There are few things more frustrating than having a circuit breaker trip in your home. You are usually in the middle of an activity and the sudden cessation can be unsettling to even the most seasoned homeowners. Circuit breakers are an essential safety device. Their purpose is to prevent electrical overloads by shutting off the circuit if too many amps are being used. Without circuit breakers wires could become overheated and a fire could result.
Electricians explain that circuit breakers are actually an updated version of the fuse. Their role is to monitor the flow of electricity into a circuit on a constant basis. The circuit breaker will automatically shut down if there is an excessive amount of amperage that is attempting to flow through the wires. In other words, if the amount of electricity that is trying to come through the circuit is greater than the circuit’s ‘rated amount’, the flow will be interrupted automatically at the breaker panel by switching to the ‘off’ position.
The average number of amps (unit of measure for electricity) allotted for a residential living space such as the bedroom or dining area is 15 amps. Areas that need more power may be set up for 20 amps. There are a number of appliances in the home that require a greater amount of amps to operate – such as your central air conditioning or water heater. These usually have their own ‘dedicated’ circuits that are separate from the rest of the home’s breakers.
Homeowners and apartment dwellers need to be cognizant of the fact that when circuit breakers continue to shut down that this is an indication there is a problem in the electrical circuitry of the dwelling. It is never advisable to ignore repeated circuit breaker interruptions. Common reasons for circuit breaker shutoffs include circuit overloads, problems with an appliance, short circuiting somewhere, and/or ground faulting. All of these require further investigation.
Circuit overloads are actually the most common cause of a breaker shutting down or ‘tripping’. Often, homeowners or business owners may plug in more appliances that require a greater amount of electrical use than the circuit is designed to provide. This may be the result of appliances wearing out and drawing more amps than normal. Short circuiting is more an indicating of wiring or insulation problems that will require further investigation. Finally, ground faults are similar to short circuits and also require professional intervention.