Why Circuit Breakers Trip and What To Do About It

Why Circuit Breakers Trip and What To Do About It

What is a Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker is an automated electrical safety device that protects electrical appliances and circuits from damage caused by excessive current when a fault occurs in a circuit. The main purpose of circuit breakers is to prevent devices from electric shock hazards such as fire or equipment damage.

Circuit breakers are of different types and sizes such as Molded Case Circuit Breakers, Miniature Circuit Breakers, Air Circuit Breakers, Low Voltage Circuit Breakers and HVDC Circuit Breakers etc. Despite their huge advantage we have all felt the frustration of a circuit breaker tripping at an inopportune time.

In the following section, we will explain tripping, discuss the various causes of circuit breakers tripping and offer insightful advice on fixing the problem to avoid outages and ensure electrical safety.


What is Circuit Breakers Tripping?

The word “Tripping” in an electrical circuit means the action taken by fuse or circuit breakers for protection against abnormal conditions occurring in the circuit.

When a fuse or circuit breaker “trips,” it implies that it opens the circuit and stops the electricity so that no more current can flow through it. This action occurs due to various abnormal conditions, some of the conditions are described in the following section.


Why Circuit Breakers Trip?

There are many reasons that can lead to the tripping of Circuit Breakers such as:

Ground Faults

When a hot wire comes in contact with the ground, then it leads to ground fault. Due to ground fault excessive flow of current occurs and circuit breaker trips to avoid equipment damage.


Short Circuit

Short Circuit occurs when a hot wire comes in direct contact with the ground or neutral wire. It results in the creation of a low resistance path causing excessive flow of current. The circuit breaker trips immediately to stop electrical fires when a short circuit occurs.


Over Loading

Overloading is one of the most frequent causes of circuit breakers to trip. An electrical circuit can’t handle the amount of current drawn when too many gadgets are connected to it. The circuit breaker trips as a result of the excessive current, preventing overheating and potential fires.

Figure: Breaker burn due to overload

Some examples of circuit overloading result in;

  • Lights that constantly flicker can cause overload circuit breaker.
  • Warm outlets can indicate the issue of overloading and cause circuit breakers to trip.


Malfunctioning appliances

Damaged or faulty appliances can also cause circuits to trip. Appliances may have aging wires or loose connections that can cause abrupt flow of current causing circuit to trip. It is crucial to address these problems to prevent excessive tripping of breakers. Old appliances that give shock when touched can cause breakers to trip.


Device and circuit/breaker type mismatch

If a device is not suitable for a particular type of breaker or circuit, then, when the device is plugged in to the circuit, it will trip the breaker. An example is when a printer that is not compatible with an AFCI circuit is connected to a circuit with an AFCI breaker, then, the breaker will keep tripping.


What to do if Circuit Breaker Trips?

The first step to do is to analyze the cause of tripping because where there are advantages of tripping of circuit breaker, there is a big issue of unexpected disruption of electricity at the crucial moment. So, there are some measurements that can be taken to avoid more chances of tripping of circuit breakers.


Usage of Different Outlets and Unplugging the devices

To avoid one of the causes of tripping called overloading, one should use different outlets for different appliances and remove the devices when they are not being used.


Separate Breakers

Usage of separate breakers for high draw appliances so that there is no interruption to whole circuit due to disturbance in one appliance.


Regular Maintenance and Upgrades

To avoid circuit breaker trips, one should practice regular maintenance of their electrical system. The frequent trips of electrical systems indicate that there is a need for upgradation of electrical circuits. One can also reduce the chances of tripping by increasing the capacity of the previous circuit to distribute the load more evenly.


Consulting a Professional

If there are issues that are complex to understand one should consult a professional because attempting to solve the complex issues on your own can be dangerous.



In conclusion circuit breakers are crucial for the safety of electrical systems and ourselves. Understanding why circuit breakers trip and knowing what to do when it occurs is crucial for maintaining a functional and safe electrical system in your home or business. By following the steps mentioned above and seeking professional help when needed, you can minimize disruptions and protect your property from electrical hazards.


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