Why Is Your Circuit Breaker Tripping (18 Useful Answers)

Why Is Your Circuit Breaker Tripping (18 Useful Answers)
circuit breaker tripping

When a circuit breaker trips, it protects your device and circuit; it’s just doing its job, unless it is damaged.

A circuit breaker is one of the protective devices having a switch on and off button. It is designed for the purpose to limit the flow of a large amount of electrical current through electrical circuit.

Do you notice that some time lights of a residential place goes off due to circuit breaker tripping, or sometimes the fuse blows up? It is due to some faults in the electrical network. I see these faults too much, because I work as electrical maintenance engineer.

I will discuss different reasons that cause circuit breaker tripping. I won’t rely only on my long work experience as an engineer, which is now about 15 years, but also I will provide you the results of deep searching about circuit breaker tripping.

In this article, we are discussing different reasons that cause circuit breaker tripping. Also, I will answer some important questions about circuit breaker tripping.

How To Find The Reason Behind Tripping My Circuit Breaker?

A circuit breaker is a device with one job, Protecting you and your house against electrical hazard. As you know electrical devices are around us in our homes.

These devices draws electric current with a designed value. Circuit breakers at homes are called MCBs (miniature circuit breaker) each MCB has a current value, which it can handle without tripping.

When the value of current passing through the circuit breaker exceed its rated value, then it should trip for safety reasons. The main reason a circuit breaker trips is a higher current value than its rated.

But, what causes the current to be high? As mentioned above, Each electrical device draws a designed current value in normal operation conditions. If the device it self has an internal issue, it will draw more and more current. This current is enough to make MCB to trip.

Now we discussed the causes which makes circuit breaker to trip. What should you do as non technical person when your CB trips at home to find the device that makes circuit breaker to trip?

  1. Switch off all devices and unplug all possible electrical devices which are affected by tripped circuit breaker.
  2. Go to your electricity box and search for the circuit breakers which are on the off position. A red or orange label may indicate the status of trip on the circuit breaker. Turn it on carefully. (If the breaker keeps tripping while all loads are off and unplugged, then the breaker may need to be replaced).
  3. Turn on all devices one by one. If all devices turn on and no breaker trips again its OK. The one device which cause the breaker to trip should make it to trip again.
  4. If breaker keeps tripping, then you should call electrical service to check and inspect the defected device to detect the issue and decide how to solve it.

Its better for your own safety to hire an electrician to replace the damaged breaker.

What would cause a circuit breaker to keep tripping?

Now after this quick discussion for non technical persons. let’s move to electrical engineering discussion.

Overloaded Circuit

One of the main reasons for circuit breaker tripping is the overloaded circuit in the electrical system. We studied in our previous articles that the circuit breaker is always rated for a specific voltage and current.

When a large number of loads are connected with the circuit, the circuit attempts to draw a greater electrical load than its rated value. Due to which the circuit breaker heats up, and the breaker tripping occurs. After tripping the circuit remains dead until someone reset the breaker lever to the ON position.

Never overload electrical circuits
Never overload electrical circuits

Electrical Short Circuit

Another reason for the breaker tripping is the electrical short circuit. Defining a short circuit is necessary for our viewers. A short circuit occurs due to low resistance.

In the Electrical phenomenon when the positive and negative terminal connects with each other in the absence of any resistance. This causes an unimpeded flow of electricity. And a large amount of current flows through a broker that causes tripping.

It is worth mentioning here that how to decide whether the tripping occurs due to a short circuit? The answer is clear and simple. If a circuit breaker trips instantly again and again after you reset.The tripping occurs due to a short circuit.

Short circuit types

  • In DC circuits When positive cable directly contact with the negative one this is a DC short circuit.
  • In AC circuits:
  1. Phase to phase AC short circuit is when two different phases connected to each others directly. This is the most dangerous type of the all 3 types. Its short circuit current is the largest.
  2. Phase to ground short circuit happens when one phase contacts ground cable. Its also called ground fault.
  3. Phase to neutral happens when one phase and the neutral contact each other directly.

How Do I Know That I have a Short Circuit at House?

An unintentional connection is formed when a current-carrying wire comes into touch with a neutral wire or the ground in a circuit. If you find fuses being blown regularly or a circuit breaker tripping frequently, it might be a symptom of a short circuit.

A fuse will usually explode, or a circuit breaker will trip instantly. If a new fuse with the proper rating also blows, you’ve got a short circuit. If a circuit breaker is reset and it trips again, you have a short circuit or a broken circuit breaker (they do fail and trip too quickly).

