Can a Circuit Breaker Fail Without Tripping? Yes, (Find Out!)
You know that little feeling of annoyance you get when you maybe ran too many things at once and tripped a breaker? Well, what about when you’re just minding your own business and all of a sudden the lights and the big game on TV all go out at once?
You can see it’s not a power failure because the light in the kitchen is still on. You check the breaker box but none of them look tripped. You flip the breaker just to be sure and still nothing.
It is possible for a circuit breaker to fail without actually tripping the breaker. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you did anything wrong but simply means that the breaker needs to be replaced. It’s a good idea to use a certified electrician to help repair or replace the failed breaker.
While it’s not ideal to be in this situation, it’s important to take action to remedy a failed circuit breaker when it happens. Avoiding the issue could leave your home at risk. Here are some tips to consider.
What Causes Circuit Breaker Tripping?
This scenario may lead you to wonder just what is wrong with the circuit breaker. Why did it fail when everything seems to be fine?
Typically, a failed circuit breaker is a sign of a bigger problem. It’s certainly an indicator that your circuit needs to be replaced but it also could be an indication that there is a bigger problem at hand.
Here is a quick look at some of those underlying issues that typically cause a circuit breaker to trip.
If your circuit has loose wires or exposed wires, this could be leading to the breaker problem. These wires may just need to be adjusted or connected with a more stable connection to avoid repeated failure of a breaker.
This may be a simple fix but you should not handle the wires on your own. Bring in a licensed professional to handle the wires as they are trained for these circumstances.
Exposed wires also are part of a larger problem too, as you will see in the following statements.
Ground Fault Issues
If an exposed wire makes contact with a grounded component of the circuit, this leads to a ground fault. What happens is the wire pulls a heavy amount of amps through to the ground, causing the breaker to trip because of the overload.
Each circuit has a maximum load that it can tolerate so in this case the contact with the grounded component overloads the maximum and then leads to a tripped breaker.
Ground fault limitations are in place to protect your home. This is your basic tripped breaker. However, if this is happening repeatedly, you should have it checked out as it could lead to an electrical fire if the breaker were to fail to trip at overload.
A certified electrician should be used to correct the issue.
A short circuit occurs when a neutral wire and an active wire (or hot wire) make contact. While they would not make contact in normal circumstances, an exposed wire could lead to contact. The wires may be exposed simply because the insulation has worn down over time or perhaps even from miswired points.
In this event, the hot wire and the neutral wire make contact, creating sparks as well as smoke from the contact. If you are nearby, you may hear popping noises before the breaker trips from the contact. This tripping cause is called a short circuit.
In order to correct a short circuit issue, a certified electrician will need to repair the exposed wires that are causing the issue at hand.
Circuits have a maximum load that they can handle and overloading that circuit is one of the biggest reasons that breakers tend to be tripped.
If a circuit is given more amperage than it can handle, the breaker will trip. We see this in things like using too many appliances in one outlet at a time.
Overloading a circuit should not be a regular problem. If for some reason, you are experiencing this regularly, it’s a good idea to have a certified electrician take a look and see if they might be able to upgrade that particular circuit to handle a larger load.
All of these circumstances could point to a bigger problem at hand, which then leads to a failed circuit breaker.
Let’s take a look at some of the signs of problems that could lead to the failed circuit breaker.
How Can You Tell if a Circuit Breaker is Going Bad?
While an outage or a tripped breaker could certainly indicate bigger issues, there are some specific signs that indicate a breaker going bad as well.
Here are some common indicators to consider.
Perhaps you’re checking out the circuit breakers and notice that one of the breakers (probably the one directly related to your issues) feels hot. If a circuit breaker feels hot, this is a bad sign. With the normal operation, a breaker will never feel hot to your touch, although they can be warm at times.
If this is the case, we recommend that you turn off the main power immediately and call a licensed electrician to check it out. Hot breakers can be the start of a fire if they are not handled immediately.
If you’re smelling something in the air that smells hot or like burning wires, there’s a good chance you need to have things checked out.
The smell is generally an indication that either something has been burning or is burning. In some cases, a spark could occur that has caused the insulation around the wire to burn or melt.
Circuit breakers are made from self-extinguishing materials but you should never rely on this. If you smell that burning smell from your breakers, you need to call an electrician and be very mindful of the risk of fire until they get there to help.
If your circuit breaker is tripping frequently and you can’t pinpoint the reason, this is an indication that the breaker is failing. It could also mean that your breaker is overloaded.
You can try to reduce the load by using less to the same circuit or disconnecting some items but if the issue continues, it’s more likely a sign the breaker is failing.
In either case, a certified electrician can help to correct the issue.
In closing, your circuit breakers can fail without tripping and you should never take this issue lightly. Most of the time, a tripping breaker is a sign of a bigger problem and a failed breaker is because the bigger problem has occurred.
It is important that you do not try to mess with the wires and connections on your own. This should be left up to a certified electrician as they are trained to work with these items.
If you are having regular tripping breakers or you have a failed breaker without tripping, we recommend checking for these items and calling in a certified electrician as quickly as possible to repair any issues.