All About Circuit Breakers

by jandp123

How does a circuit breaker work?  What exactly shuts the breaker off to prevent the electrical flow from overheating?  Overheating is known as tripping the circuit.  It is crucial that in residential or industrial settings that the connection is tripped.  A circuit breaker does just that.  It shuts off the flow of electricity to the circuit’s thus causing break in the current of electricity.  Instead of ignoring the issue by flipping the switch and resetting the breaker it is crucial that you find the reason the circuit keeps tripping in the first place.

There are three main reasons that a circuit is tripped:

  • An overload on the circuit
  • A short within the circuit
  • A ground fault

No matter if you are a commercial or industrial user it is important to learn what causes a circuit to trip and how to repair it.  This will allow you to save time and money in the long run.

A circuit that is overloaded remains the most common issue of a tripped breaker.  It is pretty simple actually; an overloaded circuit happens when too many things are plugged in at one time.  Even if it is many different outlets, if they are all on the same circuit it will trip.  Consider this, if a circuit has 15 amps but 20 amps of electricity are all plugged in to the same circuit then it will shut off. This helps to prevent overheating. The more current that flows through the circuit over what it is made to carry will prevent the circuit from overheating and will instead trip the breaker.

In order to prevent this it is crucial that the power is redistributed.  Items that require a lot of power should not all be plugged in on one circuit.  Heaters, irons, hair dryers, and more should not be all on one circuit. If all of these appliances must be used on one circuit then it is important to hire a professional to run a new circuit.

Another reason for an overheated circuit can be an overheating appliance. In the summer, overheating central air conditioners are notorious for this – when overheated, they pull in more amps than normal, causing the entire circuit to overload.

A short circuit offers a bit more to be concerned about. A short means that a hot wire is touching another hot wire or neutral wire.  When this occurs an abundance of current is allowed to flow through and creates more heat than the circuit was cut out for.  This allows it to shut off.  The smell of burning or discoloration at the outlet means that you have a short circuit.  Immediately turn off the power at the outlet and have a professional electrician out to replace it.

A ground fault is even more serious than an overloaded circuit as it is a short circuit where a hot wire touches a ground wire or the wall of a metal outlet box.  The identifiers are the same as a short circuit, the smell and the discoloration.  Don’t attempt to fix this yourself.  Circuit breakers are important as they are a safety device that allows a circuit to be broken before a problem occurs.

Learn more about J & P Electrical Company and their vast line of new, surplus, and refurbished industrial electrical components including: circuit breakers, bus ducts, bus plugs, disconnects, fuses, panel switches, tap boxes, and transformers at www.jpelectricalcompany.com.  To contact one of our product reconditioning specialists call 877.844.5514 today.

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