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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May 23, 2011 Flag

I have a Crouse Hinds 2 pole 30 amp breaker. It will trip, but the room it's to will still have power to it. Why?

By Lonnie B.

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December 20, 2016 Flag

I'm trying to figure out why breaker won't reset after overloading the circuit with space heaters. I even replaced the breaker and it sparked when I tried to reset. I'm planning on checking plugs next to see if the wiring is damaged. Is this a good place to start?

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December 21, 20160 found this helpful

Turn the heaters off. Some draw a lot of amps.

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August 29, 2016 Flag

I put in a new breaker box, but all my power is not right. Some of it is weak and sometimes dims and comes back.

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September 2, 20160 found this helpful

I turned on vacuum cleaner in bedroom all the power went out, but I still have power in two sockets. powder and bathroom.

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August 8, 2016 Flag

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 12, 20160 found this helpful

Yes, I'd call an electrician.

You have a short in you wiring. The electrician will unwire the hot wires from the breaker and measure resistance between the two and between each of them and ground. These should all be open.

If the light switch were in the on position when the breaker was attempted, the problem is most likely at the fixture.

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July 2, 2016 Flag

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.

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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

A breaker can trip from overcurrent (a condition in which too much current is flowing and heats an element in the breaker causing it to trip - this can be reset after cooldown after several minutes) or from short circuit (way way too much current causing an instant trip).

My guess is you have a short circuit. Outside light makes me think water is getting into a connection somewhere (switch, light, junction box) and tripping the breaker. When water dries out, circuit can be reset.

Another cause of short circuit is rodent damage of the cable.

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April 4, 2016 Flag

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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April 5, 20160 found this helpful

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 fire extinguisher close at hand.

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June 23, 2016 Flag

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 24, 20160 found this helpful

To be safe, call an electrician. This could potentially be a serious problem.

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September 4, 2016 Flag

I have 3 220 double pole breakers a 50 40 30 I wanted to use the 40 for my dryer and 30 for my air conditioner. I just moved into a new place and these breakers came with the home so I disconnected the wires from the 30 amp and put the 30 amp breaker in 40 amps' place and the wires in the 40 I connected exactly how they were in 40 into the 30 and vice versa for 40. I was focusing on putting the dryer's wires into the 40 amp breaker and the 30 amp was originally for the dryer supposedly and the 40 breaker for the kitchen stove which I don't need I have a gas range stove. Anyway the 50 amp breaker is for the hot water Instahot and I didn't mess with it at at all. When I made the swap I lost hot water so I put the breakers back in their original positions and the hot water is back to normal. This is a 16 breaker panel 50 amp is (11 and 13) 40 amp is (7 and 9 ) 30 amp is slots (10 and 12). Why did I lose my hot water?

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September 12, 20160 found this helpful

I am sorry you are experiencing this difficulty.

I always recommend an electrician to troubleshoot electrical problems because of the danger associated with working electrical.

One possible cause of this problem would be a broken / fractured backpanel connection in your box or 50 amp breaker. The bottom leg of the 30 amp breaker (position 12) and the top leg of the 50 amp breaker (position 11) share a connection point. A load on the 30 amp breaker would warm up the connection point and expand the copper so that a fracture may close its gap and conduct again.

The wire needs to be verified that each is going to where your panel describes. An electrician could ring this out with his/her meter.

When relocating breakers, always check that the wiring can support the breaker rating.

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August 24, 2016 Flag

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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August 30, 20160 found this helpful

Have the electrician measure the current. It sounds as though the circuit is overloaded. Is this tripping breaker a recent problem? Has electrical load been added to the circuit? An overload may take time to trip the breaker.

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February 2, 2005 Flag

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

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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!

DearWebby

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November 23, 2016 Flag

We have a dedicated panel for our water well. It has a 15 amp breaker which controls a single light fixture which we use for illumination and, with a heat lamp, for warmth to prevent freezing in bad weather. This is a procedure we have used for 10 years since the panel was installed. I turned on the light at the last freeze and when I returned to turn it off, it was not working. I tested the light bulb which was still good and then I replaced the fixture, but that did not correct the problem. At that point I tested the breaker with my multimeter. It read 124 volts until I turned on the light, then it dropped to 11 volts and the bulb wouldn't glow. I replaced the breaker with a new one and have the same drop in voltage with the very minor load of a single 60W bulb. The well pump and it's double 40A breaker are functioning just fine. What can be the problem?

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February 13, 2016 Flag

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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June 1, 2016 Flag

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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October 11, 2015 Flag

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 12, 20151 found this helpful

Well, have you checked the breaker? Go turn it off and on and see if that fixes things. I do not think that that is a heavy load on that breaker. Are you sure that that is the only outlet that is on it? We have an electrician who often comments. Let's hope he can give you some advice.

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July 21, 2015 Flag

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.

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July 23, 20150 found this helpful

Time to call in a certified electrician, I should think. That is what I would do.

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June 4, 2015 Flag

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

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June 5, 20150 found this helpful

That breaker is worn out and/or damaged. They are not repairable. Replace it, and smash the bad breaker with a hammer to ensure it will never be used to burn your house down.

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January 15, 2016 Flag

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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January 18, 20160 found this helpful

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).

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April 19, 2015 Flag

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

By Rdm

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April 20, 20150 found this helpful

If you turned off the main breaker and killed power to your entire house and the stove stayed on, then your stove is not on that panel.

A residence typically only has one panel in the house, but confirm you do not have two.

If you do not, it may be possible that your stove is connected directly to the incoming main. If this is the case, it is not legal and you need to get it corrected immediately.

Consider getting an electrician involved and the electrician may have to get the utility involved to get this fixed.

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December 23, 2015 Flag

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.

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December 30, 20150 found this helpful

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.

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June 15, 2013 Flag

The circuit breakers in all my four bedrooms are tripped and cannot be switched on, but the bathrooms are OK. I don't think the breakers are bad or the circuits are shorted because they are individual, and cannot all be bad at the same time.

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