3 Reasons Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

Luke Begley

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Our Key Takeaways:

  • Tripping breakers are often caused by overloaded circuits, ground faults, or short-circuits.
  • Older homes with outdated electrical systems are particularly prone to these issues.
  • Consulting with a licensed electrician can help address these problems and enhance electrical safety.

Common Circuit Breaker Problems Explained

In establishing a well-functioning electrical system within the home, especially in older properties, it is crucial to address frequent instances of circuit breakers tripping. In my experience servicing homes primarily in the northwestern Chicago area, there are three primary issues which contribute to this problem.

1. Overburdened Circuits: Older homes often have insufficient circuits to manage modern electrical loads. For example, a contemporary kitchen standardly requires seven 20-amp circuits for appliances and outlets. However, it is common to find older homes with only two to three 15-amp circuits attempting to power a kitchen's entire demand. This inadequacy is evident when you find you're unable to operate a toaster and microwave simultaneously. To diagnose and resolve this problem, an electrical assessment is necessary, which may include measurements of amperage through the affected breaker to identify overloading.

2. Ground Faults: These are another prevalent cause for tripping breakers. Ground faults occur when live electrical components come into contact with grounded elements. For instance, if a screw inside an outlet becomes loose over time, it may contact the metal enclosure, causing a ground fault. This results in immediate tripping of the circuit breaker upon reset attempts.

  • Solution: Inspecting the outlets, securing connections, and replacing faulty components are essential steps to correct these faults.

3. Short Circuits: A short circuit is an event where there's an accidental connection between a hot wire and a neutral one, creating a direct path for electricity and causing excessive current flow. This can happen when wiring insulation is compromised, or connections are not secured appropriately. Much like a ground fault, a short circuit will also result in an immediate trip of the breaker when reset is attempted.

  • Solution: Thorough electrical inspection and correction of the wiring issues will eliminate short circuits.

Should you encounter any electric anomalies or are in need of support dealing with circuit breaker issues, it is important to consult with a professional electrician to ensure the safety and reliability of your home's electrical system.

Contact us 24 hours a day at 773-647-1120 for emergency assistance or any inquiries regarding your electrical configuration.

Frequent Reasons for Circuit Breaker Trips

Circuit Overload Instances

Circuit overload is a common cause of circuit breaker trips. If multiple appliances are connected to the same circuit, especially high-ampere devices such as microwaves and toasters, the demand on the circuit can exceed what it's designed to handle. This often occurs in areas like the kitchen, where older homes may only have a few 15-amp circuits that struggle to support the power needs of modern appliances.

How to Identify:

  • If running two devices at once causes a trip, you may have insufficient circuits.
  • Standard requirement for a contemporary kitchen: seven 20-amp circuits.


  • The addition of more circuits might be necessary.
  • An electrician can measure the current's draw and propose a strategy to resolve the issue.

Existing Ground Fault Conditions

Ground faults are another leading reason for breaker trips. They usually happen when the live wiring components, such as metal screws, come into contact with other metallic parts within the electrical system, which could be metal boxes or drywall rings. Over time, components can become loose, resulting in a ground fault that will cause instant tripping when attempting to reset the breaker.

Identification Signs:

  • Breaker trips immediately upon reset without any load.
  • Loose components or wiring in outlets or switches.

Corrective Action:

  • Inspection of outlets and switches for loose connections is necessary.
  • Secure any loose metallic components to prevent contact with energized parts.

Short-Circuit Incident Analysis

Short-circuits occur when a live (hot) wire comes into direct contact with a neutral wire. This forms a circuit with very low resistance, leading to a surge of current that causes the breaker to trip. It's a severe issue that requires immediate attention.

Detection Approach:

  • The instant tripping of the breaker when turned on.
  • Unusual signs like burnt smell or discoloration at outlets.

Intervention Steps:

  • A thorough check for crossed wires is vital.
  • An electrician must fix any improper wiring or damaged insulations.

If you encounter persistent issues with breaker trips, contact a licensed electrician who specializes in existing electrical systems to evaluate your situation and provide a viable solution to prevent nuisance tripping. It's crucial for your safety and the integrity of your home's electrical infrastructure.

