Why Tripped Circuit Breaker won’t Reset?
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You will have a problem resetting a circuit breaker if the circuit is overloaded or there is a short circuit involved (which is more common). The overload problem can be solved if you try to identify which outlet is connected to the circuit breaker and unplug all your equipment from it (before connecting some of it safely back, but in a lesser amount). Short circuits are more complicated and will need a professional to check the wiring.
1. The correct way to reset a circuit breaker.
There are right and wrong ways to flip the circuit breaker and it is probably a very common issue since we don’t usually get to learn this in school…
If you don’t do it in the right way, it may NOT turn ON and will simply bounce. The circuit breaker switch has 3 positions: ON, CENTER, OFF and this is what it looks like inside your circuit breaker panel (which is a metal box that is hidden someplace or is usually in a basement or garage):
A well-organized breaker box will have every breaker labeled, but this is not always the case (especially if you just moved in into your new house and are dealing with whatever the previous owner has left you with).
Here is the right way to flip the circuit breaker:
- First step. Hold your tripped breaker and flip it to the OFF position.
- Second step. While still holding your breaker, flip it to the ON position.
If flipping a circuit breaker does not help you, you might be dealing with a more serious problem and should consult a qualified electrician.
2. Fixing the circuit overload problem.
In most cases when a circuit breaker keeps on tripping it is for the reason that the circuit is overloaded. If your power line is able to deliver 20 amperes, anything above that will trigger the circuit breaker.
Circuit overload is the most common reason behind breaker tripping. This is also the easiest thing to correct if you know which outlets are connected to this particular circuit.
In order to identify the overloaded circuit, you will need to try to reset it. If it does not reset immediately, but after a while lets you do so, you could be looking at an overloaded circuit if the breaker trips again.
The overloading could be easily caused by adding (without the knowledge or thinking) extra electronic devices or appliances to the same line that demand quite a bit of power (like portable heaters, for example.)
If you really need to use all your appliances on that circuit, just don’t do it all at the same time. Unplug one and connect another!
In order to fix this particular problem, just unplug some of the appliances connected to this circuit and try to turn ON your switch (in the way mentioned above). If this does not solve your problem, dig deeper.
Which devices should you remove in order to fix this problem? Anything that is on the same circuit and will bring your amp usage to more than 20 amps (if you have this type of circuit).
Check all the plugged-in light fixtures or high wattage light bulbs, which may excessively drain your energy. Old or faulty appliances that may have worked normally before on this circuit, but now are taking more energy in than they can handle.
In order to troubleshoot how much load is too much for that particular circuit, you will need to test it. Removing all your devices and plugging them in one by one (while keeping them in and in a working condition) should help you identify the problem.
You start by unplugging all your appliances (including lights) and turning the breaker to the ON position. After that, you should plug everything back in and turn everything ON in order to see at which point your breaker will trip.
Once figured out, don’t use them all together and the problem is solved!
3. Fixing the wire problems.
This particular fix is not advised to be done by yourself, especially if you don’t know the first thing about electricity. Leave it to professionals, because your health and safety are more important.
If your circuit breaker is tripping immediately and would not reset, you could be dealing with a short circuit (assuming that you already identified your connected outlets and there is no excessive current drawn by your appliance.) If this is the case, now is a good time to call your electrician to check it out.
The short circuit generally occurs when contacts of two wires are crossed. The cable that is carrying the current is also called the “hot wire” and if it comes into the contact with the cable that is called “neutral”, it shorts.
If you suspect this to be the case, turn your circuit breaker OFF and call your electrician immediately. This is NOT a do-it-yourself project!
If this situation is left unattended (and the circuit breaker failed), it could result in fire and property damages. If your circuit breaker worked and it disconnected the flow of current, then you are all right and no damage was done.
Here is an interesting video where you can see very clearly how the short circuit will cause your breaker to trip and it will stay this way until fixed:
4. Checking your appliances for problems.
There is one good way to check if any of your appliances could be a cause of a short circuit:
- First, disconnect all the devices that are plugged into that specific circuit.
- Second, try connecting your devices one by one (taking one out and plugging in another) and see if any of them will trip the circuit breaker.
- Third, if one of the appliances or devices will trigger the circuit breaker, you found the problem! Take it out, reset the breaker and check its plug or cord for problems or burnt smell.
- Fourth, get a new device if the old one is irreparable!
You can do the same process for the lights, in order to see if any of them have wire problems.
5. Checking if you have an old appliance.
Another reason for overAMPing (or overloading) could be your aging appliances and replacing them with newer versions may actually help you.
Checking how much current your appliances use (especially if they are old and you just moved in into a new house that already had some appliances built-in), is a good practice. It can be done by a simple device, called a “voltmeter” (paid link) and I believe that every household should be equipped with one. Available from Amazon.
6. Identifying faulty circuit breakers.
Breakers do age as well and are prone to corrosion. Even though the defective breaker issue is infrequent or rare, this problem can arise and it is very important that it will be corrected by a certified electrician.
** Very important! If at some point you are not sure about what you are doing or what to do in your particular situation, nothing is better than a professional evaluation and help.
If everything was working fine, and all of the sudden your circuit breaker is tripped (and does not flip back), there could be a short circuit within your appliance or it just got old and requires more amps. In this situation, you will need to either:
- Fix your appliance
- Connect it to another circuit (outlet)
- Replace your appliance with a newer, more energy-efficient version.
** Important! Do NOT force-hold the breaker! Overloaded circuits are dangerous and can cause fires. Forcing the current through an overloaded or damaged line could create a lot of problems and even be fatal.
Not to mention, that if the circuit breaker tripped, it is actually GOOD for you! The circuit breaker is doing its job!
The purpose of the circuit breaker is to protect your electronic equipment and appliances from getting destroyed by cutting off the power when they start demanding more electricity than this particular line can offer.
It protects your wires from overheating (in an overloaded electric circuit case) and your property from getting damaged by the surplus of electric current that comes from the short. So, why would you want to have it any other way?
Just unplug some of the excess devices, and flip the breaker again. If this does not solve your problem, there is possibly a short circuit someplace and you should NOT try to fix it yourself! Electrician to the rescue!
Here are some of the reasons why your breaker is not resetting (and we will go over them below):
- You are not resetting it correctly.
- You overloaded the circuit.
- You are dealing with a short circuit.
- Your appliances are damaged.
- Your appliances are getting old.
- Your circuit breaker went bad.
** Warning! Before trying to solve any electrical problems, make sure you know and understand what you are doing. If not, please consult a professional.
** Second warning! Wearing safety glasses, keeping your hands dry, and making sure that the surface you are standing on is also dry, could help you with preventing an electric shock.
** Warning #3! Quick fixes don’t work here! If you are thinking of simply replacing your breaker with a higher-rated one, you could end up with even bigger problems on your hands like overheated wires and a fire.
Can GFCI outlets help you in the future?
With GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters), if something is wrong with your wiring or load, the circuit will be interrupted before it ever gets to your breakers! Here are the outlets:
Did you manage to break your circuit breaker anyway? Here are some replacements: