What to Do Next If Your Circuit Breaker Sparks

A sparking circuit breaker should be considered an emergency. Don’t hesitate to call an electrician if a circuit breaker sparks because it can be an immediate risk to your life and safety.

Each breaker distributes electricity to a circuit in your home, which powers light fixtures, electronics, and appliances. Excessive current trips the breaker to cut off electricity and prevent shocks and fires. If a circuit breaker sparks, this is a sign the circuit or the breaker is faulty.

Call one of our Los Angeles County electricians when a sparking circuit breaker occurs. Express Electrical Services provides 24/7 circuit breaker services to resolve potentially dangerous situations. Below, we’ll explain why sparking occurs and discuss the steps you should take when it does.

Why Does a Circuit Breaker Spark?

The reasons a circuit breaker may spark when turned on include the following:

  • The breaker isn’t receiving the right amount of electrical flow through the circuit
  • The breaker’s contacts are bent or unable to contact the busbar
  • A wire somewhere in the circuit is damaged
  • A short circuit, mainly if sparks occur when the breaker trips
  • There is a loose connection somewhere in the breaker panel

Another sign of trouble is a crackling or buzzing sound from a circuit breaker. While a circuit breaker is designed to handle a lot of electricity, a loud, continuous buzzing noise means the panel isn’t working correctly. Mechanical wear, moisture, damage, loose connections, and corrosion degrade the system and can lead to electrical fires. Therefore, it’s essential to call an electrician for immediate repairs.

Signs Your Circuit Breaker Requires Repair

Along with sparking, there are a few key signs that indicate your circuit breaker requires repair or upgrade. If you notice a sparking circuit breaker and any of the following issues, call one of our electricians right away: 

  • Your circuit breaker won’t stay on or is constantly tripping
  • You notice strange smells or noises
  • There’s corrosion or rust on your circuit breaker panel
  • Your electrical panel is over 25 years old
  • Your electrical system runs on fuses
  • The panel is hot to the touch

How to Troubleshoot a Sparking Circuit Breaker

While it’s imperative to get an electrician to service your electrical panel immediately, troubleshooting the issue can provide short-term help. To do so, you’ll want to turn off the main circuit breaker and remove the panel cover. Once the cover is off, turn the main breaker back on. 

If nothing sparks, turn each circuit breaker off and on to see which one sparks. Usually, sparks come from the wires on the breaker. If the panel itself sparks, have it replaced by a qualified electrician. Turn the main breaker off again and call for help.

If you have some electrical experience, you can troubleshoot the issue further. Here is how:

  • Turn the main breaker off, then tighten the screws holding the circuit breaker that sparks to the electrical line. Turn the breakers back on to see if there’s still sparking. 
  • With the main breaker off, remove the black or red wire leading to the sparking breaker. Then, place a wire nut at the end to separate the wire from a live component.
  • Check if the circuit breaker sparks when you turn on a certain appliance. If it does, avoid using it until the issue is fixed. 

In any case, permanently resolving the underlying issue requires technical expertise and professional tools. There’s no DIY fix if a breaker sparks when turned on. Whether it’s the circuit breaker or the panel sparking an experienced electrician can determine the cause and make any necessary repairs.

When You Should Call an Electrician

Contact an electrician if your circuit breaker sparks frequently or continuously. Repeated sparks should raise a red flag about the condition or quality of the circuit breaker or a problem with the breaker panel. An electrical technician can replace the affected breaker or the panel or rewire the circuit if there’s a short.

Preventative Measures to Take

To prevent circuit breaker issues, schedule a maintenance visit with one of our technicians at least once every three years. During the visit, we will inspect the unit, check for any signs of damage, and ensure everything is working as it should. Maintenance helps you avoid looming repairs and keeps your system working correctly.

Along with professional maintenance, there are a few things you can do to help maintain optimal circuit breaker function. Once a month, inspect your circuit panel for any signs of wear, rust, or damage. Regularly ensure the area around the panel is clear, with three feet of space surrounding it. You can also test that your circuit breaker is working correctly by periodically flipping each breaker on and off and checking for malfunction. 

Contact Express Electrical Services

If your circuit breaker sparks, our Ventura County electricians are here to help with circuit breaker repair. We provide all types of electrical services in the Los Angeles area. No matter how big or small the issue, our licensed technicians can promptly fix it. Our team is available 24/7 and can dispatch qualified electricians to your home within 60 to 90 minutes. Contact us online or call (855) 590-8785 to schedule your service.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to continue using electrical appliances if my circuit breaker is sparking?

If the spark is just a one-time incident, continuing to use your electrical appliances may be okay. However, it’s best to have a professional look at your panel to ensure it doesn’t require repair. If your circuit breaker is continually sparking, turn off the panel and do not continue using your appliances until it’s repaired.

Should I be concerned if my light switch sparks?

Tiny sparks coming from your light switch aren’t out of the ordinary. However, large sparks are cause for concern. Sparks are caused by electricity jumping from one contact to another. If the sparks get too large, it can mean that your light switch is faulty and requires replacement. If you notice burning smells or marks on your light switch, have it looked at immediately to prevent an electrical fire.

Why did my outlet make a popping sound?

When a circuit is overloaded or has too many things plugged in, the electricity demand is too big, and your circuit breaker will trip. This process can result in an outlet sparking and popping. A popping sound is not always a cause for concern, but if it happens continuously, have one of our technicians take a look at it.