A breaker tripping might be concerning for you. After all, the electrical system of your home is a force to be reckoned with. The flow of electrons back and forth keep your home lit, comfortable, run all your appliances, keep your smart devices charged and even provide the go-juice for your electric vehicle. If you’ve gotten an electric shock, you know that it’s not a force to be trifled with. So, when a breaker pops, it’s natural for some people to feel their heart skip a beat. In this article, we explain what breakers are, what they do, why they pop or trip, and what you can do about it.
Got an electrical issue, or want to upgrade? Perhaps you’ve just bought an electric vehicle and the salesperson told you about the fast charging rates offered by Level 2 EV Chargers. Maybe your neighbor has installed rooftop solar and is boasting about the free electricity. No matter how big or small your electrical requirement, we at EVSOL Energy are on hand with qualified and licensed Master Electricians to attend to your every electrical need. Just give us a call and leave it to us. In the meantime, let’s talk breakers!
What is a Breaker?
A breaker is an electrical device that is installed to monitor and protect a circuit. It is constantly watching out for anomalous or dangerous situations that may occur on that circuit and remains ready to trip or pop and break the circuit should something go amiss. Breakers protect your home, your appliances, and your life. They are the unsung heroes of every electrical system.
Typically a home will have a master breaker that protects the entire circuit or an entire phase, plus individual breakers for each circuit. A room’s lighting, for example may be on a single breaker. The electrical outlets in that room will be on another breaker. Equipment with high current draw, such as HVAC units, electric stoves, washing machines, refrigerators and water heaters typically have their own dedicated circuit, protected by a dedicated breaker.
Why do Breakers Trip?
Breakers trip or pop because an unusual and potentially dangerous situation has occurred in the circuit that they are protecting. In doing so, they protect the appliance, your home and even your life. But what are the common situations that could cause a breaker to trip?
One possible cause is an overload. Simply put, the equipment connected to the circuit is pulling too much current and is overloading the circuit as a result. This can happen if you connect too many high current draw devices to a single outlet for example, or if you use too many high-wattage bulbs in a circuit that’s not designed for it. A breaker is typically rated for a certain current consumption value, and everything else in that circuit is rated accordingly as well. Some unqualified or unscrupulous electricians might simply recommend replacing the breaker with a higher-rated one, but that’s highly dangerous as you are taking away the element of safety that is protecting the wires, connectors and outlets. Wires have current ratings as well, which is why you may have observed that the wiring used to connect your HVAC units or electric stove are significantly thicker than those used for common lighting and regular electrical outlets. To rectify this situation, simply check that you are not overloading the connected circuit. Plug some devices into a different circuit and see or reduce the wattage of the bulbs you are using in a chandelier, for example.
Breakers also trip if they detect a short circuit. Short circuits occur when the live or hot wire contacts directly with the neutral wire due to an anomalous situation. This could occur inside a connected appliance or could be a symptom of a fault in the wiring of that circuit, for example, if a rodent has been chewing the insulation of the wires and they are exposed as a result, causing a short circuit. The best way to check for this is to unplug the connected appliance and see if the breaker still trips. If it does not trip, the connected appliance is faulty. If it still trips, the fault lies with that particular circuit, and you should call a qualified and competent electrician – such as us at EVSOL Energy.
A ground fault can also cause a breaker to trip. A ground fault occurs when electricity from a live or hot wire directly travels to the ground. This is a dangerous situation, as you could get electrocuted if you are standing in the vicinity of the fault, especially if the ground is damn. The breaker detects this and trips. If you find a breaker randomly tripping, this is most likely the cause, and you should call a qualified and competent electrician to check it out.
Main Breaker Keeps Tripping? That's a Biggie..
If your main breaker keeps tripping, this is symptomatic of a more serious electrical fault that must be checked at the earliest. Give us a call, and we’ll quickly pop over to have a look. It could also be that your electrical panel simply isn’t rated enough for our modern, connected lives that consume far more electricity than they did twenty years ago. Whilst homes built twenty or thirty years ago come with 100A or even 60A electrical panels, a panel rated at minimum 200A is recommended nowadays, and mandatory if you wish to install a Level 2 EV Charger, for example. Give EVSOL Energy a call and we’ll provide you with the best advice, cost-effective long-term solutions, and transparent pricing.
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