You can replace the circuit breaker with another of the same rating. If the replacement one trips as well, you have a short circuit.

Read my detailed article about Electrical short circuit, why is it dangerous?

Ground Fault

Another reason that causes the circuit breaker tripping is the ground fault. A ground fault is a type of short circuit when a hot wire came in contact with the ground or any other type of metal.

The ground fault causes an increase in the flow of current. The increase in the flow of current is due to low resistance. It causes the circuit breaker to heats up and as a result, circuit breaker tripping occurs.

Some ground faults are not detectable by normal MCB. SO its recommended to use GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) This is better for human safety as this breaker can detect small milli-amperes and trips before a shock happens.

GFCI - ground fault circuit interrupter
GFCI – ground fault circuit interrupter

Arc Fault

When fluctuation or sparking occurs between two-wire connections at a point. Arc faults occur. Sometimes the screws at a point become loose, In this case AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) is recommended.

While the circuit breaker is an Arc fault interpreter (AFCI ). It detects the early wiring problem and trips in advance to stop the flow of a large amount of current.So sometimes the circuit breaker tripping occurs due to arc fault.

Bad Circuit Breaker

Some times the circuit and loads are all OK and in a good condition. But the breaker keeps tripping randomly. This is because the circuit breaker is damaged. Like any devise, breakers has a life time, and then breakers go bad. And its time to replace it.

Can a circuit breaker trip for no reason?

A breaker will trip for no reason if it malfunction or old. Breaker will trip when a short circuit occurs on an electrical circuit, causing sparks, popping sounds, or smoke to be produced. A loose connection, slipping wire, or even damage from animals chewing on cables could cause this.

If you didn’t find any faults like a short circuit, overload or lose connection, your circuit breaker might be old and unable to carry current more.

In other words, it has become bad. It would be best if you replaced it for the circuit to continue operating.

Why is circuit breaker tripping without load?

If your circuit breaker tripping without loads, a wire with damaged insulation somewhere in electrical panel or in power outlets can be the cause of breaker tripping and will continue to do so until you fix it.

A general wiring issue can potentially be the reason why a circuit breaker trips. You can have obsolete wiring if your home is older. The issue with older electrical systems is that new technology and appliances frequently demand more power than previous systems can safely handle.

 The older wiring can’t keep up with the increasing demands as our daily energy needs increase. This may be the problem if several breakers are often tripping without a load. Otherwise, there can be a problem with the breaker panel itself.

When your breaker trip without any load being present, you should take into consideration the following three wiring problems:

Current Leakage

One possibility is that one or more of the input wires have current leakage, which causes the circuit breaker to trip even when there isn’t a load attached to them. If so, your annoying issue is taking place for your own benefit. tripping is the precaution for safety of your all-electrical devices.

Damaged Wires

Not simply the input cables might be damaged; it could happen everywhere. They could have been accessed by pests or insects that, only by gnawing, caused significant harm. This kind of issue may be sufficient to trigger a breaker trip even with no loads.

A Loose Wire in an Outlet

This loose wiring issue may be pretty frustrating. In other words, a loose wire in one of your outlets will keep your breaker continuously tripping. If you have a GFCI outlet, this is a very typical issue (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter).

Why shouldn’t you reset a tripped circuit breaker immediately?

The straightforward answer is that you shouldn’t reset a circuit breaker unless you are sure of the reason of the fault and that it poses no danger. Noting that if you reset it immediately it may trip again in case of it still hot, even if the fault is cleared.

Circuit breakers are there to safeguard your family, your house, and yourself. When a circuit breaker trips, it indicates that a current greater than the trip current is passing through it. In order to use a circuit breaker, you must be able to identify the source of the excessive current positively.

A 15 Amp circuit breaker, for instance, trips when there are more than 15 Amps of electricity flowing through it. Now, if you had many appliances plugged into that circuit AND you knew the combined draw of those appliances was larger than 15 Amps, only then should you lessen the load on that circuit (unplug things), and only then should you reset the breaker—once.

Most circuit breaker trips can’t be so readily isolated—everything ages, including wiring. The insulator can withstand less and less voltage. A short electrical result when the insulation finally fails. Electrical shorts allow a large number of electrons to travel through the deteriorated insulation swiftly. Similar to a leaking pipe, it will eventually cause flooding in your house. Only in this instance, the shorted wire(s) might heat up and cause your home to catch fire.

Can a tripped breaker stop a fire? Why?

