Uh-oh, that circuit breaker just tripped again...So you run to the panel and flick it back on.
All is well...
Or is it?
If a breaker trips once, it may not be a big deal.
But, more than once? Something is up.
Like if your dog suddenly howls in the middle of the night, it's a bit unsettling. But, you check it out just to be safe. While Buttercup can be irritating; she is protecting her home. And, it's the same with your circuit breakers; they protect you and your house from burning down.
Any time an electrical problem arises with an appliance or its wiring connection, within milliseconds your circuit breaker springs into action and shuts it all down. Ruff ruff..
Remember; your circuit breakers are a safety net that alert you when electrical problems occur.
Sometimes, a tripped circuit breaker can be as simple as an old, worn out breaker that just needs replacing. Other common culprits include:
Functional breakers trip when electrical current exceeds the rated "ampacity" of the circuit. If a breaker is labeled as "30", this means it is designed to handle up to 30 amps.
If the current flowing through that circuit exceeds 30 amps for any reason, the breaker is designed to trip and prevent the excessive heat buildup that can melt wires and cause fires.
To diagnose the underlying problem, an electrician will first use an amp probe to determine if the current draw of a connected appliance is excessive. If that checks out, he/she will test the breaker to see if it is defective and weak.
If all is still well, it usually means there is a problem with the electrical wiring that connects the wall outlet to the breaker in the panel.
Many times, a handyman or inexperienced "electrician" will overload a single circuit by piggybacking a new circuit off an existing breaker because he or she doesn't want to go through the hassle of adding a dedicated circuit for a newly installed device or appliance.
For example, you have a dedicated circuit to protect the outdoor section of your central air conditioning system. A manual "disconnect" switch is placed near the outdoor unit so the A/C technician can shut the system down while he is working on it.
Sometimes, an additional circuit is needed nearby, such as a well pump or outdoor lighting cicuit. So, instead of installing a dedicated circuit with it's own circuit breaker from the panel, they will simply tap into this disconnect box and draw power from there.
This is not only haphazard, but unsafe.
If the A/C unit draws 15 amps and the new connection requires 10-12 amps, that 30 amp circuit breaker is only 3-5 amps from tripping and is dangerously overloaded.
3 ways properly sized and correctly installed circuit breakers add safety and peace of mind:
1) Properly sized breakers protect you and your home from overloaded circuits which can lead to severe appliance damage, melted wires, and dangerous electrical fires.,
2) Older breakers and circuits are not properly "grounded" and many aren't in compliance with today’s code requirements. Whole house surge protectors are available to help protect your modern devices such as computers, expensive appliances, televisions, musical systems and other entertainment equipment.
3) Most older homes in Chula Vista have fused systems that don’t have adequate space for the additional circuits that today’s electrical loads demand, such as: central air conditioning, hot tubs, electric stoves, water heaters, dryers, electric heat, room additions, etc.
Fuses are different than breakers
Fuses are "screwed" into place installed of being permanently installed like the black circuit breakers you see in newer panels. In this case, an electrical service upgrade is in order.
This entails not only an upgraded service or breaker panel but also a new 200 amp meter and upgraded electrical service from the street. (Your utility provider takes care of that part).
As you can imagine, breaker box and service panel upgrades are NOT a DIY project. So, if the man of the house says he can "git her dun", my advice is to pick up the phone and call us immediately.
I'm sure we can "shock" some sense into him as we explain the ramifications of 240 volts of electrical current as it flows through the human body.
Questions? For award winning circuit breaker repair or replacement, give us a call at 619-361-1956. And, take advantage of our exclusive internet offer for Chula Vista homeowners just below.