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Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems

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Electrician Working on Circuit Breakers

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.


Solutions: Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems

Read and rate the best solutions below by giving them a "thumbs up".

Tip: Circuit Breaker Trips But Power Is Still On

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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Here are questions related to Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems.

Question: Breaker Question - 20 Amp Breaker, 14 wire

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?




Best Answer

By Susan Sanders-Kinzel [9]02/02/2005

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!

Question: Can Not Reset Tripped Circuit Breakers

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.

By Peter C. from Katy, TX


Most Recent Answer

By LaurieS [10]06/17/2013

This just happened to us. We had to call an electrician. Some time ago my Dear Hubby changed out a light switch and because he is colorblind got the wires mixed up when he hooked it back up. Any way our circuit breaker went to ground and we needed an electrician to fix it.

Question: Circuit Breaker Won't Switch On or Off

I plugged in a vacuum cleaner in the living room and had other things going (TV, etc.) and blew the circuit. I unplugged everything and tried to re-set the circuit breaker (switch to off then back to on position). However, the switch will not switch completely to the off or on position. I can move the switch in either direction, but not enough for it to stay there. It goes right back to the middle. Can someone tell me if there is anything else I can try, or does thia mean I have to pay to have an electrician come in and repair this? Many thanks in advance!

Frazzled in Mass from Needham, MA

Most Recent Answer

By Bret (Guest Post)11/22/2008

Thanks for your post. I was able to successfully change a circuit (15) by using your directions. It solved my problem. I noticed some people saying you should not do because you could burn your house down and such. But if they follow your instructions and turn off the main. It is relatively simple to do. I just made sure I had rubber handle needle nose to guide the house wire back into the new circuit as well as a big rubber handle screwdriver. Thanks for people like you. Bret

Question: Short in Circuit, Bad Breaker, or Floating Neutral?

I asked an electrician to fix the circuit breaker in my house because it was tripping. So he connected 4mm wire between the neutral and the earth. All was well for 2 days, then it kept tripping whenever you pull out the wire. What could be the problem? Could it be a floating neutral?

By Justine from SA

Most Recent Answer

By REE [1]04/18/2010

Some where on that circuit there is a bad neutral. You should not have to add the wire to it? Did you nail in something to wall and then it happened (*maybe nicked the neutral)?

Neutral wire could have broken.
Wire nut could have come loose in junction box.
Is the line overloaded? running too much stuff.

Question: Breaker Tripping After Having Cable Installed

I just moved into a new house a couple of weeks ago. It was pre-wired for cable. I had my cable installed last week. Ever since they installed the cable my breaker for my bedroom is tripping intermittently. I had the electrician at my house. He said unless something happens when he is there he cannot find the problem. Is there anything I can do on my own to try and solve this problem? I had it trip 3 times this morning and it is getting very frustrating!

Most Recent Answer


I think you need a new electrician !!! Any electrician who knows their stuff doesn't need to 'wait for the problem to occur' in order to have a clue what the problem is ... Being this is a new home I suggest whoever did the installation find and fix the problem at no charge with threats of the Better Business Bureau, etc if they hum hah around about it !!!

Question: Only Half of Electrical Circuit Works

We recently purchased an old home (105 years old) and one day half of the lights on a circuit stopped working. They stopped when I turned on a sconce and it shorted and blew the circuit breaker. Half the lights on the circuit went out, not to be seen again.

I have checked all of the old outlets and replaced them as I thought I might be shorting back through the common. I am stumped as to what I should do. I had an electrician come out and take a look and he is stumped as well. Any advice?

Rick from Iowa (in an old home)

Most Recent Answer

By Chris07/08/2010

One of the below answers is probably correct, but I think the real answer is to call in a different electrician. There is no problem of this type that a competent electrician should not be able to find and fix; they will have tools like the tracer mentioned below. And as ThriftyFun wrote, it's not safe to just work around this; it needs to be fixed.

Question: Circuit Breaker Won't Stay On

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

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]02/08/2015

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.

Question: Leak on Breaker Box

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

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]02/02/2015

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.

