Can a Circuit Breaker go Bad or Get Weak?

Circuit breakers are important safety features in the electrical system of your home, and you should understand how they work so your breaker panel stays effective and functional. Sometimes hiring professional electrical services is the way to go, but there are a few things you can handle on your own when it comes to your breaker panel.

Determining whether your breakers are working can be important, and if there seems to be a problem with a breaker constantly tripping, you might be wondering if the breaker is actually working. That is, the heavy switch that snaps to the side when your wiring is overloaded. It breaks the connection (hence the name) and prevents fires or damage farther along the circuit. That’s how the panel works, basically.

Can a breaker go bad? Well, “going bad” isn’t really a technical term but the general answer would be yes. Sometimes breakers do fail even though its not really a common problem. If you think you have a bad breaker, you can take a few steps to pin-point the problem.

First, you should identify the circuit that goes with the questionable breaker. Hopefully, your panel has clear labels indicating which parts of the house match up with each breaker switch. That will make this easier. Turn off or unplug all the electrical devices that are on that circuit.

Reset the breaker and see what happens. Does it still trip? If it does, then it is certainly the breaker itself that needs replacing. Turn on one small device on the circuit, like a lamp. Does it trip? Again, if it does, the breaker is actually the problem. If not, then it is more likely that you’ve overloaded the circuit with too many things.

Turn on one device at a time until it trips. Now you should have a rough idea what the capacity is, and what things should be moved to another location. If it is really too low for your needs, you might want to upgrade the breaker or the panel.

So back to the faulty breaker. They are built to last quite a while, but excessive heat and frequent tripping can lead to an early death. To maintain better breaker health, avoid overloading any circuits due to carelessness. It may seem harmless to ignore your electrical capacities and just wait for the switched breaker to let you know there is a problem, but each of those trips starts to add up over time and can weaken your overall panels ability to keep your system running safely.

Replacing a breaker is something you may be able to do on your own, but only if you have some expertise dealing with electrical systems. Even with the main power to the house shut off, there can be risks. If you are not confident in your skills, call a professional electrician to take a look. Once there, they can help repair your breaker and possibly give you advice an upgrading the panel if you are having issues with capacity and frequent overloaded circuits.

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