What To Do When Your Circuit Breaker Trips Or Fuse Blows

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A home electrical system consists of circuit systems protected and controlled by circuit fuses or circuit breakers. Most of the old homes, especially those that have not upgraded, have fuses while the newer ones feature circuit breakers. The fuses or circuit breakers are usually situated in the main service panel. Generally, circuit breakers are more like on-off switches, which are lever operated, while fuses are ceramic and glass cylinders fitted in screw-in sockets. Possibly, you know the place to find the main service panel in your home. You might also know whether your electrical system uses fuses or circuit breakers.

Perhaps, you know that each time the lights in your home go dead or dark; it is because a circuit breaker has tripped or a fuse has blown. The devices are made to cut off the power supply to the home circuit automatically when a problem occurs. When that happens, the only thing to do is to reset the circuit breaker to the ON position or to replace the fuse. In case of a circuit breaker, you only need to identify the breaker that has tripped and reset it but if it is a fuse, you will have to buy another one for the replacement.

For a room that requires power for simple things like television and lighting fixtures, you will need 15-Amp circuits. For any room with a bigger appliance like a bathroom or kitchen, you will have to go for 20-Amp circuits. Some appliances like a dryer or oven are power consuming and they will demand 30-50 Amps. The circuit breaker trips after it detects something known as a fault condition. The fault triggers it to cut off the power to prevent overheating of the wires, which can cause a fire.

Why the fuse blows or the circuit breaker trips

Apart from replacing the fuse or resetting the circuit breaker back to its initial position, you should identify the reason the circuit breaker tripped or the fuse has blown to prevent it from happening again. Here are the common causes.

Faulty circuit breaker

In very rare cases, the circuit breaker might be damaged and will require replacement. In most cases, the fuse or breaker will just have done the job it has to do in case of a problem. Manufacturers design the circuit breakers to trip and the fuses to blow and cut off the power when a dangerous situation occurs.

Overload circuit

Overload circuits are likely to trip the circuit breaker or blow the fuse. Put differently, the current that will be flowing through the circuit will be more than it can handle. That means that the circuit will go off. You will have to identify appliances on the circuit that are using more electricity than others. Start with appliances like toasters, heaters, and hair dryers straighteners. Such appliances consume more power than others do. The solution is simple – you just need to unplug any appliance that you are not using.

Short circuit

If the problem is not a result of circuit overload, it might have resulted from a short circuit. Short circuits are slightly more serious than the overload circuits and happen when the black (hot) wire touches a neutral wire or any other hot wire. To identify this issue, you will have to check the power cables for any damages or melted covering. To complete the process safely, unplug the appliance first. Remember to check outlets for burning smell or discolouration. If you cannot identify any problem, engage an electrician to help solve the issue.

Ground fault

If there are no signs of an overloaded circuit or a short circuit, you will have to check whether the problem is a result of a ground fault. Ground faults arise when the black (hot) wire accesses the bare (ground) wire or any wall of your metal outlet box. If a ground fault is a cause, you will have to contact an electrician to handle the issue.

Arc fault

Arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers can trip due to circuit overloads, ground-faults, short circuits and power fluctuations that arise when arcing (sparking occurs between the wire connection’s contact points). That arises due to loose screw terminals in the outlet or switch. Put differently, the AFCI will detect the wiring problem before a ground fault or short circuit arises. You will have to reset the AFCI in a similar way to that of the ordinary circuit breakers. If the tripping frequent, you should know that there are loose connections along the circuit.

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