Question: Circuit Breaker Making a Buzzing Sound

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

By David B from Lansing

Most Recent Answer

By Bruce S01/27/2015

Dinah is correct, an electrician is needed. The buzzing is caused by moving parts, either a loose connection (internal or external) of the breaker or bad contacts within the breaker. I would get it checked quickly. loose/bad connections can be heat generators.

Question: Breaker Problems When House Inspected

We are looking to purchase an older home built in 1994. We had the inspection today and when the inspector used his little surge tool to test all the outlets, not one breaker flipped. The house has power and all seems normal otherwise. The seller doesn't have much money to make repairs, we only have 10 days to back out. Could this be something that is extremely expensive to repair? Or could it be a simple solution? We are requesting an electrician come and evaluate the issue.

By Melanie C

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]01/21/2015

Having an electrician come is by far your best solution to this problem. And a house built in 1994 should have no electrical problems unless someone without any electrical knowledge did some modifications since the house was built. I would be suspicious.

Question: Breaker Blew and Power Will Not Restore

I have a tenant that blew a breaker. I reset the breakers, but the power still will not come on to that room. The last time this happened, I replaced the breaker and that solved the problem. Unfortunately, this time that solution did not work. Any suggestions?

By Chris W

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]12/13/2014

Is there a main power switch that controls the power to the whole home? I used to throw that switch sometimes when I lived in a mobile home, and the switch was outside on a power pole. Perhaps you have a main switch in your house -- I'm thinking everyone should have one, but that is just a guess. If that is not the problem, perhaps you should call an electrician. When I throw a breaker, simply switching it back on again restores the power. If it repeatedly goes off (over a period of several years), one needs to replace it, as they wear out.

Question: Circuit Breaker Won't Reset

I'm house sitting and was watching TV in the familyroom, it was daytime, and no other appliances or anything were on. Suddenly the TV, cable box, and surround sound just shut off. I thought at first the power went out so I checked some lights, they worked. It was just the power in the family room that was out.

So I went to the breaker box and sure enough the switch for the family room was between off and on. I flipped the switch on and went back to check if that worked, it didn't. So I went back and tired it off and then back on, still didn't work.

What do I do next? I can't reach the owners right now, do I need an electrician to come out? Could it just be taking a while to rest?

By Jessica

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]01/06/2014

I would call an electrician. If the circuit breaker won't reset, either it is worn out and needs to be replaced, or some problem that caused the thing to flip in the first place has not been resolved. Since the breaker seemed to flip "for no reason", I would call an electrician. You may have something dangerous going on.

Question: Breaker Tripping After Installing New Outlets

I recently moved into my condo and I noticed that when they painted the walls the painters went over the outlets so some were filled with paint. I decided to change out the outlets so I went to a hardware store, purchased some standard outlets and watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials.

My first outlet had the ground wire and instead of having 2 black and 2 white wires there was one of each and they were solid, not cut just a solid wire. I went back to the hardware store and they said to just connect it the same way on the new outlet. I went home and did that.

All the outlets run through the same wires. It concerned me though that only one outlet had a ground wire, is that OK? Also I bought the light indicator to let me know everything was connected OK and got the code that it was. Now, 2 days later, with only a lamp connected and on, the circuit breaker went off. I tried turning it back into the on position, but it keeps going off. It won't stay in the on position; what should I do? I am hoping it's only the circuit breaker.

By Carlos from Chicago

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]12/06/2013

I agree with the previous poster. I think that it is time to call in a certified electrician before you start an electrical fire. These guys go to school and train with qualified journeymen for their trade. They do not get their info from hardware store clerks and Youtube.

Question: Circuit Breaker Broke While Being Turned On

I had to change the outlet in the bedroom because it almost burned. I put in the new outlet then went to turn on the main circuit breaker. It was so hard it to move that it broke off. Now everything is working except for my refrigerator and an outlet near it. Any suggestions?

By Lynn

Most Recent Answer

By gbk [45]10/13/2011

You can replace the circuit breaker. The main breakers are very hard to push and you apparently have an old one and the plastic was brittle. You need to know what kind of breaker box it is and take it with you and if it isn't too old the hardware co may have one or an electrician can tell you where to go. He just might help you because the job is really minor. The major problem is the short in the broken breaker.

