “hot” or active wire touches a another hot or a “neutral” wire in an outlet, causing the electrical circuit to overload with current, causing heat. You may see sparks, strange noises coming from the outlet, or smoke. A sure sign of a short circuit is burn marks around the outlet or a burning smell. If the circuit did not shut off automatically, it would result in an electrical fire.

If you suspect a short circuit, call a licensed electrician. Do not attempt to fix this on your own.

3. Ground Fault

A ground fault occurs when a “hot” or active wire touches the grounding wire, a grounded part of the junction box, or the grounded area of an appliance. Ground wires are usually green, neutral wires are usually white, hot wires are usually black. When a ground fault takes place, a surge of current goes through the circuit breaker, which causes it trip.

There can be a burning smell or burn discolorations around an outlet when a ground fault occurs. Call an electrician.

Note: This article is only for general consumer information, it is not a substitute for hiring a licensed and bonded electrician

AC Repair in San Jose and the South Bay

Ventwerx HVAC a licensed and bonded air conditioning contractor in San Jose and Morgan Hill. Since 2007, our team has helped homeowners with heating and cooling issues. You can fill out a service request, or call (408) 422-2987 in San Jose or (408) 710-9595 in Morgan Hill for efficient and courteous heating and cooling service.