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Why Does My Breaker Keep Tripping?

January 31, 2024

If you're like most homeowners, you and your loved ones consume a significant amount of electricity daily. From storing food in your refrigerator to simply flipping on a light switch, you utilize numerous sources of electricity in your daily routine. Your home's electrical circuit regulates electricity usage while keeping your home safe. If an overcurrent or short circuit threatens to overload the system, the circuit breaker will trip to keep damage at bay.

However, if your circuit breaker seems to be tripping more frequently than usual, this could indicate an underlying problem. It's important to recognize the warning signs that your breaker needs repair and be prepared to call a professional as soon as possible.

Here are some common issues that may give you an answer to the question, "Why does my breaker keep tripping?"

  • Overloaded circuits
  • Short circuits
  • Ground faults
  • Aging electrical components
  • Appliance issues
  • Inadequate wiring

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Overloaded Circuits

If you're wondering, "Why does my breaker keep tripping with nothing plugged in?" there are various possible causes. Two of the most common reasons include the overuse of extension cords and multiple plug adapters used on the same circuit. For example, running multiple blow dryers and hair styling tools at once will quickly overwhelm the circuit. As a result, the breaker will shut off the connection to keep severe damage at bay. If you regularly use multiple plug adapters on the same circuit, your breaker will trip often as a protection mechanism to prevent the circuit from overloading.

Short Circuits

Some people use these terms interchangeably, but a short circuit isn't the same as an overloaded circuit. An overload occurs when an outlet or circuit takes on more power than it can manage. Alternatively, a short circuit occurs when the electricity changes course from the longer, intended route to the shorter route, also known as the path of least resistance. This results in electricity creating a shorter circuit than the prescribed circuit — hence the term "short circuit."

Short circuits are caused by many factors, including old or damaged outlets, water coming into contact with wiring, damaged electrical cable sheathing, and pests chewing through wires. A seasoned pro will quickly identify the root cause of the problem.

Ground Faults

A ground fault is an unintended source of contact between an energized conductor and a grounded equipment frame. When this happens, the fault current's path of return travels through the grounding system. This means that any equipment automatically becomes a part of the system. Because ground faults typically occur due to insulation breakdown, it's crucial to reach out to a professional as soon as possible to prevent further damage from taking place.

Aging Electrical Components

Just like any other appliance or device in your home, your electrical circuit's components need to be properly cared for and maintained on a regular basis. Neglecting to do so can result in faulty electrical connections, which increases the risk of device malfunction. If your electrical components are nearing the end of their lifespan, they will struggle to meet your home's electrical demands. This may result in your circuit breaker tripping more often.

Appliance Issues

In some cases, your electrical appliances can trip your circuit breaker. This is especially true if any of your appliances have faulty wiring. Be sure to repair or replace the electrical wiring as soon as possible to prevent more severe and costly damage. If you're unsure whether your wiring needs a routine repair or a full-scale replacement, don't hesitate to contact a professional electrician. They will provide a clear answer to the question "What causes a breaker to trip?" and implement the best solution for your needs.

Inadequate Wiring

If your circuit breaker frequently trips, it could indicate dangerous inadequate wiring. This happens when the wires in your home cannot cope with the electrical current passing through them, leading to an overload and causing the breaker to trip. It's important to address this problem promptly. Ignoring inadequate wiring can lead to more serious consequences, including total electrical failure or, in extreme cases, a fire.

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By Ty Lindsay

Ty Lindsay is the Director of Field Operations at Patrick Riley | Isley’s and a 15-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC trades. In 2010, Ty earned his Journeyman’s plumbing license. He became a Master Plumber five years later and earned his Journeyman HVAC technician’s license that same year. Ty’s breadth of knowledge in plumbing and HVAC includes both residential and commercial work. He’s been a loyal member of the Patrick Riley | Isley’s team since 2016.