The on/off switches inside your breaker box are automatic circuit breakers. Invented to replace old-school fuses that had to be discarded when blown, when a circuit breaker “trips” (automatically switches to the off position) electrical power flowing to the circuit controlled by that breaker shuts off. A sign of a tripped breaker switch is when multiple electrical components plugged into different outlets lose power at the same time, or when a single major appliance is suddenly without electricity.

Here are three common causes of a tripped circuit breaker:

Circuit Overload

Each circuit in your house is designed to handle a certain volume of electrical flow, measured in amps. When too many electrical devices are connected to one circuit, or when one device is malfunctioning and drawing excessive current, the affected circuit breaker will automatically shut off to protect the wiring as well as other devices. Shifting some devices to another circuit by plugging them into other outlets may redistribute the load and resolve the problem. If the breaker trips again, leave it off and call a qualified electrician immediately.

Short Circuit

When a hot (white) wire and a neutral (black) wire touch anywhere in a circuit, a short occurs that will cause the circuit breaker to trip. Inspect extension cords and power cords to all devices on the affected circuit looking for melting, frayed wiring or other conditions that could indicate a short. If you can’t identify any obvious cause, there may be a short in the internal wiring of the house that could be a fire hazard. Don’t continue to reset the circuit breaker. Contact an electrician.

Defective Breaker

Old circuit breakers sometimes become flaky and spontaneously trip due to wear and tear. An electrician can measure the current flow to isolate whether the problem is in the circuit or due to a worn-out breaker. Replacing a defective circuit breaker is a straightforward procedure for a qualified electrician but should be left to a professional for safety reasons.

For professional diagnosis and repair of tripped breakers inside your breaker box, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.