What Is the Importance of a Circuit Breaker?

An electrical circuit breaker is one of the most important home safety devices. Your main electrical panel has several switches, each connected to an individual circuit. It also has a main switch breaker that handles even more amperage. A main residential circuit breaker can be rated up to 200 amps to support all the lights, modern electronics, and appliances in your home.

Purpose of a Circuit Breaker

A short circuit or electrical overload can generate a lot of heat. It can lead to sparks, shocks, or electrocutions. Many home fires originate from electrical faults. At the very least, the issue can damage the electrical circuit and appliances, making them unsafe. 

A circuit breaker is designed to avoid such trouble by cutting the power if a short circuit or overload occurs. When an electrical breaker trips, power won’t be restored until the breaker is manually reset. However, an overload, fault, or wiring issue may need to be resolved first.

How Does a Circuit Breaker Work?

There are different types of home circuit breakers, but they all work the same. When a breaker is in the “On” position, electricity flows through it and into the electrical circuit. 

A breaker with an electromagnet remains magnetized by the flow of electricity. The higher the current, the stronger the magnetic force, so when the current is strong enough, magnetism pulls the lever down, which activates the switch. A bimetallic strip breaker does the same with a metal strip that bends in the presence of a high current.

What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip?

A circuit breaker can trip for a few reasons. The cause can be a momentary issue that can be quickly resolved without a professional. Or, it may be a sign you need electrical repairs. Here are some reasons a breaker can trip:

  • The current flowing through the circuit is higher than it was designed for
  • Overheating/melting caused the hot and neutral wires to fuse
  • A wire or cable has ruptured, whether due to wear, corrosion, or hammering a nail into the wall

Therefore, a circuit breaker may have tripped for a significant reason. Never ignore the problem. Know which branch circuit each one connects to. You can then check for damage to electrical lines or determine if too many devices are plugged into a circuit.

How to Use a Circuit Breaker

If a breaker has tripped, open the door to the electrical panel. All the breakers inside should face the same way, and the tripped breaker will be in the middle position. First, switch the breaker to the “Off” position, wait a few seconds, and click it to the “On” position. Fixtures, appliances, or electronics on that circuit should now turn on. If not, or the circuit breaker trips again soon after resetting it, contact an electrician.

You can use the main breaker to shut off power to your entire home. When doing so, first switch off each individual breaker and then flip the main breaker off. Restoring power requires doing the opposite; to turn the power back on, switch the main breaker on and then reset each individual breaker to avoid a power surge.

What If the Main Breaker Trips?

The main breaker can trip like the branch circuit breakers. It typically does so in response to a large power surge, like from a lightning strike or if a major appliance overloads. Follow safety precautions when resetting it, as the main breaker carries a lot of electricity. To avoid a burn or shock, stand to the side, turn your head, and wear safety glasses. Once the main breaker is on, turn on each branch breaker.

A lack of power, breakers that frequently trip, or a burning odor, buzzing sound, or sparks from the electrical panel indicate a serious problem. Call an electrician to inspect the electrical panel and, if necessary, repair or replace it.

Contact Express Electrical Services

Now you know the importance of a circuit breaker, and you understand how it works and when it may need service. Express Electrical Services is available 24/7 to address circuit breaker problems in Southern California homes. Our team can fix any issue quickly and ensure the safety of your home and family. To request service, contact us online or call (888) 741-6404.

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