Yes if  tripping happen before fire catch wires or panel and no if tripping happen after fire catch wires or  panel. There can be two scenarios 1st one is before wiring or breakers panel catch fire or and 2nd is the role of circuit breaker after catching fire lets explore the both scenarios in detail below:

Role of circuit breaker before Catch Fire

Tripped circuit breakers can prevent fire and protect electrical systems against overloads and short circuits, circuit breakers assure electrical safety in homes, offices, and other buildings as well as for industrial uses. The circuit breaker instantly shuts off the electrical circuit when a problem is found, protecting the wires and reducing the chance of catching fire. Circuit breakers have two tripping mechanisms to guarantee dependability and safety for persons and property: the delayed thermal tripping mechanism for overload protection and the magnetic tripping mechanism for short circuit protection.

Role of circuit breaker after Catch Fire

Tripped circuit breakers didn’t play any role or could not provide safety to the system after catching fire. If the circuit breaker is not tripped due to any reason or sometimes the fault current is too much bigger than the rating of the cable, then the circuit breaker wiring or panel box catches fire. You have to cool down this fire by yourself with a fire extinguisher or another piece of equipment that’s recommended during fire cause of short-circuiting.

Can tripping circuit breaker damage your devices?

It is impossible to cause damage to electrical devices by tripping the circuit breaker, in order to prevent damage not to damage, the circuit breaker trips and shuts everything down when the current exceeds its rated amperes.

 A damaged, faulty, or incompatible appliance can cause frequent circuit breaker tripping. Tripping cannot cause any type of damage to electrical devices.

Tripping the circuit breaker may seem like a minor inconvenience, but when it occurs regularly, it can be an indication that there is something more seriously wrong with the electrical system or any attached equipment than what initially appears. The problem is an electrical repair issue that can be identified and resolved to find the problem source.

Why is the Main circuit breaker tripping?

The main breaker can trip for a variety of reasons. Whether it be a lightning strike, a power surge from the utility company, or an overload to the electrical panel, the main breaker can be tripped due to any of these factors. There might be a situation when a branch circuit breaker fails and is no longer capable of tripping as designed, which may result in the main breaker tripping to provide secondary safety shutoffs in the event that the individual circuit breaker fails. 

Furthermore, If the total load demand becomes too much or if there is any significant issue with the electrical system, the main breaker cuts off electricity to the entire house. These issues often entail brief power spikes, although it may be necessary to detect system issues occasionally. The main circuit breaker “tripping” is somewhat uncommon since often, individual circuit breakers trip long before the main breaker has to shut down.

Does weather affect circuit breaker?

Yes, weather affects the circuit breakers. In response to the heat generated by the circuit breaker, the bimetallic strip inside the breaker flexes, eventually touching a contact and tripping the breaker. The bimetallic strip of the breaker may also become flexed due to hot weather, causing the same issue. On the other hand, as compared to hot weather, cold weather didn’t affect the circuit breaker as much as lead to tripping, but if there is a foggy season and too much moisture in the environment, that can cause tripping the breaker.

A breaker’s components can also be adversely affected by the ambient heat in the air surrounding the breaker. A circuit breaker should typically not be heated over 140°F. If it happens, it indicates a potential trip of the circuit breaker. If you can’t keep your finger on the plastic portion of the circuit breaker without being burnt, it’s too hot, according to a reliable “rule of thumb.”

Why do my breakers trip when it rains?

The main cause of a breaker’s trip after the storm is a short circuit brought on by water. Due to heavy rain or freezing conditions, the electrical wireisolation  may deteriorate after water exposure. Corrosion might lead the wire to carry an excessive amount of current. A breaker could trip as a result of an overcurrent.

After a storm, water or moisture will likely enter your outside outlet’s GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter )if they continue to trip. Even when there is merely humidity, this might still occur, especially if your home is in heavy rainy areas.

Improper panel box installation might be another reason your circuit breaker tripped during the storm. Rainwater may get into your circuit in a number of ways if the main line is not built properly. Water may enter your wiring conduits through the wire leading to the meter and electrical circuit. It’s also conceivable that the conduit or hose you used to install your main line will let water through.

Because of this, if the breaker box is in the basement, water may seep through to it and wet your circuit. The worst possible scenario for your house is a wet circuit breaker. A wet circuit is dangerous because you might get electrocuted in addition to the electrical problems it can create.

Can you reset a breaker in the rain?

Yes, you can reset the breaker in the rain; IF it’s getting wet with only a few drops of rainwater on the surface of the breaker, or if it’s tripped due to just moister, dry off breakers with an air gun or air blower with necessary safety measures and carry on.

