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What Causes The Electrical Circuit Breaker To Trip.

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The circuit breaker in our homes are designed to give us protection against 3 things, but this protective equipment has almost always been overlooked and taken for granted. 90% of house owners never bother to check if their circuit breaker is in good working condition regularly. Even when the breaker has tripped, most will just switch it back without bothering to find out what has caused the circuit breaker to trip in the first place.

Circuit Breaker Trips To Prevent Us From Getting Electrocuted In Cases Of Electrical Leakage

Main Circuit Breaker

A Typical Main Circuit Breaker

A Circuit breaker, if it is working properly, detects electrical leakages through the earthing of the equipment we are using, especially if the equipment is made of or encased with a metal body like a kettle. a refrigerator or an oven. It is of utmost importance that all electrical appliances with a metal body be properly earthed or grounded. This means there should be an earth wire (the green color one) attached to the body of the electrical equipment.

A lot of DIY enthusiast forgo this practise because they are ignorant of the consequences. Sometimes they just leave the earth wire disconnected. No doubt the equipment will work without a hitch without the earth wire. The problem is, if there is a leakage, it will also keep running. Only this time the whole metal body will be “electrified” and anyone who touches the apparatus when it is switched on will be electrocuted.

If the earth wire is properly attached, the circuit breaker will detect that there is current present at the earth source and the built in protective coils will automatically trips the circuit, preventing any mishaps.

Preventing The Electrical Circuit From Overloading

individual circuit breaker

Typical Individual Circuit Breaker

Circuit overload can happen from lightning strikes, or more commonly loose connections in electrical appliances, starters or fuses. Electrical connections can loosened over years of use. Once these terminals becomes loose, the contact points will gets heated up due to improper contact with each other. Most of the time, it will gets so hot that it will melt the part where the terminals are loose and in worse scenario, a small fire will start to burn. When that happens, the duty if the circuit breaker is to trip and cut of the electrical supply automatically.

Preventing Damage To Appliances And Harm To The User Due To Wrong Wiring Connections

Many a times, if a cable is too short, we resort to joining the cables ourselves. If we are not careful or in many cases, they simply don’t know, they will twist the live wire and the neutral wire together. This will cause a serious short circuit and if the circuit breaker is not functioning, you will certainly experience a small explosion at the mains.

What To Do If The Circuit Breaker Trips

circuit breakers in a distribution box

Individual Circuit Breakers In A Household Electrical Distribution Box

In the electrical mains of a household, you will have a main circuit breaker and the individual circuit breakers. The main circuit breaker as the name suggest takes care of the whole wiring installation set up of a house. The individual circuit breakers located inside the distribution box controls individual circuits that supplies electricity to the switch sockets and lights used in the house.

When one of the individual circuit breaker trips, it would mean there is a fault within that electrical circuit. The other circuits are not effected by this fault. So for example, when you turn on your oven and one of the individual circuit breaker trips, then it would mean your oven is faulty and has sprouted an electrical leak. The circuit breaker is tripping to prevent you from harm.

What if one fine morning, you get up to find one or two of your appliance like your washing machine and your refrigerator not working? On checking, you saw one of the individual circuit breaker has tripped and it refuses to switch back on no matter how many times you try.

There are 2 possibilities. One, the circuit breaker might be faulty. Two, one of the appliances is faulty. To make sure that it is the fault of the electrical appliances and not the circuit breaker, switch off and remove the plug from the switch sockets for both the appliances. Try switching back the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker is in working condition, then you should be able to switch it back on without any problem. If you can’t then the circuit breaker is faulty. You will have to replace it.

Now that you can switch the circuit breaker back on, plug in and switch on the electrical appliances that you have unplugged one by one. The one that is faulty will trip the circuit breaker again. You can now confirm what is causing the circuit breaker to trip.

How To Check If The Circuit Breaker Is Functioning

All main circuit breakers comes with a test button. Press that button regularly to check if the circuit breaker trips. Another way is to use a test lamp which you can make yourself. Use two strands of wires about 1/2 a meter long, connect one end to a simple lamp holder and plug in a 100 watt bulb. Leave the other ends bare with the copper wires exposed. Choose any socket outlet in your house. With the socket in “off” position, pry open the openings by inserting a screwdriver into “earth” terminal which the one on the top hand side. When you see the two small openings at the bottom opened, insert one strand of the test lamp’s wire inside the “live” terminal which is the one on the right. Insert the other end onto the other terminal on the left. Switch on the socket. If the circuit is alright, the bulb will light up. If not, he circuit breaker will trip.

Now, switch off the socket again. Remove your screwdriver from the earth terminal. Pull out the wire from the left side and stick it into the “earth” terminal. Switch on the socket. If the circuit breaker trips, then the circuit breaker is okay. If the bulb lights up again or nothing happens, then your circuit breaker needs to be replaced.


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