Circuit breakers are an important part of your home’s electrical system. They keep you and your family safe by shutting off excess current if it reaches dangerous levels.
Most circuit breakers are marked with an amperage symbol that indicates how much power they can handle. If a surge of electricity or a short circuit occurs, the breaker will trip and cut off the flow of power.
What is a Circuit Breaker?
Circuit breakers are devices that disconnect a line of electricity when it experiences a problem in the current flow. They do this to prevent electrical fires or electrocution. A breaker can also reset the line when it is working properly again.
In a nutshell, a circuit breaker is a switch that monitors the flow of electric current and cuts off the flow when it detects an overload or short circuit. The breaker is typically installed in a breaker panel in a building or business, and it is the first line of defense for protecting people and equipment from electrical hazards.
A circuit breaker is designed to withstand a specific range of fault current, so that it can safely interrupt the current flow. This allows other circuit breakers to resolve the fault before it can become dangerous.
When a breaker detects a fault, it uses stored mechanical energy or the higher current caused by the fault to separate the contacts. It can do this using compressed air, a spring or thermal expansion.
This process is called arc extinction, and it must be done quickly to avoid further damage. Arc extinction is a crucial safety feature of most breakers.
Arc extinction is the process by which an arc between the circuit breaker’s contacts is dissipated. Different types of breaker use different techniques for this purpose.
Often, the arc is split or divided into multiple smaller arcs so that it does not reach the terminals & cause damage. In other cases, it is extinguished by using a conductive ionized gas or molten metal.
Another type of arc extinction technique is zero-current quenching, which is a common feature on most breakers. This is used to extinguish the arc when it does not need to be there, such as when there is a low load or if it is part of a series circuit.
Large low-voltage molded case or power circuit breakers may have an electric motor operator so that they can open and close under remote control. These are often used in standby power systems, or as a transfer switch to activate and deactivate in the event of a power outage.
How Does a Circuit Breaker Work?
You probably know a circuit breaker is designed to protect electrical systems. It can stop current from flowing when things get too hot or when an overload or short circuit occurs.
But you might not be sure how these safety devices work. You might think they work a lot like fuses, but there are some differences.
First, unlike fuses, a circuit breaker is resetable. This means that you can switch it back to the “on” position when problems have been fixed and the system is safe again.
Secondly, unlike fuses, a circuit blaze can handle more than one circuit at a time. This can save money and help you keep a tighter grip on your power usage.
A circuit breaker has two main parts: a switch and an electromagnet coil. When electricity flows through the switch, it magnetizes the electromagnet coil. The higher the current, the more magnetic force is generated. This can move the electromagnet coil’s spool, which can in turn move the switch linkage and moving contact, breaking the circuit.
Another important part of a circuit breaker is the operating mechanism, which allows it to open and close. Most breakers have a lever that is used to manually trip and reset the device, while some have an actuator mechanism that forces the contacts together or apart when current flows through them.
The operation of a circuit breaker depends on the voltage class, current rating and type of circuit being protected. Small mains and low-voltage circuit breakers use the heating or magnetic effects of electric current to detect a fault condition, while larger high-voltage devices require a separate power source.
Many circuit breakers are equipped with protective relay pilot devices that sense a fault and then open the opening mechanism, which interrupts current flow. These devices can be connected to a central power supply, but some are self-contained and require only an internal control power source.
Some circuit breakers are also designed to use a shunt trip, which is a solenoid that is activated by an external constant voltage signal rather than a current. These are typically used to shut off the power when an alarm or other high-risk event is detected.
What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip?
A circuit breaker is an important safety device that shuts off power to your electrical devices or entire circuit if too much electricity is passing through it. This is so that the circuit doesn’t overheat or catch fire, which can be dangerous to your home and its inhabitants.
Typically, a circuit breaker trips when one of the many electrical wires or appliances plugged into it tries to draw more electricity than it’s designed to handle. This can occur for a number of reasons, including faulty wiring, overheating, or a bad connection to another circuit.
It also can happen if the current isn’t flowing through a proper pathway, which can be caused by water from dripping pipes, leaky windows, or any other moisture source that reaches your outlet. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent this problem.
First, it’s important to make sure that your home’s circuits are properly sized for the amount of power you’re using. Generally, you want to keep the total load on any one circuit under 20 amps.
You’ll want to check each individual appliance or light fixture and make sure it’s not causing a circuit overload, which is the most common reason for a circuit breaker to trip. If you have multiple appliances or fixtures that are causing the breaker to trip, it’s time to call an electrician to figure out what is causing this issue.
Another thing to watch out for is a short circuit, which happens when a hot wire in your wiring comes into contact with any of the neutral or copper ground wires within the circuit’s wiring or a device plugged into an outlet on that circuit. This is more dangerous than an overloaded circuit, as it allows too much current to flow through the circuit.
A short circuit can happen because of a variety of factors, but most frequently it is a result of faulty or worn wiring in your home. It’s recommended that you have your home inspected by an electrician to ensure your wiring is safe and properly installed.
Lastly, there are several other possible reasons that your circuit breaker may trip, such as storms and lightning. It’s best to have a whole-home surge protection system installed in case of a storm, but if you aren’t able to do this, it’s still worth having your wiring inspected and updated.
How Can I Fix a Tripped Circuit Breaker?
A tripped circuit breaker can be frustrating. It can interrupt your daily routines, bringing your lights and appliances to a halt, and can even be dangerous. However, if you know what to do, it’s possible to fix a tripped circuit breaker without having to call an electrician.
The first thing to do is determine what’s causing the circuit breaker to trip. Look at the appliances and devices you’re using in the affected area, and see if any of them are consuming more power than they should be. This is a common issue when high-powered appliances such as microwaves, dryers, wall heaters, and air conditioners are turned on for long periods of time.
Next, examine the plugs on each appliance and see if they’re hot to the touch. If so, this indicates that the circuit breaker is getting too much current from this particular device.
If you can find the cause of the tripped breaker, it’s important to fix it before your home becomes a fire hazard. To do this, unplug all of the appliances that are plugged into the circuit where the breaker tripped and make sure there are no loose wires or damaged connections.
Once all of your appliances have been properly unplugged, reset the breaker again. This should restore power to all of the rooms affected by the tripped breaker.
Resetting a tripped circuit breaker can be done with minimal effort, but it’s important to do it right the first time. This process includes moving the breaker to the full “off” position before reversing it to the “on” position. You should hear an audible click when you do this.
After the breaker has reset, you can test to see whether it’s working again. Try turning on a few of the lights and appliances that were affected by the tripped breaker. If they don’t work, then the breaker is likely faulty and needs to be replaced by a licensed electrician.
While you can usually resolve a tripped circuit breaker on your own, it’s always best to call an electrician when you’re not sure what the problem is. If you’re covered by Select Home Warranty, we will help coordinate sending the right professional to your home so that you don’t have to pay out of pocket to repair or replace your electrical system.