Question: Trouble Shooting a Trip Fuse Problem

I have an electrical outlet that runs all my outside and garage outlets, about 9 outlets all together. It has a trip fuse on it and it keeps tripping.

I have unplugged everything from all the outlets and it keeps tripping. I have replaced the outlet, still tripping. The fuse box does not trip; it is working.

I had a outside pool pump plugged into the backyard outlet and the pump kept shutting down and starting when it was supposed to remain on. I replaced the pump. Would it be possible for that outlet to be damaged because maybe the pump overheated?

By Snake from Hope Mills, NC

Most Recent Answer

By Grandma J [46]06/09/2010

Time to get an electrician out before you have a fire your someone gets hurt. Sounds like faulty wiring.
Any time your trip action happens, it is for a reason like over load Don't just restart it with the same things again.

Question: Changing From a 15 amp to 20 amp Breaker

If a #12 wire is connected to a 15 amp breaker, can I assume that it is safe to replace the 15 amp breaker with a 20 amp breaker?

By Douglas from Sacramento

Most Recent Answer

By PEDRO E. ALEQUIN [1]01/08/2010

Changing just 5 amps causes more resistance, can double temperature of wire. wires may over heat and cause FIRE! Please get knowledgeable help. Not a DIY Project.

Question: Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

The circuit breaker keeps tripping when heat is set. There is no problem when set for cold, a/c.

By Nancy F. from Boynton Beach, FL

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]02/21/2015

Heat draws more power than AC. If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, then it is overloaded. You have too much on the circuit. You need to call in an electrician to deal with this. It may be a minor issue such as replacing the breaker, or perhaps you need to shut other things off when you have the heat on. If breakers trip repeatedly, they wear out, and then will not stay on. This is actually a good safety feature.

Question: Not All Power Returned After Resetting Breakers

I recently bought a 1992 Fleetwood mobile home. There are no fuses, it's a breaker box. I was running a space heater and TV when I tried to vacuum and the power all went out. I flipped all the switches in the breaker box inside the house and the breaker box outside. Now only a few lights will come on. I don't know anything about this kind of problem. We did just have the electric meter installed. And I read that the problem could be that the power company installed the meter incorrectly. Can anyone tell me what else may be the problem? Or suggest some way to fix it?

By Michelle

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]02/14/2015

It seems from your post that you overloaded the circuits by using the three things at the same time. Space heaters take a lot of power. As well, if all the lights went out, you obviously had overloaded the entire system, and not just one circuit.

I quite regularly flip a breaker if I forget and run the microwave when I am making toast in the morning. There are far too many outlets on this particular circuit. However, the problem is solved by flipping the one breaker back on. I did have to have the breaker replaced, as this has happened repeatedly over the years, and breakers do wear out. The main breaker is in a separate box.

In the mobile home that I used to live in back in the 80's, the main breaker was outside on a box on a power pole. Is that how yours is? But anyway, if switching the breakers back on does not solve the problem, it is time to call an electrician. You do not have to diagnose the problem; just call one in, tell him what has happened, and let him do his job. They are trained to fix electrical issues.

Question: Breaker Will Not Reset

Tonight I tried to turn on my radiator, but it uses a lot of power so it cuts off the power in my room sometimes causing me to have to enter the master bedroom's closet and flip the breaker switch back on for my room. Unfortunately, tonight when I tried flipping the switch back on, the power in my room will not come back on. I tried it several times keeping my radiator switched off. What can I do? I can't get it to work again. I'm so extremely upset about this.

By Lori from LA

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]01/14/2015

Breakers that flip often will eventually wear out. This means that you have to get an electrician in to fix it. This is a very quick and easy job, and will cost very little, but it is not something that one can do oneself. I would also suggest that you get the electrician to check your circuits and see why the heater keeps flipping the breaker. It should not do so, but there may be too many other things on that circuit, and perhaps you will want to have additional circuits put in, or maybe just run the heater on a different outlet on a less "loaded" circuit. Please call an electrician to help you with this. Ask around amongst your friends and co-workers for a reliable one.

