Being plunged into quiet darkness on a regular basis isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of fun. However, it happens to us all at some stage, and it’s actually a good sign. When your circuit breaker trips, more often than not it means it’s protecting you from an electrical hazard. Trip switches are designed to break an electrical circuit if it has been compromised in some way. In certain circumstances, this means it will save you or someone else from a potentially fatal electric shock. In other circumstances, it simply means something is broken. Here are some of the most common reasons that your safety switch keeps tripping.
Overloading your electrical circuit with appliances will make your safety switch keep tripping
Double adaptors and power boards: they seem so convenient, but electrical experts warn against them. When you plug several appliances into a power point, it will be required to exceed its capacity. To provide electricity to all appliances, a potentially dangerously high current will need to pass through consistently. Sometimes, this is enough to overload your electrical circuit. And electrical circuits are designed to have a strategic weak point: the trip switch. So if yours is tripping, try unplugging a few appliances.
A short circuit: here’s what it is, and why it is tripping your circuit breaker
Short circuits are among the most common causes of tripping circuit breakers. A short circuit occurs when there is contact between a live and neutral conductor. This contact draws a current much higher than the circuit is capable of safely delivering. As a result, it activates a circuit breaker, which is designed to clear that fault as quickly as possible. One common cause of short circuits is faulty appliances. If a screw or other metal fastening touches a live wire, a short circuit will occur. In that case, you will need to get an electrical inspection.
A ground fault: it’s not as common, but it is still often responsible for tripping circuit breakers
Ground faults are a little less common than short circuits, but their effect is much the same. They occur when an external conductor touches the circuit, but is not part of the circuit. Like a short, this causes large currents to draw from the circuit. These then activate the trip switch, which breaks the circuit to eliminate the hazard. If this is happening to you, contact and electrician for an inspection.
If your electrical circuit is fitted with the wrong circuit breaker, it will trip under almost any load
Circuit breakers generally activate when the electrical current in the circuit exceeds a certain level. Of course, some circuit breakers are rated to far higher currents than others. That is simply because some electrical circuits are designed for high voltages. If your home’s electrical circuit has a circuit breaker that’s not rated to the currents your circuit draws, it will break repeatedly. This is normally a result of poor wiring, and you’ll need a reputable electrician to fix it.
Some appliances draw such large currents that your circuit breaker trips to avoid circuit failure
Certain power tools and appliances draw very high electrical currents. These are normally appliances or tools with heating elements, or a high-torque function. Some homes – especially older homes – simply don’t have the circuits to facilitate these appliances or tools. That means when you use them, they trip the safety switch. We recommend avoiding these appliances, or getting a comprehensive circuit upgrade from a licenced and qualified electrician.
If your circuit breaker trips intermittently for none of these reasons, it may simply be too old
Finally, if there is neither rhyme nor reason to your tripping circuit breaker, it may just be too old. Circuit breakers, like most things, have a shelf life. When they exceed that shelf life, they can wear out. Getting a new one is easy, though. Simply contact a qualified electrician!