Circuit breakers are one of those things that most people do not think about until one is tripped and the lights go out. Most people are aware that circuit breakers perform an important role in the safe distribution of electricity in the home, however, not many people are aware of how they perform that function. Even less are aware of the common problems that can occur with the circuit breaker.

What is a Circuit Breaker?

In general terms, a circuit breaker is nothing more than a switch that will automatically interrupt the flow of electricity in the event of a fault along the wires that travel through that circuit. In order to better understand the problems that may occur with a circuit breaker, it is important to be familiar with three key terms: amps, voltage and watts. Amps describe the amount of electricity that flows through a wire. Voltage describes the force of the electricity as it goes through a wire. Watts describe the total amount of power that an appliance will use.

Common Problems

1. Short Circuit Tripping

When wires carrying a current, commonly known as hot wire, accidentally touch neutral ground wire, this creates a short circuit.

Short circuits can occur for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes the protective covering will fray in both neutral and hot wires and they come into direct contact, creating the short. They can also occur due to a malfunction within an appliance.

If current were to continue flowing following a short circuit, the risk for fire would be present. This is why a circuit breaker trips upon detecting a short in order to stem the flow of current and remove the risk of fire.

If you suspect a short circuit, consult an Enviromax electrician to service and repair the problem.

2. Overload Tripping

An overload occurs when more amperage goes through a wire than it can handle. The best example of this is when too many appliances are connected to the same circuit. Another example is when an appliance with a high demand for voltage is connected to a circuit with a wire of insufficient gauge to handle the load. Under both circumstances, the wire would begin to overheat and pose a risk for fire.

A common symptom of overload is when a specific circuit breaker repeatedly trips. If a homeowner notices this pattern of tripping, consult one of our Emax electricians to diagnose the problem. Many times, an additional circuit will work to properly distribute the electrical load in the room.

3. Constant Humming Sound

A humming sound coming from a circuit breaker is indicative of an overload in the process. Usually, these overloads are just below the threshold for the circuit breaker to trip. Nevertheless, they are still serious.

Resolve Circuit Breaker Problems

Most circuit breaker problems can be remedied by replacing a faulty circuit breaker, by replacing faulty wiring, by increasing the gauge of the wiring, by adding more circuits for better load distribution or by using a circuit breaker of a higher amperage. Each of these solutions requires the experience of a qualified electrician.

Circuit breakers perform an invaluable role in the safe flow of electricity throughout your house. Being aware of how they work and what to look for when problems arise will ensure home safety. Lastly, it can also prolong the life of your electrical appliances.