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.

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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?

    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    In addition to Bruce's recommendations, I strongly urge you to not leave the house when the dryer is running until this problem is addressed. Also, please consider keeping a bucket of water and / or fire extinguisher close at hand.

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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!

      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

      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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      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?

      Breaker Not Working
        AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

        I cannot tell from the picture, but I am assuming that is your phone charger. It appears as though it failed. When it failed, it probably shorted the circuit and tripped a breaker (or blew a fuse) in your panel. This can be reset (turn breaker off and on) or replaced (in the case of a fuse).

        You had an electrical fire, I would call an electrician to verify no damage has occurred to your household wiring or receptacle before resetting the breaker (or replacing the fuse).

        ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

        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?

          AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

          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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          We have a GE wall oven/microwave combo unit, Model JT965SK4SS 2007 model. We had new cabinets put in. The installers put the unit back in the wall. Now it turns on, but after a while the oven cuts off and throws the breaker off. The top microwave works fine. The repair man says it may be sensor and wants to charge $300 for a sensor. They are $14.73 for the part. But is it the sensor or a wiring problem or a bad circuit? We have outlets in two bathrooms on the other side of our house that don't work, but not sure if this all happened at the same time or not.

            AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

            Why don't you call in an electrician to check out the wiring. He can fix the bathroom outlets at least, and can let you know if this is a problem with the wiring or with your oven. If it turns out it is the oven, then you can decide what to do about that.

            ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

            A room is receiving power to its outlets, but the ceiling fan is not working in that same room. Suggestion? At the same time this issue began to occur, all the power to the master bedroom went out and the breaker to the master bedroom will also not reset. Any suggestions to these problems?

              AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

              It is probable that the ceiling fan is on the same circuit as the master bedroom if they all lost power at the same time when the breaker tripped.

              It is possible that it is a bad breaker. If so an electrician could change it.

              Were any changes being made to the house when the power went out. Drive any nails into the wall? Plug in any new load?

              Unplug all cord and plug devices in the master bedroom and see if the breaker resets.

              Is this a standard breaker or AFCI? AFCI breakers have trouble with certain types of humidifers.

              If problem persists, call an electrician. They can meter the circuit to determine if the breaker should be tripping and if so where the fault is that is causing the issue.

              Good luck.

              ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

              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?

              Thanks,

              Concerned

              AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
              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!

              DearWebby

              http://www.webby.com/humor/

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              My son plugged in a extension cord with some bare wires showing and it sparked from the outlet, but also tripped the main circuit. My hot water heater does send out hot water and my electric stove won't push out enough power to use my oven or top burners. It just gets warm to the touch. The right amount of voltage is getting to both is what a guy said on his volt meter. But I don't know the problem. Could it be the 220amp circuit breakers burnt out?

                AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                I just replaced a fuse box with circuit breakers. Now my stove is not getting hot. It just gets warm. They just put a 40 amp breaker in and it is still not hot.

                  AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                  Verify that you are connected to a two pole breaker (240 VAC) not single pole (120 VAC) and that your stove requires 240 VAC (most stoves do). The two pole breakers take up two spots in your panel.

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                  When I run my two window units at the same time why does the breaker arc/spark? It rarely trips the breaker.

                    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                    Excellent advice Helmut!

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                    I have tried every breaker in the box, but cannot turn off the stove top unit. Help!

                    By Rdm

                    AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                    Bruce is right. My feeling is that a stove top is an 80's appliance. When I had mine, it was wired directly to a box under the house. Yes, get it fixed and quick. Hope these both helped.

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                    I bought a house in December of 2014, and as a result of the home inspector finding rust in my electrical breaker box, the seller had the box replaced. When I was having someone install a ceiling fan the other night, we discovered my whole first floor: 5 rooms are connected to one circuit breaker. Can this be legal? I'm concerned about overloaded circuits. I've always seen separate rooms on separate breakers, and I'm thinking whoever did this the circuit breaker box install just connected it as quickly as possible, not safely, and probably not up to code. I'm also thinking that they never labeled the circuit breakers because it would have been obvious how it was wired. The outlets on the first floor are on a separate circuit than the overhead lights if that info helps any. Is this dangerous, illegal, or what? Thanks in advance.

