Breakers keep tripping
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Licensed Mississauga electrician for help with breakers tripping on your electical panel.
Although you could just reset the circuit breaker every time it trips, figuring out the root of the problem will help you fix it once and for all. Common reasons your breaker keeps tripping include circuit overload, a short circuit, or a ground fault. The following information will help you understand the differences between these three reasons so that you can better resolve your circuit breaker and electrical system issues.
What is a Circuit Breaker?
Your circuit breakers protect your home from electrical issues by cutting off the flow of electricity through a circuit whenever the electrical current gets too high and unsafe. Without circuit breakers, electrical fires, shocks, and other forms of damage and injury would occur much more often.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how a circuit breaker works, it’s important to understand how electricity works. Electricity is the name we give the movement of electrical charge from one atom to another. We use electricity as a secondary energy source that comes from a primary energy source like natural gas, coal, or even solar. Electricity is composed of three main qualities: voltage, current, and resistance.
Electrical voltage is the amount of pressure that it takes to make the electric charge move through the conductor. It flows at the rate of current. Resistance occurs when the electric current interacts with the conductor. Different kinds of conductors offer different levels of resistance, which is why some materials conduct electricity better than others. Remember the potato battery experiment you might have done in grade school? The potato helps conduct electricity by acting as a bridge between two metals.
You probably won’t be finding any potatoes in your home’s wiring system, though. The wiring in your house will usually be composed of three different types of wires: a hot wire that conducts the electric current, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. (Hot wires are usually black, neutral wires are usually white, and ground wires are usually green.) Like ships in the night, the hot and neutral wires will typically never touch each other. The current passes through an appliance that creates a high level of resistance to the current; this process keeps the voltage at safe levels.
However, every so often, something can cause the hot and neutral wires to come into contact. When this happens, the resistance to the current is dramatically reduced, which can cause dangerous voltage and current levels—even a fire. When these voltage and current levels are higher than they should be, you’ll have a tripped circuit breaker. The trip cuts off electricity to the circuit until the issue can be resolved and safety restored.
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