How to Reset a Circuit Breaker How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker acts to protect the electrical circuit if it overloads or short-circuits. In case of a fault, the device trips and interrupts the electrical flow. Resetting the circuit breaker and restoring the power is a straightforward and easy job.

Reset the Breaker

The first thing you need to do is to switch off all light fixtures and unplug any device that might have caused the problem. Then equip yourself with a flashlight to ensure that you have plenty of light while working on the circuit breaker. Locate the electrical service panel which should be positioned where the power comes into your home (for instance, entrance, garage, or basement). The panel will either have a lock with a key or a plastic latch which need to be opened. If you examine the circuit breaker, you will see that the switches have three positions—ON (towards the center of the panel), OFF (towards the edge of the panel), and a middle point. If the switch is in the middle position, it has tripped and needs to be reset. Push the switch towards the OFF position and then, push it back into the ON position, towards the center of the panel. You will hear a click sound. If the switch stays in this position, you should have successfully reset the circuit breaker, and the power will be restored. As a precautionary measure (in case that there are sparks from the electrical service panel), it is advisable to wear safety glasses and stand to the side of the panel. In addition, make sure that your hands are dry and you are standing on a dry surface.

Determine the Source of the Problem

After you have reset the circuit breaker, several steps may be taken to determine the source of the problem. Switch on all fixed lights. If the breaker does not trip, the problem is probably caused by a device that you have plugged into an outlet. Carefully plug in each appliance, one by one, and if the circuit breaker trips again, it means that the appliance in question is either causing a short or is overloading the circuit. Reset the circuit breaker again and do not plug the appliance until fixed.

Another possible explanation for the tripping might be that the circuit is overloaded. This means that you have plugged in too many devices. Try switching off some of the high power consuming devices such as heaters or air conditioners in order to reduce the load or move them to another circuit. Short circuits can also cause the circuit breaker to trip. In order to establish if a short is the culprit, inspect the cords for signs of melting. Check whether the plugs and outlets smell of burnt or if they appear blackened.  

If the switch on the circuit breaker does not stay in the ON position (even though you haven’t plugged in anything or switched it back on), there might be a more serious problem with the wiring. So, you may need to call a professional electrician.

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