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A circuit breaker protects an electrical circuit from damage by way of an automatic electrical switch. If a surge of current occurs from an overloaded circuit, the circuit breaker interrupts the current flow when detected and cuts the power.

A circuit breaker is an essential safety element protecting homes and businesses from potential fires or problems caused by equipment failure. Examples of common electrical faults are a toaster short circuiting or an overloaded electrical grid.

Common Signs Your Circuit Breaker is Failing

If your circuit breaker is overloaded and having problems, you’ll notice a few common signs. These include:

A Burning Odor Coming from the Electrical Panel

A circuit breaker that is in distress may give off a burning smell. This commonly happens near to the electrical panel and points to the insulation in or around the circuit breaker not doing its job. You may notice electrical shorts, overheating and even a small fire in advanced situations.

Turn off the circuit breaker immediately if you notice any of these signs. Disconnect your circuit breakers from the main if you’re not sure which has a problem. Call in a Vancouver electrician as soon as possible to remedy the situation.

The Breaker Keeps Tripping After Multiple Resets

If your circuit breaker trips repeatedly, even after a reset, this points to a system failure somewhere. It may mean the internal wiring has an issue, the circuit breaker has an internal problem or the electrical appliance attached to the circuit breaker has a fault.

It’s best to call in a local Vancouver electrician if you don’t know why your circuit breaker keeps tripping. A trained eye can assess your system, to work out what is causing the fault. The fix may include replacing a circuit breaker, upgrading the circuit wiring, renewing an electrical outlet or removing a faulty electrical appliance.

Physical Signs Such as Damage, Smoking or Burning

An overloaded circuit breaker may cause burn marks, melted plastic and smoke. This is an obvious sign of failure that could lead to further damage in your circuit breakers and the main panel. You need to act quickly in this situation, disconnecting all appliances and dealing with burnt areas.

Immediate attention is needed from an electrician and shouldn’t be repaired yourself. The panel or circuit breakers may need replacing, plus other electrical components in your property will need checking over.

What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Overload?

If too many appliances are plugged into the same circuit through extension cords or on wall outlets, this can cause an overloaded circuit. When the rated load is exceeded, the breaker may trip shutting down the circuit.

The circuit breaker is there to prevent the overheating of wiring, which could melt the panel and at worst cause a fire. On the flip side, if you have the wrong fuse or breaker, this safety feature may not do its job. Always consult an electrician to ensure you have the right circuit breaker for your needs.

How to Avoid Overloading Your Circuit Breaker?

Be aware of the amperage of your fuses or breakers to prevent a circuit overload. A circuit should be loaded no more than 80% of its amperage rating, according to the Electrical Code Safety Regulations. For example, if a 20-amp breaker receives 16 amps of power, it will trip.

Always aim to keep below the 80% range to prevent overloads. Knowing how much power your appliances use, avoids overloading the circuit breaker. Appliances that draw 1,000 watts of power or more, shouldn’t be plugged into the same circuit or plug. These include:

  • Irons
  • Hot plates
  • Refrigerators
  • Deep fryers
  • Dishwashers
  • Heaters
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Air conditioners
  • Microwave ovens

Refer to the manufacturer’s manual for each appliance to find out how much power each uses.

Other ways to prevent overloading your circuit breaker include:

  • Refrain from using an extension cord for appliances
  • Only use extension cords as a short term solution
  • Plug one heat producing appliance into an outlet at a time
  • Repair wire cracks and exposed wires immediately and perform regular checks
  • Plug kitchen appliances into different outlets and not all on the same one

How to Fix an Overloaded Circuit Breaker?

The immediate solution is to move plugged-in devices from the overloaded circuit to another circuit. Then the circuit breaker can be flipped back on and the fuse replaced if necessary. If your circuit breaker keeps tripping, this points to a failure somewhere in the system, which should be investigated by an experienced Vancouver electrician.

Is it Safe to Replace a Circuit Breaker Yourself?

If you have previously trained as an electrician, or are experienced with electrics, in theory you could replace a faulty circuit breaker yourself. It’s important to remember that if you don’t know what you’re doing and attempt the job, this poses a serious safety risk and the possibility of a denied insurance claim if your work results in a fire later on.

The best course of action is to employ a professionally licensed electrician to do the job and inspect your electrical wiring. This can be completed in a minimal amount of time at an affordable rate.

Conclusion

Now you know how to tell if your circuit breaker is overloaded and what to do about it. For severe overloads where you notice burning and smoke, it’s imperative to call in a Vancouver electrician to remedy the situation.

If left, the possibility of fire is real, causing an extreme safety hazard for you and your family. For more information or to request help, reach out to us anytime.

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