How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

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Resetting a circuit breaker is an easy way to resolve an inconvenient occurrence. A breaker is designed to cut power automatically during an overload. When it trips, you won’t be able to use any appliances, electronics, or lights plugged into the affected circuit. Fortunately, it’s easy to reset circuit breakers without the help of an electrician.

Steps to Resetting a Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers represent an important safety feature that protects your electrical system and home from damage. They have replaced fuses and trip instead of blowing out. Therefore, you can simply switch a tripped breaker back on rather than install a new one.

To reset a circuit breaker:

  1. Turn Everything On the Circuit Off: Switch off all the lights, appliances, and devices connected to the circuit. Otherwise, the overload will recur when you turn the breaker back on and it may trip again.
  2. Make Sure You’re Dry: Dry your hands before touching any components in your electrical panel. If there’s a short or other problem, a mix of water and electricity can cause a serious shock. Also, make sure you’re standing on a dry surface; as an extra safety precaution, wear safety glasses in case there are sparks.
  3. Locate the Electrical Panel: The breaker panel is usually in a basement, garage, or utility closet. Use a flashlight if the power in that area is out. 
  4. Find the Tripped Breaker: Open the metal door to the breaker box and look down the row of breakers. The one that tripped will be in the center position and have a soft, springy feel when you try to move it.
  5. Flip the Breaker: To reset the breaker, push the switch from the middle position to the “Off” position and wait a few seconds. Then push it back to the “On” position. It should click back into place.
  6. Test the Circuit: Turn on appliances and lights, or, if you unplugged devices, plug them back in. Test each individually to find what caused the circuit breaker to trip. If it doesn’t trip again, then the problem is fixed. If a particular light, appliance, or device causes the breaker to trip, it may be overloading the circuit or have faulty wiring. 

Unless you can isolate the problem to a single device and unplug it (knowing the amperage of everything plugged in can help), you’ll need to call an electrician to evaluate the system.

Why Does the Breaker Trip Immediately After It’s Reset?

Try to determine if the circuit is still overloaded. Unplug the suspect device or anything you’re not using. Make sure large appliances such as air conditioners or dryers aren’t connected to single-pole breakers. Wider double-pole breakers have a higher capacity and should be reserved for high-power appliances.

However, a breaker that trips repeatedly can indicate: 

  • A serious wiring problem
  • An electrical short 
  • A mechanical issue with the breaker switch 
  • Damage caused by excess heat
  • The breaker is old, outdated, or worn out

Also, check for burnt outlets, damaged power cords, or faulty receptacles or devices on the circuit that can cause the breaker to trip.

If you don’t find an immediate solution, assume there’s a serious electrical issue and call an emergency electrician.

How to Turn the Main Breaker Back On

In addition to branch circuit breakers, your electrical panel has a master switch. This main breaker controls the flow of power to your entire electrical system. It works the same as the other breakers in the panel. 

Whether the main breaker has tripped or you shut it off for any reason, make sure all the other circuit breakers are in the “Off” position to avoid a surge or overload. Then flip the main breaker back on. Once in the “On” position, turn every breaker switch on individually. The power should be restored to each circuit.

Call Express Electrical Services If You Can’t Reset a Circuit Breaker

At Express Electrical Services, we’re available 24/7 to provide emergency services. If a circuit breaker won’t reset, sparks, looks burnt, or feels hot to the touch, call for help. Our licensed electrical technicians will quickly find the cause of the problem and fix it. We can also determine whether you need an electrical panel upgrade, GFCI outlet protection, or a whole-home surge protector. To request immediate service, call (323) 727-7799 now.


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