When Thomas Edison created an early form of a circuit breaker in an 1879 patent application, he likely did not foresee how widely his idea would be used. Today, circuit breakers are used in nearly every part of the world today to help provide electricity to homes and businesses, but unfortunately, they can break and become fire hazards. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), electrical receptacles are involved in 5,300 fires every year. If you are having trouble resetting your circuit breaker, here are some tips on how to proceed.
Check for an overloaded circuit:
If your circuit breaker is overloaded, it will trip, won’t reset immediately, and after it has been cooled and reset, it will trip again. An overloaded circuit can be caused by too many heavy loads being plugged into the outlets on the same circuit. Or, you could have a defective appliance plugged into the circuit that is causing the issue. It is common for older bathrooms and kitchens to have overloaded circuits. To determine what the cause of the problem, unplug everything and then reset the breaker. If it stays reset, start plugging in each item individually until a problem occurs.
Ensure there isn’t a short circuit:
Short circuits happen when two electrical wires touch that aren’t supposed to. If this happens, the electricity that’s flowing through the wires will surge and flood the circuit with a current and cause it to trip. This can happen with outlets, switches, and appliances, or it could be caused by rodents that have chewed through wires. If you suspect this is the problem, call a professional right away. Short circuits involve working with hot wires and high levels of current and they should not be remedied without a licensed electrician. If you attempt to do this yourself, you increase your risk of getting shocked.
Replace your electrical panel:
If you have tried everything else, you might have a faulty breaker. There are a few types of unsafe electrical panels that are still being used around the country. Make sure you look closely at your electrical panel to make sure yours isn’t one of them. These brands should not be used, and you should call our team of experienced Tacoma electricians at Tapps Electric right away to get it replaced.
- Federal Pacific Electric Panels (FPE)
Between the 1950s and the 1980s, many of these panels were installed in homes. Unfortunately, the circuit breakers often fail to trip when there is an overload or a short circuit. If this happens, electricity surges through the circuit, which causes overheating, and in some situations, fires. If your home was built within the above three decades, check the inside of the panel cover for ‘Federal Pacific’, ‘Federal Pacific Electric’, or ‘Stab-Lok.’
- Zinsco Electrical Panels
These panels were popular in the 1970s. The circuit breakers often melt to the main bus bar, which is a large metal strip that helps the electrical current flow from the electric meter to the panel. If there is melting, the breakers can’t trip, and there is a house fire risk. Look for ‘Zinsco’ or ‘GTE-Sylvania’ labels on your panel. After GTE-Sylvania purchased Zinsco, the panels were rebranded, but they could have the same problems.
If you are having an issue with your circuit breaker, don’t attempt to fix or replace it by yourself. Instead, call our team at Tapps Electric to do a thorough electrical inspection and panel replacement. Our licensed electricians have the training and expertise to get the job done right, so you can rest knowing your electrical panel is working exactly how it should. Contact us today!