Q. How many times should I reset a tripped circuit breaker?

November 5, 2015 6:13 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

A. Well, the answer is, it depends. In general, the answer is you should NOT reset a circuit breaker, unless you know the cause and that cause does not pose a hazard. Circuit breakers are there to protect you, your family, and your home. If a circuit breaker trips, it means there is more current flowing through that circuit breaker than its trip current. So, you must be able to absolutely determine what is causing the excess current through a circuit breaker.

For example, if a 15 Amp circuit breaker trips, it means you have more than 15 Amps of current flowing through that breaker. Now, if you happened to plug in several appliances to that circuit AND you know the draw of the total of those appliances is greater then 15 Amps, then, and only then should you reduce the load on that circuit (unplug things), reset the breaker – only once.

However, most trips of a circuit breaker cannot be isolated that easily. Wiring, like everything else, ages. The insulations’ ability to resist the voltage becomes less and less. Finally, the insulation breaks down and presto – an electrical short. Electrical shorts allow lots of electrons to pass very quickly through the degraded insulation. It’s very much like a pipe that leaks – eventually it can flood your home. Only, in this case, the shorted wire(s) heat up and can burn down your home.

The circuit breaker is your safety valve. But, there’s another inherent and more insidious danger. Circuit breakers, like the wiring in your home, age. In the case of aged circuit breakers, it’s not so much that they trip prematurely, but that they do not trip at all.

Old wires and old circuit breakers are a recipe for catastrophic failure and a fire. In our hot desert environment, circuit breakers have a useful life of approximately 25 years. After that, they must be replaced. Replacing circuit breakers is known as an “Electrical Panel Rejuvenation.”

The moral of all of this, if you are not absolutely sure you’ve unintentionally overloaded a circuit and corrected the overload, DO NOT reset that circuit breaker. Call Eavenson Electric for a safety assessment. We will assure your breakers are functioning properly. If there is a problem, we can correct any faulty wiring or failed circuit breakers.

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