Electronics are a common find in modern households across Australia. And where there are electronics, there are circuit breakers. These devices are automatic switches that protect circuits from short circuiting or overloading. They interrupt the flow of electricity when a fault is detected. They are also far more convenient than fuses because you don’t have to replace them when they are triggered. Instead, you can reset them by hand.
Every adult in your household should know how to handle a tripped circuit breaker before it happens.
Have a Battery-Operated Light Source
Have a battery-operated light source on hand so you can safely move through your home and find the tripped breaker. This is especially important should a breaker trip at night.
An emergency torch should be available in case of unexpected incidents. Store it in a designated place, so it’s easy to find. Matches or candles can also work, but a torch is preferable and will provide better lighting without the fire hazard.
Locate the Tripped Breaker
Circuit breakers are housed in the main service box. This typically made of grey metal and mounted on a wall, usually installed in a utility space like a garage, laundry room, or basement.
Once you find the main service box, open it and look for a breaker whose switch lever is not in the “on” position. This may be obvious because it will likely be the only breaker whose switch is pointing in a different direction from the rest. Some circuit breakers have a red indicator, so you know it is tripped.
Turn off all electronic devices and appliances powered by the circuit. While this isn’t a requirement, it is highly recommended for safety reasons.
Reset and Test the Circuit
Once all devices are turned off, reset the circuit. This is done by switching it to the “on” position. Some models may require you to switch all the way to the “off” position before moving to “on.” You may feel some resistance then hear a click as you switch the circuit. Power will be restored at this point.
You need to know why the circuit breaker tripped to ensure that there isn’t a safety issue. To do this, begin turning on lights and appliances powered by the circuit. If it trips again, then a device may be faulty, or you may need to call an electrician.
Common Causes of a Tripped Circuit Breaker
- Short Circuit – A short circuit happens when two or more wires that are not supposed to contact each other end up touching. This allows high current to flow through. This can generate significant heat energy and is a severe hazard.
- Ground Fault – A ground fault is a type of short circuit that occurs when an active wire touches a conductive surface that touches the ground. These are very dangerous, especially in areas with moisture like bathrooms and kitchens.
- Overloaded Circuit – Overloaded circuits are a common cause of breaker tripping. This happens when too many devices are pulling energy at the same time. The circuit breaker heats up and trips.
If you notice a problem with your circuit breakers, make sure you diagnose the issue or hire an electrician to do it for you. These can be very serious concerns that can lead to high-risk situations if they are not dealt with quickly.