Soaring electric bills, electrical shocks when operating appliances, flickering lights, circuit breakers tripping off too often and lights burning out at a high rate are all warning signs that your home's electrical system needs checking and repair work. Failure to attend to electrical problems can be disastrous.
If left unattended, problems with your household electrics will jeopardise the safety of your family and can also cause costly damage to appliances and the entire property.
Due to the inherent risks associated with electricity, there are several safety devices meant to cut off power supply at the first sign of any problem. Circuit breakers are one of those electrical safety devices. Tripping breakers cause a sudden loss of power and are a sign that a home is protected from electric faults.
Check out some common causes of circuit breaker tripping below.
This is by far the most common reason why circuit breakers trip. A circuit overload occurs when you're running too many high-wattage appliances and devices on a single circuit simultaneously.
When the load on the circuit is higher than the circuit can handle, the breaker trips to prevent overheating that may lead to power surges and fire. For example, if you plug in and turn on an electric cooker and microwave oven at the same time and they draw more current than your 20-amp kitchen circuit can handle, the breaker will trip to prevent your appliances from getting damaged.
If a circuit trips because of an overload, you can try unplugging one of the heavy items from the circuit before resetting and turning it on again. If you want to use the extra items at the same time, use a separate circuit for the electrical power.
A short circuit occurs when an active electrical wire and a neutral wire touch, allowing a large amount of current to flow through the circuit. This causes the circuit to overheat.
When the heat generated is more than the circuit can handle, the breaker trips, cutting off the power supply to potentially prevent a fire. There are several reasons why short circuits could occur, but faulty/loose electrical wiring is the main culprit.
Because a short circuit is caused by contact between an active wire and a neutral one, it often leaves a burning smell around the breaker. Plus, you may spot a dark discolouration around the burnt section.
Electricity is inherently dangerous to deal with, especially if you're not trained and experienced in electrical safety. The best thing to do when you notice the above problems or any other problem with your household electrics is to contact a qualified residential electrician for help.