General Question

Nullo's avatar

Electrical jellies! Got a circuit breaker (home) that has popped and won't reset. Suggestions?

Asked by Nullo (21916points) July 9th, 2012

It probably wasn’t caused by last night’s storm, since it happened this morning.

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20 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

My husband, who was a master electrician, said you need to call a professional. You either have a bad breaker or the breaker that refuses to reset is saving your life because you have a dead short some place and your house would burn down if ithe breaker wasn’t tripped.

bkcunningham's avatar

Do you know what is on that breaker?

WestRiverrat's avatar

Unplug all of the appliances on that breaker, reset it. If it pops again call the electrician.

If it doesn’t pop again, you either had too much stuff plugged into that circuit, or one of the appliances on the breaker is bad.

Plug each item that you unplugged in individually until you have tried them all, if the breaker pops you found your bad appliance, have that fixed or replaced.

If none of the appliances blows the circuit by itself then split the load among different circuits.
Then call the electrician to check your load, sometimes the electric company will do this for you.

Nullo's avatar

@bkcunningham It’s the master bedroom and the upstairs bathroom, and below is the TV room and second bathroom.

@WestRiverrat I tried unplugging the TV and resetting, will try unplugging everything.

marinelife's avatar

Replace it.

Nullo's avatar

Just finished pulling everything, no luck with the breaker. Will see about replacing it.
Would that task fall within the skill set of the budding amateur?

marinelife's avatar

“Typically circuit breakers will not need to be replaced. Unlike a fuse, a circuit breaker is designed to reset. On occasion a circuit breaker may break or malfunction resulting in the need replace it with a new breaker. Most residential homes have a main circuit breaker and separate branch circuit breakers that connect to different area in the home. If your circuit breaker requires replacement you will need to follow the steps below on how to replace a circuit breaker.

In order to replace a common household circuit breaker that is housed in a regular 2-pole main breaker with branch circuit compartments, you would first turn off all of the branch circuit breakers and then the main circuit breaker. Never assume the breakers are off; you need to check for voltage on adjacent breakers to make sure the breaker panel is dead.

Next, take off the panel cover. This will give you access to branch circuit breakers but not the main breaker compartment. Do not attempt to remove the cover to the main breaker; this should only be accessed by a certified electrician. You can replace the circuit breaker by just removing the panel cover.

Once you have removed the cover then you can disconnect the wire from the faulty breaker and pull it out of the way. Now, carefully pry the defective circuit breaker out of its position. Take note of how the breaker fits in the panel and locks into position so that you can put the new circuit breaker in correctly. Upside down and sideways positions typically do not work. Next, insert the new circuit breaker.

While you have the circuit panel open, check the other branch circuits to make sure they are properly in place and tighten any loose parts. Put the panel cover back on and make sure all the branch circuit switches are in the “off” position. Proceed to turn on the main circuit breaker and then flip on each individual branch breaker separately. Test the circuits to make sure they are working properly and stay set.

If the replacement circuit is working right then you are finished. If you still have a circuit problem then you may want to check the electrical devices associated with the circuit or consult a professional for further assistance.”


WestRiverrat's avatar

Did you just flip the breaker back on? With most breakers you have to turn them off before you turn them back on to reset them.

jrpowell's avatar

Seconding WestRiverrat. If the breaker feels “mushy” when you flip it back on you need to make sure you turn the breaker all the way off and then flip it back on. There should be some resistance then it snaps on.

And replacing a breaker is simple. Doing it without killing yourself is a different story.

Nullo's avatar

Did a full reset, yes.

jerv's avatar

If you unplugged all the things on the circuit and it still trips, either the breaker is bad or the wiring is shot. Replacing a breaker is an easy fix if you are dextrous enough to tie your own shoes and courageous enough to ignore what might happen if you screw up. (It’s easy enough to not screw up that worrying about the consequences serves no purpose other than increasing the slim odds of failure dramatically.) As for wiring, that is for the professionals.

bkcunningham's avatar

I was going to tell you it isn’t difficult to change the breaker BUT to make sure you buy the same type of breaker you are replacing. My husband said if you needed someone to tell you that, you should get an electrician to do the work. lol Be careful.

filmfann's avatar

@bkcunningham gave great advice in her first post. Listen to it.

jerv's avatar

@bkcunningham I agree.

That said, sometimes it’s easy to forget that things that may seem common sense to one person may be dark magic to another. After spending a few years as an electrician in the Navy, I am used to replacing breakers and working on live panels without even thinking about it, paying attention to amperage ratings, etcetera. The average person… not so much.

RocketGuy's avatar

@nullo – you clicked it all the way off then tried to click it on? If it tripped after that, go with @jerv‘s advice.

Paradox25's avatar

I’m an industrial electrician so I think that I can help. Chances are the main would trip if you had a dead short, which is different from an overload. A dead short is an overload, but the biggest difference is that with a short you’re drawing up to several hundred, if not thousands of amps, so the main would likely trip before a fire in that case. An overloaded circuit on the other hand is far more dangerous, because if you’re drawing 30 amps on a circuit where the defective breaker and wiring is rated for 20 amps or less, the main won’t trip and the wiring (which depended on the defective breaker for protection) will eventually heat up, and well you don’t want to go there.

You’ve already said that you’ve tried to turn the breaker off to try to reset it before turning it back on, and it didn’t reset. Yes, at that point you need to replace it. I have to ask you whether or not the breaker is the snap on or bolt on variety. The snap on variety is easy, and you don’t need to turn off your main to replace it. You will have take the breaker cover off so you can disconnect the single wire (I’m assuming it is a single pole and not a double pole breaker) from the breaker terminal. As long as the breaker is open (as in being off) your wire should be deenergized. Once the wire is disconnected then you can just pull on the breaker to snap it off of the bus bar. Make sure your replacement breaker is of the same amperage as the original, make sure the breaker is flipped into the off position, and then just snap it back in to the bus bar. You can now just easily connect the wire/s back on to the breaker terminal. Flip the breaker to make sure the new one isn’t defective (or something else) and once you’ve verified that the breaker works you can screw the cover back on to the breaker panel.

I would say that if you’re not sure here though, to just go to a Lowe’s or other type of hardware store and an electrical pro can probably demonstrate how to do this right in front of you. I would also keep a multimeter, or at least a vol-con meter (more common for residential electricians to use than the multimeter) so you know whether an outlet or another device is energized or not. You can ask an electrical pro at Lowe’s (or another store) to show you how to use these as well.

jerv's avatar

Fun fact – Fuses and breakers are generally not designed to protect equipment and appliances; their true purpose is to prevent the wiring from starting fires. People who think they are being smart by replacing them with higher amperage fuses/breakers (or, gawd forbid, solid metal, like a penny) are generally a Class C fire waiting to happen.

Nullo's avatar

We had the electrician out today, who pronounced the cause to be a dead short. The wiring is sufficiently weird (installed almost as the whim took the handyman) that actually finding the short is going to be very tricky indeed. The wire in question snakes through floor joists and a few junction boxes before splitting five or six different ways.

jerv's avatar

And now you know why I personally never enjoyed tracing wiring issues.

Glad to hear you figured out the problem :)

Nullo's avatar

Oooh, old Q.
The issue was found in the master bedroom ceiling fan.

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