Tips for Troubleshooting Your Circuit Breaker

Last Updated:
Sat, 2018-09-15 23:05

Your circuit breaker plays an essential role in the safety of your home by helping to protect your electrical wiring system from overheating. By sensing any electrical overload and interrupting the flow of electricity, circuit breakers help to prevent electrical blowouts that could lead to personal injury and even home fires. While most homeowners know the value of their circuit breaker, many do not know how to troubleshoot issues as they come up.

If you are experiencing power outages in all or part of your home, it may be time to consider these fix-it strategies relating to your circuit breaker:

Main Breaker Box

1. Identify the tripped circuit breaker: Inside the main electrical access panel in your home, a tripped breaker lever will be nearly centered between the “on” and “off” position.

2. Turn off the lights: When working with your circuit breaker, be sure to turn off all switches and appliances connected to the tripped breaker in order to prevent surging of electrical power when you reset the breaker.

3. Test your breaker: Move the level to the “off” position and back to the “on” position again to test the looseness of the lever. If the breaker setting lever moves easily from side to side, the breaker is faulty. You will need to replace this breaker. If, instead, your breaker resets, you will need to look further at troubleshooting methods. See below.

4. Switch off again: Once again, switch off the lamps and appliances connected to the circuit breaker, this time at once. If the breaker trips, continue to troubleshoot.

5. Check the electrical panel: Locate and turn off the main power circuit breaker supplying electrical power to your panel. Remove the front access door assembly from the main electrical panel, removing screws first followed by the top screws. Pull the access panel straight forward when removing the last top screw. From here, you can check the wiring leading to the tripped breaker for any evidence of loose connection, corrosion, or other issues. If found, replace your circuit breaker. If the connection is loose, you can tighten it with a screwdriver and then reset the circuit breaker. Continue to troubleshoot if the breaker does not reset.

6. Wiring work: Loosen the terminal screw with a screwdriver to remove the black or “hot” wire from the breaker terminal. Turn the terminal screw counterclockwise to loosen and pull the wire out from the breaker. To keep the wire from touching any other wires or metal surfaces, bend it out toward the front of the panel. Next, turn on the main power breaker.

7. Test your circuit breaker for required voltage: Touch one probe of the 120-240 volt tester to the tip of the “hot” wire, while touching the other probe to a bare copper grounding wire within the main electrical panel. You can use a neutral grounding terminal with secured ground wires and neutral wires for the probe as well. If you find the correct amount of voltage present, you will need to replace your circuit breaker.

Circuit breaker issues can lead to more serious problems down the line, so be sure to troubleshoot as needed if your lights or home appliances show signs of power connectivity issues.

Have questions? Be sure to call your local electrician for assistance before continuing work.

By Chelsea Terris, Prairie Electric


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