Circuit Breakers 101

Circuit breakers are an essential safety component in your home. At bare minimum, they help prevent issues like fires and prevent injury. But what do it do, exactly and how does it work? Most of us only really know that there’s something about fuses, circuit breaker, something, something. The only real trips you make to the breaker is when there’s some sort of overload or short circuit.

But let’s put an end to that, today. Here’s most of what you need to know about your circuit breakers.

Here’s how it works

Your circuit breaker is really more of an electrical service panel. It has several lever-operated breakers that not only control the circuits, but protect them as well. If a specific amperpage loads into that particular circuit – It’ll ‘trip’ or shut itself off – protecting you and your loved ones from fire and a myriad of other safety issues. When it’s open – it keeps the circuit open to a normal electrical current – with each one being responsible for a certain area of your facility or home.

Why they trip

Overloaded circuits where excessive demands are placed on your system (think a dueling mother/daughter hair blower battle in separate bathrooms at the same time).

Shot circuits – which are mostly wiring issues with certain appliances that pulls too much current.

Ground faults – mostly occur in high moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms and are the reason that GFCI’s are required by electrical codes.

Where are they located?

Breakers are most often found in your home’s ‘breaker box.’ You’ll usually find them in basements, garages, utility rooms and the like. If you can’t make yours out, simply find your electrical meter outside and follow the connectivity.

Resetting breakers

If you lose power in a particular area of your home, it’s likely because the breaker was tripped. Resetting that breaker is easy. Grab yourself a flashlight and head on down to your breaker box. Look for the area of your home where the lights went out on the label of your breakers. If you don’t have labels, look for the breaker that is positioned in the MIDDLE. A breaker that is off will point AWAY from the panel center. One that is on – will point towards it. Simply take the breaker switch and turn it OFF first, then flip it all the way back to ON and you should be good to go.

If not, and the circuit trips again, then turn the breaker back off without resetting it, close the panel door and call a pro to come check it out. 99/100 cases however, you won’t have to do this.

What to do about a trippy box? 

Some boxes constantly trip. The reasons for these are numerous, but the two most common ones being that it simply isn’t designed to maintain the capacity and stress that your lifestyle is putting on the board. The second is that the board could simply be damaged. Both should be calls you make to an electrician.

And above all else – if you notice charred breakers or something smells like it’s burning. Turn those breakers of immediately and seek a professional. DO NOT mess around with your own personal safety.