Question: Adjacent Room Lost Power After Installing New Switch

I recently replaced a light for a chandalier and the switch for a dimmer switch. They both work fine and no breaker is being tripped. The problem is that the adjacent room, which is on the same circuit breaker, is not receiving any power now.
Also, I don't know if this is relevant, but there was no ground wire on the chandalier to attach, just negative/positive.

By Daniel C

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]12/13/2014

This is not a good place to get advice for such a problem. Try googling for solutions and looking for sites that may have actual, factual electrical advice. Or, perhaps you have a friend who is a home handyperson who can help you out. However, if I were you, I would call an electrician. If you did the work you attempted properly, there should not have been a problem. If there is one, either you made an error OR there is a bigger problem with your wiring. Someone in the past has perhaps attempted home wiring and done it incorrectly. Your home could be in danger of catching fire from faulty wiring.

Question: Main Breaker Won't Reset

I have an American Switch Co. panel. I shut off the main and now it will not reset. It's a 100 amp service. I also cannot locate a replacement.

By Sal M

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]11/17/2014

I always think that with electrical, it is best to call in a professional. It is, after all, something that, if things went wrong, could cause your house to catch fire. If you still wish to troubleshoot on your own first, perhaps you could try googling for info, and find a site that is more specifically for electrical problems or for home handypersons. My only experience with breakers is with the small ones, not the main ones. The small ones will eventually wear out if they flip off too often, and then have to be replaced. Could this be the problem with your main breaker?

Question: Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

I have a multi-circuit electrical control system that keeps tripping the main circuit breaker; how would you determine the circuit at fault?

By Robert

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]11/08/2014

I would call an electrician.

Question: Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems

My home has partial power, I checked my circuit breakers, everything looks normal (I guess). How can I tell if my circuit breaker is broken or damaged? My basement has power and appliances work down there, but upstairs, my kitchen appliances and lights are out, and in 3 bedrooms, but I have power in 3 other rooms. WTHeck, I want to fix it myself, what do I do and how do I start?

By Pudding from Southfield, MI

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B. [5]09/16/2013

Start by flipping the breakers on and off once or twice. Sometimes breakers trip, but don't look like they are tripped. If that doesn't fix the problem, call an electrician. You should not attempt anything electrical if you have no idea what you are doing.

Question: No Power to Bathroom Mirror

I have just updated my bathroom and I have put six spot lights in, an electric fan, and an electric mirror. When I installed the lights and mirror I also put a dimmer switch on and they seemed to work OK, but three of the transformers to the spot light broke. I don't know if that has anything to do with dimmer switch.

Then my electric fan arrived and I made the mistake of getting a timer fan. This I found out needs a permanent live that I don't have due to me taking power from the spot light circuit. I think I've found I solution to that problem; I hope.

But the thing that is really puzzling me is I changed my light switch back to a normal switch instead of the dimmer, but when the spot lights are on my mirror loses power then when I turn them off it regains power. The mirror has its own permanent live with a switch, but this does come off the spotlight circuit as well.

When I had the dimmer switch they both worked together until I turned lights up to full, then the mirror would lose power. This seems to tell me that for some reason my breaker isn't giving enough power out to run all. Is this possible or is the another way around it?


By Danny

Most Recent Answer

By Grandma J [46]09/09/2013

First, are you an electrician. If not, get the advice of one. A dimmer switch, as they used to be, is different, depending on the use. They don't all work for every kind of appliance/light/light bulb. Make sure you have enough circuit breaker power for your bathroom.
You did not say if you have a GFI installed. That is a law for bathrooms, etc places where water is.
And please, check even if online for professional help. This Old House, The Handyman, are both good sites.

