Lamps won’t come on? Kitchen can’t power your appliances? TV keeps turning off and on? If this kind of stuff happens often — even after you’ve checked your breaker panel and flipped the switch back on — then the issue is that you have a circuit breaker that keeps tripping.

So, what do you do when your circuit breaker keeps tripping?

In this article, we’re going to talk about why this happens and what to do when it does. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is a Circuit Breaker and What Does it Mean When It Trips?

circuit breaker installed on wall to minimize tripping

All homes and businesses have a system of electrical circuits that are controlled and protected by a switching device, otherwise known as a circuit breaker. The circuit breaker is typically located in a consumer unit or fuse panel, depending on whether it’s in a house, business, or building, and it’s used to cut off power completely or turn it back on.

Generally speaking, a circuit breaker will trip when there is an electrical fault that can damage the circuit board. Most modern systems today use circuit breakers that provide better control and protection from electrical faults; however, many homes and buildings still have older units with fuses that are ready to blow when overloaded.

When your circuit breaker “trips,” it’s really just switching off to protect its fuses and the rest of the electrical components — and your home. Excessive overheating can not only damage your circuits but lead to an electrical fire. So, when there’s an electrical fault, the circuit breaker will automatically cut off your electrical supply

What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip?

As stated above, your circuit breaker will trip when an electrical fault occurs. This would include occurrences such as:

  • Excess current
  • A power surge
  • A faulty component

These occurrences are typically summed up into three categories: Overloads, short circuits, and ground fault surges.


circuit breaker gets tripped from overloaded outlet

Overloads are arguably the most common reason why a circuit breaker keeps tripping. Overloads occur when there’s a greater electrical demand on a specific circuit than that circuit is capable of producing.

It can also occur when you have too many light fixtures or appliances running at once. This can also be risky for the fixtures and appliances connected to that circuit. Essentially, the circuit breaker will trip to prevent the electrical wiring from overheating so your appliances’ circuits don’t get fried or catch fire.

Short Circuits

Short circuits are also common and even more dangerous compared to a circuit breaker overload. Short circuits occur when one or more of your electrical outlets is faulty and a live wire comes in contact with a neutral wire. It can also occur if there’s a loose connection somewhere or faulty wiring in a plug or appliance.

When there’s a short circuit, the regular electrical resistance will be overridden, and then all of a sudden, there’ll be too much current flowing through the system. This creates too much heat for the circuit to handle, which leads to a circuit trip.

When a circuit shorts out, you may notice a burning smell as well as some discoloration around the breaker. When this happens, it’s best not to continuously use the appliances that caused the shortage to avoid a fire hazard.

Ground Fault Surges

ground fault surge burns outlet and trips circuit breaker

Ground fault surges behave similarly to short circuits. The only difference is that they involve a live wire touching a bare copper ground wire or part of a metal outlet box where the ground wire is connected. This is something that also causes an excess flow of electricity, which leads to a breaker trip to prevent a fire hazard.

When there’s a ground fault surge, you may also notice discoloration around the outlet responsible.

What To Do if Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it’s an indication that too much power is being demanded from the circuit due to the above reasons. What needs to happen next is your appliances and devices must be redistributed onto different circuits — or upgrade your electrical system to something more current that can handle the power demand.

You can also try the following to determine the main culprit:

Test For a Circuit Overload

woman at home flips switches after tripping circuit breaker

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, one of the first things you want to do is go to your electrical panel and turn off all the switches in the affected area and unplug all of your appliances, devices, and fixtures. Then, plug everything back in and turn on all the switches. Turn on your appliances one at a time and see if the breaker trips again.

If it does, you can try this again but turn on all your appliances in a different order — it’ll give you a good idea of how many appliances and devices your breaker can handle at once.

Check For a Short Circuit

Repeat the above steps to see which appliance causes the circuit to trip. Then proceed to plug that appliance into an outlet in a different room once you’ve flipped the switches back on.

If the breaker in each room trips from that one appliance, it means there’s a short in the appliance and it needs to be fixed or replaced. If the circuit breaks every time you turn on a specific switch or use a certain plug, there could be a shortage in your home wiring.

Call in the Professionals

A circuit breaker that keeps tripping isn’t just annoying and inconvenient — it’s also dangerous. If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, it can put your entire home and family at risk, and it’s not necessarily something you can fix on your own.

When your circuit breaker trips, it’s best to call in a professional electrician to diagnose and fix the problem. Reach out to us at Electric City Corporation today for a free consultation or to learn more about our services.