                      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                      I don't know if it is illegal or not. It may depend on where you live. Perhaps electrician Bruce will provide some insight. Five rooms on one breaker sounds like a lot, but it does depend on what you've got in those rooms. If it is a very old home, you may only have one outlet and one light in each room, and if they were bedrooms, it is unlikely that would overload a circuit. I had 5 outlets on one circuit in my living room and kitchen, and that blew the breaker all the time, because it was the fridge, microwave oven, coffee maker, toaster, TV and all it's assorted extras, my Roomba, and Christmas tree lights all at the same time, but it was only using the kitchen things that caused the problem. I also saw on TV on one of the home reno shows that the electricians are supposed to label the breakers, and if yours are not labeled, it may indicate that the change was not made by a certified electrician. Or that yours was not very careful. Or maybe the codes are different there. However, all that being said, I think you should call in a journeyperson electrician for a consult. If shortcuts were made with the breaker box, they may also may have been made elsewhere, and you may want to consider some electrical upgrades. Better to be safe than sorry.

                      ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                      What would it be if you turned off your main breaker, then turned it back on and there was one breaker to a bedroom that was tripped and could not be turned back on?

                      By Patty P.

                      AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                      A standard breaker will trip on an overload. This is often a short circuit between hot and ground.

                      The short circuit can be part of your household wiring. But that probably hasn't changed. I have heard of someone hanging a picture by driving a nail in the wall and going through the electrical cable causing a short.

                      I would unplug everything fed by that circuit before attempting a reset.

                      In case you don't know: to reset a breaker first turn it off and then back on.

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                      Could a wire going to a breaker be bad after the tripped breaker got replaced? My main breaker tripped due to two smaller breakers on the panel shorting out.

                      The one smaller breaker is a 15amp and the other one is a double-30amp. The larger operates my A/C compressor, and possibly a light in the back of my basement which is currently out. Subsequently, I cannot identify what the smaller one operates because everything else in the house is working.

                      The reason why I do not think that the smaller one operates the basement light that is out, is because when I tested the wire with a voltage meter, after replacing the breaker, I got a reading. Whereas I keep getting no readings from the double-30 one that I also replaced.

                      1. Could the trip/short have fried the wires? There is some burnt plastic residue on the little metal bracket that holdsthe breaker to the main metal stem of the panel.
                      2. Would that have any impact on the conduit of the breaker?
                      3. Is there any other method to troubleshoot this, before I call out an electrician?

                      Thanks in advance!

                        AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                        Yes, the wire could be bad or something may be wrong in the panel itself.

                        I would get an electrician in quickly. The "burnt plastic residue" in your breaker box is not normal. The double pole 30 amp breaker being turned on and passing no power is not normal.

                        ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                        I woke up this morning to one entire side of my kitchen not working including the main overhead light and dining area light. The other side has my large items and it appears they are fine. I checked my box and one of the circuits had tripped. I tried to reset it, but it would not. It would trip again and it sparked. I have unplugged and turned everything off and it still will not stay on. Any suggestions?

                        By Joye J

                        AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                        Circuit breakers wear out, and I suspect that this one has done so. Get an electrician to come in and replace it. You might also get him to check on why this breaker has worn out. Mine wore out because it was continuously tripping off because there were far too many outlets on the circuit. Eventually, I will get another breaker or two installed so that this circuit is not overloaded. If this was not your issue, and it happened suddenly, you may have some other wiring malfunction that could be dangerous.

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                        We had a storm and somehow ended up with a leak in the roof. The leak is directly over the breaker box. The electricity had gone out during the storm. When the power restored only some of the rooms had power. My concern is, could the wet breaker box lead to a fire?

                        By Jerry

                        AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

                        Any time you have water near electricity, it is trouble. Call an electrician at once to repair the problem. This is not something to attempt to fix yourself.

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                        I keep getting a buzzing sound from breaker, it doesn't shut down just buzzes now and then.

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                        Home and Garden Home Improvement Lighting and ElectricMarch 22, 2012
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