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What to Do if Your Circuit Breaker Trips

circuit-breakersIt’s not uncommon for a circuit breaker in a home to trip. This can happen when multiple appliances are being used and the circuit becomes overloaded. The system is designed to stop electrical flow to prevent damage or a fire.

Circuit breakers have advantages over fuses (another way to control the electrical flow to your home) as they can be easily reset. If the circuit breaker trips in your home, unplug the appliances which have lost power and turn off the lights in that room. Then, locate your electrical panel and look for those breakers which have flipped from the “on” to the “off” position. Flip the handle back to the “on” position. Sometimes, it may rest halfway between the “on” and “off”. If so, firmly move the breaker handle to “off” and then back to “on” to properly reset. Before proceeding, here are a few important things to know:

  • Make sure your hands are dry and that the ground you are standing on is also dry. This is because water acts as a conductor for electricity.
  • Wear shoes with rubber soles. This is because electricity takes the path of least resistance and can flow from the wire, through you, and to the ground.
  • Never lean on or touch any metal part of the breaker box or stand on a metal box or surface. Never accidentally touch the wires in a panel box with a screwdriver. This is because metals conduct electricity.
  • Reset the circuit breaker using two fingers on the breaker handle. When dealing with electricity, it’s best to minimize physical contact. It is a good idea to wear electrical safety gloves that are rubber insulated and are classified by the level of voltage and protection that they provide.
  • If you are not a professional, do not attempt to fix a circuit breaker on your own. If your circuit breaker trips again after a simple reset, contact an electrician as this indicates a problem.
  • If your electrical panel has a burnt odor, or if you notice that the panel door feels hot, do not open it. Call an electrician immediately. In some cases, they may advise you to unplug electrical equipment and turn off the main power supply to your home. Also contact an electrician ASAP should you spot wires that are melted. If you see serious signs of trouble, such as smoke or flames, dial 911.
  • It’s a good idea to label your breaker box so you know what each circuit breaker controls.
  • Visit osha.gov to learn more about electrical safety.

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