However, if the circuit breaker has become saturated with water, replace it. Even after drying, the contaminants in the water will render the circuit breaker unreliable since they will be left behind and cause electricity to trace over its surface. Regardless of the circuit breaker’s reputation for being reliable, it is no longer worth relying on it for safety.

Can a storm and lightning cause a CB to trip?

The weather conditions during severe weather, such as lightning strikes and storms, can cause a circuit breaker to trip. Try resetting the breaker once the storm has passed and the power has been restored.Most of the time, a huge surge incident as the result of a lightning strike during a storm might harm all of the electrical parts in your home or place of business, including the wiring system.

Here is what to look for after lightning strike and storm:

Full or partial power outage: A lightning strike may have caused damage to your house or place of business if you have lost all or part of your electricity.

One or more breakers tripped: When lightning strikes generate surges in your home, your circuit breakers will frequently trip. Verify whether your breakers are still operational.

Electronics, appliances, or air conditioners: that no longer operate correctly can result from damaged or tripped breakers.

Charring: Charring is seen at electrical outlets, switches, or wiring. Visually inspect your power outlets.

Will a breaker trip if wires touch each other?

Yes, if sufficient current to trip passes , circuit breaker will tripe. Maybe, the current was not enough; when two “live” wires or “live and neutral” wires touch each other for a very short time, the resulting breaker is not tripped, but if they touch each other for a long period of time and continuously spark, they behave like a short-circuiting – and so a fairly large current flow can cause the breaker to open, tripping. The two wires’ connection reduces the electrical current’s resistance and boosts its flow. This sets off the circuit breaker’s tripping mechanism.

What happens if you touch a circuit breaker?

Nothing happens if you touch the plastic body (isolated part) of the circuit breaker. But don’t touch the exposed wire or metal parts, which can cause heavy electric shock. There are several parts inside your breaker box that are uninsulated and running with a high voltage electrical current. Don’t touch anything other than the plastic body of breaker switches inside your electrical panel to avoid electric shock. 

Can circuit breaker trip if you hold it?

Yes, you can hold the toggle up, but that does not stop the breaker from tripping under an over-current condition. A circuit breaker cannot be forced if it trips repeatedly; it will keep opening and burn out. It is usually not harmful to have a momentary connection, as it will only last for a short time. You will need to resolve the problem causing the trip and then you will need to replace the circuit breaker.

Why is the circuit breaker not tripping?

Circuit breaker may not tripped if it  malfunction due to (entirely mechanical problem , sustains partial or total damage )Occasionally, a circuit breaker will notbe tripping in circumstances of fault like short circuit, overload, indicating it is bad and must be replaced. It is also possible for the cause of the problem to be entirely mechanical, which means there may be a physical switch that is stuck in the “on” position.

The circuit breaker may also malfunction without tripping if it sustains partial or total damage. On occasion, a power failure occurs as internal components melt. To ensure appropriate operation, examine the circuit breaker and replace the broken one.

Signs of damaged/ faulty circuit

  • Inspect the circuit breakers for any burning odours.
  • If the panel feels hot to the touch, the circuit is either broken or overloaded.
  • If the circuit is beyond its prime or is too old, replace it with a new one.
  • Parts become melted or scorched due to heat.
  • The item is defective if it trips off more frequently while gadgets draw more power.

What happens if a breaker doesn’t trip in faults condition?

If the circuit breaker doesn’t trip in faults condition it can be the cause of electrical appliances or equipment damage and can be cause of fire due if there is there is a short circuit, moreover, if your circuit breaker facing overload faults and didn’t trip it can be the cause of heat dissipation in your electrical wiring and breaker getting hot due to continuing drawing more current then rated current this behavior of circuit breaker can lead the melting of cables isolation, melting of breakers contacts, and cause to panel box catch fire.

Also circuit breaker doesn’t trip if settings which entered to circuit breaker are not accrued.or  C.B not suitable for this load

Is the circuit breaker tripping good or bad thing?

Yes, circuit breaker tripping is good in the perspective of the safety of your home and home appliances. It also provides protection against dangerous electrical fire hazards due to short circuits and overloading as long as it is not a bad CB. But sometimes, apparently, you didn’t see any issue, but your circuit breaker keeps tripping and can fall you in trouble. It can be due to wiring issues like too much old wiring, damaged cables, or loose cable connection, which is difficult to troubleshoot because you have to check all the outlet’s wiring connected to the breaker. That can be time-consuming, but it’s necessary to troubleshoot the fault and rectify it as soon as possible to avoid any bigger damage or loss.