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What You Need to Know About Your Circuit Breaker

It’s April-showers-brings-May-flowers time again, and if you’re anything like us, rainy days slooooow you down a bit. When it’s drizzly, maybe you turn on the TV, get your electric blanket ready, start a pot of coffee…

… and then *click*. Everything stops working.

It’s probably the circuit breaker.

What is a circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker is a built-in safety device that cuts power to your appliances when there’s too much current flowing through them. Without the help of a circuit breaker, wiring issues or other failures can easily cause problems. We’re talking about fire-level problems.

In older homes you “blow a fuse.” In newer homes you “trip the breaker.” If the circuit breaker is “tripped” by a fault somewhere in your home, you can flip a switch to reset it, with no replacement required (usually).

Where is the circuit breaker located?

Circuit breakers are generally inconspicuous (read: easy to hide behind mountains of stuff in your garage or basement). Typically, they’re built into the wall and covered with a metal panel you open to reveal the many switches and levers inside.

Most often, you’ll find them in garages, basements, hallways, or storage rooms. If you’re having trouble, look outside for the electric meter. The breakers on the inside are usually installed close to the electric meters on the outside. If you’re really having trouble, make it a fun weekend activity with the family! Who can find the circuit breaker fastest? (Sometimes you just run out of ideas for the kids, you know?)

Depending on the size and types of appliances in your home, you may have multiple panels.

Why did my circuit breaker trip?

Circuit breakers “trip” or switch to the OFF position when there’s too much electrical current for your home and appliances to safely handle. 

Breakers usually trip for a couple of reasons:

  • It could be an overloaded circuit. Ever plug too many fans in at once when it’s a million degrees outside? That might have been too much for your circuits to handle. Remember to unplug the things you’re not using!
  • It could also be a “short circuit.” Sometimes appliances have bad wiring, or the normal wear-and-tear creates problems for the circuit. In either case, an appliance (or several) is pulling too much current to itself, causing the trip. It may be time to replace appliances if you unplug and inspect your cord and find any damage or if your power outlets are discolored or smell burned.

If it doesn’t seem to be either of those options, it’s probably a ground fault—which is best handled by an Austin electrician. 

What do I do about a tripped breaker?

It’s pretty easy and perfectly safe to reset a breaker on your own:

  1. Turn off all the lights and appliances. If you can’t turn it off, unplug it. A sudden surge of power caused by turning the breaker back on could damage your appliances.
  2. Find the breaker panel, and search for breakers in the OFF position. Some are colored red or orange if they’ve been tripped. Push the OFF breakers a little further into the OFF position to make sure they’re truly tripped before the next step.
  3. Give it a go. Flip the OFF breakers to the ON position.

Is this like the hundredth time you’ve tripped your breaker?

Okay, maybe not the hundredth… but do you seem to be going to the breaker panel a lot? If so, it’s time to have an electrician take a look. While resetting switches is easy, there may be an underlying issue that puts your home and your family at risk.

Don’t wait until the hundredth trip to the basement. As your trusted Austin electrician, we’re happy to help. Give us a call today!

About us

Founded by Robert Breithaupt—a veteran and licensed master plumber—RC’s is focused on serving the hardworking residents of Austin-area residents of Travis County by offering reliable and affordable plumbing services. There’s no job that’s too big or too small for our team of experts, so don’t hesitate to call about your residential or commercial plumbing situation.

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