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Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems

A tripped circuit breaker can be a sign of trouble with wiring, and may require a trained professional to get to the root of the problem. This guide is about troubleshooting circuit breaker problems.

Electrician Working on Circuit Breakers
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August 8, 2016 Flag
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I turned off the breaker to fix a lighting fixture. After the repair, we went to turn the breaker back on. It's a double one, and when we flipped it, the bottom one goes all the way on, but the top one gets stuck in the middle and sparks. We unplugged everything on the breaker (it's a heavy load - all the upstairs, stove, washer, and outdoor lights) and let it rest a while. The same thing happened. We tightened the connections; same thing. We replaced the breaker, with the same thing happening, it still keeps sparking and the top one won't reset. Guessing it's time to call an electrician?

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August 16, 20160 found this helpful

We had plug problem &switched the electric off the lights in the kitchen pantry &landing won't work what do I do to put them on @the circuit breaker?

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August 24, 2016 Flag
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I have problem; my main 32 amp two pole breaker 220v is sometimes tripping and sometimes working without any problem. Mostly it's tripping in the early morning when I use geyser (water heater), but the breaker is not tripping when I switch on, it's tripping after some time. So I had an electrician visit and check for loose connections, but there are no loose connections at all. I replaced with a new geyser, but my problem is still the same. How can I sort out the exact problem.

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July 2, 2016 Flag
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I have a circuit breaker that tripped last week. The backyard lights and dinning room light run off it and everything was off when it tripped. It would not reset even after pushing it all the way to off. I thought maybe it overheated so I left it off over night, but then the next day it still did not reset.


I waited until today when I am off work to go to Home Depot to by a new breaker and see if that was the problem. As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to test the breaker again just in case and lo and behold it reset and everything works just fine again. What would cause a breaker to not want to reset for several days?

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July 12, 20160 found this helpful

Turns out I had a bad 3 way light in the stairwell. The light for the stairwell has a switch at the bottom, top, and a third one on the wall on the outside of the stairwell. We never used the one on the side until recently but when the switches were all in a certain position and the wall was used, it would trip the breaker. We could not reset unless we repositioned the on/off switches in a different combinations. Once we figuredo it out, we remove the light switch and saw where the insulation had melted away on one of the wires and was making a short. We fixed the wires and the breaker reset just fine. The light switch wold still make a quick buzz when used so we replaced it. Now everything works.

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June 23, 2016 Flag
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We live in a 10 year old home. The main breaker in our box has shut down our power two days in a row. We have been able to re-set it and get power back, but we are concerned. Any advice? We haven't been operating anything new in our home, so our usage should be the same as it's always been.

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June 25, 20160 found this helpful

Breakers don't just shut off without a reason. Please call an electrician to help you figure out what the problem is. This could be a serious issue that could cause a fire.

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April 4, 2016 Flag
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We have been experiencing a "hot" smell whenever we use the clothes dryer. We have cleaned all possible lint and dust from the dryer and the vent to make sure that was not the source. New notice the smell coming from the circuit breaker panel, any thoughts?

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June 19, 20160 found this helpful

You should never use water to extinguish an electrical fire. It conducts electricity and you run the chance of being electrocuted by doing so. The fire can be put out using a Class C fire extinguisher or smothered. Then if you are able turn off all power to appliance to keep it from spreading.

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June 1, 2016 Flag
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The celing fan with lights, was off one night. While watching TV there were sparks coming from the celing fan housing and then the breaker tripped. I tried to reset the breaker and it will not reset. What could be the problem?

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June 6, 20160 found this helpful

It sounds as though your fan motor failed. You will need to replace the unit.

If you don't use the fan, you could have an electrician unwire the fan and leave the lights connected. They could also verify there is no damage to the lighting circuit while doing this.

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February 2, 2005 Flag
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I recently purchased a house, and it is clear that the previous owner had not always done things correctly. My present concern is that there seems to be 14 gauge wire running off a 20 AMP breaker. I believe this is a code violation, and more importantly a fire risk. I would rather not open up the walls to replace the wire. Assuming the circuit would be OK on a 15, can I just have the breaker replaced? Is that an adequate solution?



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February 2, 20050 found this helpful
Best Answer

Yes, that is a code violation and a fire risk.

And it invalidates the insurance.

To fix the problem,

1) get a breaker from the same brand and series but with a 15 Amp rating

2) turn the 20 Amp breaker off and pull it out.

3) swap the wire, that goes to it, over to the 15 Amp breaker

4) Make sure the 15 Amp breaker is turned OFF

5) insert the 15 Amp breaker

6) make sure the 15 Amp breaker is inserted fully and looks level with the other breakers

7) turn the 15 Amp breaker on and test the appliances or outlets that are fed from it.

If you forget point 4), there will be scary sounding arcing and sparking that could startle you into falling off your ladder or chair.

Have FUN!


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October 11, 2015 Flag
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I have a 42 in. plasma, a lamp, another smaller TV, a DVD, and a Dish box connected to brand new surge protector. I went to turn my TV on and everything connected to that surge protector went out. Do you think maybe it had a sudden surge and it tripped the protector or is it the breaker box?

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October 19, 20150 found this helpful

Surge strips often have breakers that trip. A button will pop out that needs to be pushed in to reset.

Electrical loads often have an inrush current many times the steady state load. It is possible that your television may pull 3 or 4 amps ordinarily and 20 to 30 amps for a very short period of time starting up. This inrush current combined with the other loads could trip the breaker on the strip.

One solution is to turn the tv on first.

Another solution is to replace the power strip.

Make sure the surge strip does not plug into a surge protected outlet. You do not want to double up surge protection.

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February 13, 2016 Flag
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I plugged a small space heater into an outlet in my bedroom. I then showered, dressed, returned to the bathroom, plugged in my hair dryer, and lost all power in bedroom/bathroom/hall. I flipped all the switches in the circuit breaker panel, but that failed. Help!

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February 15, 20160 found this helpful

It sounds as though the circuit was overloaded, so resetting the breaker is correct.

To reset a breaker, first shut off then turn on. Most breakers have a red flag in a window to signify they are tripped. This , I assume is what you already did.

Breakers, on an overload, will trip due to heat (kind of like the thermal overload that will prevent your hair dryer from running when it overheats), and may need to cool down before they can be reset. So you could try resetting again now without the hair dryer and heater plugged in. (the more things you can unplug or switch off of the dead circuit, the better)

If that doesn't do it, look for an AFCI or GFCI receptacle that may have tripped and reset it.

If that still doesn't do it, then an electrician would be needed to determine if the breaker is bad, the wiring has problems or a receptacle is bad.

Good Luck.

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January 15, 2016 Flag
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I was charging my mobile phone in my kids' room. I woke up with a spark and fire. Now the television, fan, and modem, even all the outlets in the room are not working. I am glad nothing happen to my kids they are still asleep. Unfortunately I can't use the television or any electronics. What can I do?

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