How to Troubleshoot Your Home Circuit Breaker


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For most homeowners, keeping a well-maintained circuit breaker is a huge priority. Your circuit breaker is an essential part of your home, protecting the force of all your electrical appliances from bringing down the house at any given time. That’s why when your breaker goes down, it’s extremely important to give it your attention right away. When a circuit breaker fails, it’s often a job for a professional. Sometimes, however, all it takes is a bit of tweaking to get your breaker back up and running. When the power goes out and you don’t know where to turn, keep your cool and try a few home tips to start your circuit breaker back up again. Here are a few ways to try and troubleshoot your home circuit breaker should it ever trip or fail.

Figure Out Which Circuit Tripped

Once you know your circuit breaker tripped, it’s time to take a trip to the basement or wherever your breaker is located and run a few tests. Your power panel should be in a large gray or black box on the wall. If the power has ever gone off in your home, this is the panel you go to turn it back on after a storm or electrical failure. The simplest way to identify which circuit tripped is to check the switches to see which one is located in between the ‘on’ and ‘off’ label. This signifies a circuit level that needs instant attention.

Turn Everything Off

Before you try anything, turn everything off in your home just to be safe. That means lights, appliances, and anything that uses power and could potentially get in the way of your safety. When in doubt, unplug it. In the same way that you know to turn the water off before attempting to fix the sink, you need to make sure your power is off to prevent a dangerous electrical surge. When it comes to troubleshooting your breaker, you and your family’s personal safety should always be put at the forefront.

Test the Breaker

Now that everything is turned off, it’s time to run some tests. First, try switching your breaker lever from ‘on’ to ‘off’ a few times. If your lever shows little to no resistance, you’re most likely dealing with a faulty or broken breaker. At this point, it’s time to call in the professionals to get it replaced. However, if you’re meeting with resistance, the problem isn’t so simple. Make sure the breaker is set to ‘off’ before your next step.

Check the Electrical Panel

The next thing to do is turn off the main power system that’s fueling your breaker. This will allow you to run some simple tests to figure out what might be causing the trouble. You’ll need to begin by loosening your electrical panel from the wall and manually checking for loose wires leading into the panel. This will be able to tell you on sight if anything is loose or broken without your having to go in and do any troubleshooting with live wires. If you’re not seeing any obvious cause of malfunction like a loose or fraying wire, you’ll need to re-attach your panel to the wall and continue working with just the isolated panel of the breaker itself. This will require smaller tools like a small pointed screwdriver and precision pliers. You’ll also need to make sure you’re equipped with a small flashlight for the job.

If You’re Comfortable, Test the Wires

If you’re ready to pull out your circuit’s wire, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools for the job. If you’re undaunted by working with live wires, you’ll need to pull back the cover of the breaker panel to get to the wire and try resetting your breaker fully. The wire should not touch any other wires or the metal surrounding it, making this a tricky move to pull off if you’re a novice at this kind of troubleshooting. When pulling out your red wire, you might see the cause of damage in any loose or fraying wire. If it’s not obvious, try tightening your breaker manually. Then, replace the panel. However, when in doubt, don’t put yourself or your home in danger. Reach out to an electrician to get the job done. If you’re not sure about who you should reach out to for the job, a quick Internet search for “electrician near me” should point you in the right direction. No matter what, electrical safety should always be your priority.


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