Dealing with Your Breaker Box

For first time homeowners, the breaker box can be an intimidating responsibility. Understanding how it works, what its purpose is, and how to troubleshoot some of the common problems you might experience.

The first thing you should understand about your breaker box is what it is designed to do. Circuit breakers are an electrical safety measure. Similar to fuses, circuit breakers react when more electricity is flowing through a system than there ought to be. When too much electricity is flowing through a system, the system is at risk for overheating, short circuiting, and causing a fire. Therefore, electrical systems have built in mechanisms which will interrupt the circuit, stopping the flow of electricity.

If your electrical objects suddenly stop functioning when plugged into a certain outlet or room, it is likely that you have blown a circuit. Chances are, the use of high amperage devices has tripped the breaker, meaning that the breaker will need to be reset. Next time, try to plug in your devices on different circuits. However, if this is happening randomly, or without using much power on a circuit, it could be a sign of a much more dangerous problem. If your circuit breakers trip randomly, it could be a sign that there is a short somewhere in the circuit. As these can cause overheating and dangerous electrical fires, it is important that you quickly call an experienced electrician if you are experiencing this problem.

However, when you are dealing with a normal tripped breaker, resetting it should be easy. Upon examination, you should be able to figure out which breaker was tripped, and then reset it by moving it to the correct position.

Additionally, many circuit breakers will have the circuits labeled. Ideally, these labels will be affixed during installation, and will tell you which circuits have which appliances and outlets on them. This is a wonderful troubleshooting tool, and can drastically increase your chances of quickly and easily solving any problems that you have. However, they are not always correct, and so precautions should always be taken to ensure that you absolutely know which breakers are attached to which outlets and appliances. This is particularly important when any maintenance is going on, as making sure that there is no power flowing through the circuit is the first step in any repair. Additionally, it can be nice to know how to turn off the power to an area in the case of something like a flood or other structural damage.


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