Please take a moment to read this and other blogs from Jon Anello. Jon is an Active Rain Newbie and has written some very helpful information for homeowers. Jon is an electrical contractor in Fairfield County CT. Jon thanks for the information.
A circuit breaker is a device that’s specifically designed to prevent dangerous electrical situations from happening. Those dangerous situations include a short, which means that the hot and the ground or the neutral are touching before getting to the light bulb or load on that circuit. And it can produce a lot of heat and it can eventually lead to fires. That’s why we use breakers that trip to prevent that kind of situation. Besides that they also trip when there is an overload. An overloaded circuit typically happens when you’re using several devices that require a lot of electricity on the same circuit at the same time. In general devices that either get really hot or really cold draw a lot of power. So those devices include hair dryers, freezers, refrigerators and air-conditioning as well as microwaves and toaster ovens. You should try and avoid using several power hungry devices on the same circuit at the same time.
So for instance let’s say you have a whole bunch of relatives over for the holidays and everybody’s trying to get ready at the exact same time. In that situation multiple hair dryers are going on at the same time and because maybe they’re in a bathroom that you don’t usually use all the time, you forget about these things. What you don’t realize is that in some of the older homes around Stamford, CT maybe outlets are on the same circuit and it trips the breaker.
So, in that situation you want to relax. Don’t panic. And you grab a flashlight to try and figure out where is the breaker and what exactly happened.
Now first thing, you need to find all of the panels in your house. You know, because there is a main panel that’s usually close to the meter. That’s in the basement or the garage or something like that. But it’s not uncommon to have several different panels, you know, one or two subpanels scattered throughout the house somewhere. Or maybe it’s a subpanel specifically for the stuff on the generator. What happens all the time is people check the main panel and they forget about those subpanels and they wonder why they can’t reset the breaker.
So, once you find the panel, open the panel door and touch the handle of each breaker. You want to find to find out that the handle of each breaker is in the ’ON’ position. And make sure it doesn’t really move that much. Eventually you’ll get to one where the tension on that handle is slightly different. This breaker is in the tripped position. There’s ON, OFF and the center os the TRIPPED position. If the breaker is in the TRIPPED position, it must first be turned off, then switched on
Something to consider is that if you turn it in the OFF position and turn it back ON and it trips immediately. What that means is, it could be that there is a short in the panel, in the circuit somewhere. Or it could be a defective breaker. But it’s quite common to have a short.
After you’ve unplugged all those har dryers that were going on at the same time and the breaker still did not reset properly, what you want to do is go through the house and you need to search every single room. You start by turning on the main light in the room and see if that goes on. If it works then don’t worry about it, that’s not it, that’s on a different circuit. And after you turn on the light, check out all the outlets. If there’s a device plugged in there, like let’s say a TV, turn the TV on. If the TV works, great. It’s not the problem. If you find a device that does not turn on, like say a stereo system, you want to make sure you unplug that. And then you keep movingthroughout the whole house and then unplug anything that does not turn on. That’s anything that’s on that same breaker.
Now it’s important to realize that you have to check the whole house. Because there could be things in the attic or the basement that you forget about. With older homes in Stamford, it’s quite common to have let’s say a circuit that controls a couple of receptacles on the second floor, a few lights on the second floor, lighting in the attic and a few receptacles and lights in the basement. Now it seems kind of strange to have the attic and the basement on the same circuit but it’s actually quite common in older homes as things are added and over time you typically tap off of whatever junction box is most convenient. So if that junction box happens to feed a few things in the attic but that junction box in the basement, typically people tap off of that because it’s most convenient. So it might seem counter intuitive to have things in the basement and attic on the same circuit but it’s quite common. I see it all the time. So just make sure you go through the whole house because it’s always the room that you don’t check; that’s where the problem will be.
Once you unplug all the devices that are off and try and keep the switched in the off position on all those circuits that you find, go back to the panel and then you try and reset the breaker. Hopefully you will be able to reset the breaker in thatsituation and everything will turn back on. And then one by one you plug each device back in and that will eliminate where the problem is. Because it’s quite common for, let’s say you have let’s say this radio that you bought twenty years ago and over time it could have a short in it. So it’s quite common to have a short in those individual appliances. It’s also possible that that short is in the house wired and it could be somewhere. So try and eliminate the problems yourself, try and find out if the problem is just in a simple plug-in device. In that case you should probably throw out that device and then you continue operating as normal.
In the event that you can’t find the problem in that situation, you need to call a licensed electrician. For more information, please visit www.safeandsoundelectric.com .