Question: Some Circuits Not Working

I am dog sitting for my parents for two weeks and I went to turn on the living room light at night to grab a few things before bed. It did not turn on so I tried the fan connected to it and that didn't work neither. So I went to the main bathroom (there are three bathrooms in total) and even that light and fan didn't turn on. There is also a washer and dryer in there, not in use, that said PF for power failure, but when I was in a bedroom upstairs trying to put my two year old to bed earlier everything in that one room is working fine so I didn't suspect a power failure. So I booked it all the way down stairs to the basement checking all the other lights and they were all working to the power box and all the fuses are working, so I don't understand. So I took a little walk outside the house to see if I can find another fuse box and I don't see anything. Btw I used to live here since I was 13 and everything worked fine. I have contacted my parents about this, but their trip is to early to come back, but I have told them about this. But maybe you can help me somehow.

By Tanya

Most Recent Answer

By Frugal Sunnie [11]08/15/2013

Sometimes fuses will read as being live even though not supplying full voltage to a circuit; circuit breakers have been known to have failed to 'flip' even though there is a fault in the circuit that has caused a power cut.

The sooner a professional licensed electrician is in there, the better. Until then, shut off the power to the fuses/circuit breakers that feed that circuit. Yes, it will be inconvenient but not near as inconvenient as a fire!

Question: Increasing the Amperage of a Circuit Breaker

Would changing a 15 amp circuit breaker to a 20 or 30 make it stronger?

By Geremy C.

Most Recent Answer

By Harlean G. [7]07/27/2013

I am no electrician, by any means, but I do know that the purpose for the breaker is to trip the breaker if you overload the circuit. To circumvent this, could cause an electrical fire. If the circuit is supposed to have only a 15 amp breaker, it would be extremely dangerous to replace it with anything higher than a 15 amp.
Harlean from Arkansas

Question: 20 AMP Breaker Keeps Tripping

I am working on my basement. I've installed new lights on a breaker, laundry room lights on the second breaker, the third breaker has four outlets, and the fourth breaker has three outlets. All the breakers are new and 20AMP. I had no problem with running the first three, but the forth one keeps tripping, even when I've got only one outlet on it. Any suggestions?

By Greg

Most Recent Answer

By Beth03/12/2013

Breakers are cheaply made in China. It is not unusual for one to be bad. Luckily they are cheap enough to try a new one.

Question: Troubleshooting Circuit Breaker Problems

I turned off the main breaker and when I turned it back on my pool equipment is not working.

By Julie

Most Recent Answer

By Frugal Sunnie [11]03/21/2012

This is not a good sign-have a licensed electrician out to troubleshoot this because it's not a simple fix. Something in the wiring between the pool system and the circuit breaker is chewed/frayed/broken or loose, and a professional will have the specialised tools to track it down quickly.

Question: Circuit Breaker Humming

The other day I lost electricity in half the house. I called Con Ed and they checked the wires and breakers. Everything seemed to be alright except the breaker to the furnance hums when we trip it and put it back on.

By Paul from Staten Island, NY

Question: Circuit Breaker On But No Power

My circuit breaker is in the on position. The orange light on the breaker is on, and there is no power.

By Paul

Question: Spotlights Tripped Breaker

I have 20 spotlights fitted downstairs in my lounge, kitchen, and hall. It was done a month ago. The lights just went out and the breaker trip switch won't switch back on. Any advice? Thanks.

By Andy

Question: Stove Keeps Tripping the Circuit Breaker

We purchased a new stove/oven a year ago, replacing one that was 20 years old. About a month ago, the circuit breaker started tripping whenever my wife was using the oven and more than one burner on the stovetop. We had an appliance repairman out to check the stove. He said the stove was drawing 49 amps with multiple burners on, and the 220V circuit breaker was a 50 amp breaker, that it had probably been weakened from the more powerful stove. He advised replacing it with a 60 amp 220V circuit breaker. Can I do that?

By William K.

Question: Fix for Overloaded of 15 amp Breaker

I think I have an overloaded 15 amp breaker. The outlets work, but then they flicker on and off, as well as some lights. Can I replace the 15 amp breaker with a higher amp breaker to offset this?

By Keith

Question: Can Moisture Cause a Circuit Breaker to Trip?

Does a breaker trip due to wet/moisture near the circuit? The old fridge has been replaced and a new cable has been run due to the moisture from the AC before. That circuit has been changed, now the breaker trips after a short period. Any explanation why it keep tripping?

By tek from Dallas, TX