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Why Do Circuit Breakers Trip?

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

The electrical system in every home contains a system of circuits controlled and protected by either fuses or circuit breakers. Most of today's homes use circuit breakers as opposed to fuses, but older homes that still have an outdated electrical system may use fuses. Circuit breakers or fuses are typically found in the main service panel.

Electrical panel installed by Always Affordable Electric Inc.
Electrical panel installed by Always Affordable Electric Inc.

What is a circuit breaker? Homes with upgraded electrical systems have circuit breakers to offer individual control and protection. These circuits are automatically operated electrical switches with on and off buttons designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage due to an influx of electrical currents.

So what causes circuit breakers to trip? A few reasons your breakers may trip include overloads, short circuits, ground fault surges.


Overloads are a very common reason for circuit breakers to trip over and over again. Overloads occur when you put a greater electrical demand on a particular circuit than it is capable of producing, or if you have too many lights or appliances running simultaneously. The demand for power will cause the circuit to overheat, which will then put at risk all the electrical appliances that are connected to that circuit.

A circuit breaker that trips regularly indicates that you are demanding too much power from the circuit. In this case, you need to redistribute your appliances and devices onto different circuits, or upgrade your system if it just doesn't have enough circuits for today's modern demands.


Short circuits are another common cause of circuit breakers tripping - they're also more dangerous. Short circuits happen when there is a fault in your electrical outlets and a live wire comes in contact with a neutral one. They also occur if there is a loose connection or fault in the wiring of an appliance or plug.

If a short circuit happens, the normal electrical resistance will be overridden, and too much current will suddenly flow through the circuit. Short circuits create too much heat for the circuit, and the breaker will trip to shut off the circuit and prevent a fire. Sometimes you’ll notice a burning smell or dark discoloration around the breaker, indicating a short circuit.


Ground fault surges are similar to short circuits, but instead involve a live wire touching either a bare copper ground wire, or part of a metal outlet box to which the ground wire is connected. This will again cause an excess flow of electricity, and the breaker will trip for the same reason. When a ground fault surge occurs, you will also see discoloration around the outlet.

When circuit breakers trip, it is not just annoying, but it can also be dangerous. If your circuit breakers trip frequently, you could put your residence at risk if you fail to address the issue. It is important to call a professional to address these issues properly to keep you and your family safe.

Always Affordable Electric specializes in panel repair and panel upgrades. If you have any questions or concerns about electrical safety, including any questions about tripping circuit breakers, don't hesitate to give us a call. Always Affordable Electric is licensed and insured, and we are here to help you address any of your electrical needs. Give us a call at 215-927-1100 to receive a free quote from one of our experienced electricians.


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