We Flipped a Switch! Common Causes of Household Circuit Breaker Trips

By Jinna Marbry,

  Filed under: Articles, Fire Restoration, Tips
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We Tripped the Circuit Breaker Again!

Electrician at Main Circuit Breaker Panel

As homeowners, many of us have learned about our home’s inner workings the hard way, especially when it comes the household electrical system, the main breaker panel. With today’s many electronic devices times every person in the household, overloads via circuit breaker trips are common. However, these annoying electrical boxes are not just there to be your home’s micromanager; they are there for safety.

What is the Traffic Cop – The Main Circuit Breaker Panel?

What the main breaker panel does is to divide and control the electrical current within your home. Main Circuit Breaker PanelYour power company’s main electricity supply line flows from the meter into your house. This line goes into the main circuit breaker panel and into your home’s main circuit breaker.

The amount of electricity that your home is designed to handle is imposed by the size of the main circuit breaker. Circuit breakers or switches as many homeowners call them, are the traffic controllers of your electrical system. To reduce the chance for fire or electrocution, the breakers are set to flip off in the event of an electrical overload. The electric current is judged by amp (amperage).

Home Amp Service Limits (controlled by the Main Circuit Breaker size)

  • Large Homes: 400-amp service
  • Modern Homes: 200 amp service
  • Older Homes: 100-amp service

Below the main circuit breaker are labeled columns and rows of smaller circuit breakers that relate to individual rooms and your HVAC unit. Every room (and large unit such as the HVAC) has a set allowable amperage amount that falls within the main circuit breaker’s total.

Example: Main Circuit Breaker = 200 amp (Kitchen – 2x 20 amp, HVAC – 30 amp, living room – 15 amp, etc.

Each electronic device or appliance in your home draws amperage via your electrical outlets. These outlets draw power through the circuit breakers assigned to their room or in some case rooms (thus when a breaker flips you lose multiple areas of the home).

*NOTE- Some older homes may still have fuses rather breakers. Each fuse is assigned a particular amperage size and is designed to burn out when an overload occurs. 

Common Circuit Breaker TripsToo Many Electronic Devices

Too Many Devices are drawing too much amperage – So you have an assigned 15 amps to one room (circuit breaker). Now you add your cell phone charger, laptop, television (big one!) a few lamps, x-box, etc. All of devices whether ON or OFF are always drawing a current and can overload the circuit breaker. One of the BIGGEST offenders for this is a space heater. Space heaters often use 12-15 amps alone. If you are tripping your breaker using one of these, not only is it a nuisance but also it is a FIRE HAZARD.

Seasonal Overload – During peak seasons such as summer and winter your HVAC unit can become an energy hog; quickly overloading its allotted amperage.

Overloaded PowerstripPower Strips and extension cords – Many of us are guilty of the improper use of these extenders. Remember your circuit breaker is only allotted certain amperage for the room. Multiplying the number of outlets does not mean you are increasing the electrical capacity.

Worn, Frayed and Damaged Cords – Appliance and extension cords that are damaged can not only cause circuit breaker trips but can also be a fire hazard.

Wire Problems – Electrical wiring can become fragile with the years. Older homes, especially those that have not been updated to meet current electrical codes, can be susceptible to fault. Wiring can become loose, melted and may not be grounded properly.Ways to Avoid Common Circuit Breaker Trips

Worn Out Circuit Breaker – Sometimes over years of heavy usage, circuit breakers will wear out and can no longer handle the designated amount of amperage. If a breaker continues to trip with no faults found then it may need to be replaced. Be advised it is always recommended that you have this checked out first by a licensed electrician.

By avoiding these common circuit breaker trips, you will keep your home’s electrical system working efficiently and eliminate the chances for overloads. Most importantly, your home’s main circuit breaker will be safe from fire hazards.

Reliable Restoration is here for your disaster restoration, recovery and reconstruction needs 24/7/365. Whether it is fire damage from an electrical overload or water destruction from a flood, our team is ready to roll. After all, to us your family is our family.