Addressing Circuit Overload Issues

Enhancing Electrical Capacity in Kitchens

Older kitchens in the region typically have fewer circuits than what is deemed sufficient for modern usage—often just two to four 15-amp circuits to power multiple appliances and outlets. To handle today’s electrical demands, a kitchen should ideally be equipped with at least seven 20-amp circuits. Should you find that your appliances, like microwaves and toasters, are unable to operate simultaneously without tripping the breaker, it's a sign that additional capacity is necessary. Here's a plan of action:

  • Identify the Demand: Use your appliances as you normally would to pinpoint exactly when the breaker trips.
  • Diagnostic Test: Invite a professional to conduct an amperage draw test on your circuits.
  • Custom Solutions: Based on the diagnostic, an electrician can plan and install the necessary upgrades to your kitchen’s electrical system.

Installing More Circuits

To resolve the issue of tripping breakers, adding more circuits may be essential. The process involves a few steps:

  • Consultation: Initially, have a discussion with an electrician to understand your specific needs.
  • Assessment: Your current electrical system will be evaluated for capacity and safety.
  • Installation: New circuits will be safely integrated by a licensed professional, ensuring all appliances can operate without overloading the system.

Remember, safely addressing electrical issues should always be done by professionals. If you need assistance or have any questions, you're encouraged to reach out for help.

Locating Circuit Breaker Faults

Investigating with Current Clamp

Utilizing a clamp meter to examine electrical currents can pinpoint issues causing breaker malfunctions. To illustrate this in a practical situation, attempting to use multiple appliances in a kitchen, such as a microwave and toaster simultaneously, can lead to an overload if the circuit's capacity is inadequate. By clamping a meter onto the breaker, the exact current can be measured while the appliances are running. If your breaker cannot handle the concurrent electrical demand of both appliances, this suggests the circuit is incapable of providing the necessary power.

Checking for Loose Wiring

Ground faults often occur due to the loosening of wires or connections over time. Inspect the screws on outlets, as these components can loosen and potentially contact other metal parts like outlet boxes, creating a ground fault. This scenario interrupts the flow of electricity and prompts breaker trips, preventing the resetting of the circuit. Regular checks of screws and connections in your electrical system can help detect these issues before they lead to persistent breaker tripping.

Comprehending Circuit Interruptions

When your home's circuit breaker frequently trips, it is typically a sign of one of three common issues. If you own an older residence, particularly in densely built urban areas, you may find your electrical circuits are not equipped to handle modern appliances' demands.

Overloaded Circuits: The average modern kitchen should be supported by at least seven 20-amp circuits, but many are found with fewer, sometimes only two or three 15-amp circuits for everything, including the outlets, dishwasher, range hood, and garbage disposal. An overloaded circuit may prevent you from running a microwave and toaster simultaneously without tripping the circuit breaker. Testing for this involves the use of an amp probe to measure current flow; if excessive, more circuits may be needed to balance the load.

Ground Faults: Another culprit is a ground fault, where the metal screws of an outlet or switch come into contact with the metal box housing it, often due to the components loosening over time. Such contact creates a direct path to ground, causing immediate tripping upon any attempt to reset the breaker, indicative of an energized component shorting to ground.

Short-Circuits: Lastly, a short-circuit, where a hot wire crosses paths with a neutral wire, can cause immediate tripping when attempting to reset the breaker. This could occur with a wire nut coming loose, allowing wires to make unintended contact.

For those experiencing these issues in a home's existing electrical system, additional circuits or repairs to resolve ground faults or short-circuits may be necessary. If you face such electrical conundrums, professional consultation can provide you with an actionable plan to rectify these nuisances and enhance your electrical system's safety and efficiency. For emergencies or inquiries, professional electricians are available around the clock to assist and address any concerns you might have.

Provided Electrical Solutions

As the proprietor of Arnold Electric Services, I'm equipped to address your urgent and routine electrical needs around the clock. Specializing in servicing and updating the electrical systems of established residences, particularly in the older neighborhoods of northwest Chicago, my expertise is broad and inclusive.

Specifically, I offer solutions to commonly encountered issues such as:

  • Circuit Overload Mitigation: Your home's kitchen may experience frequent circuit breaker trips if it's operating on insufficient electrical circuits. Modern standards call for seven 20-amp circuits to handle all your appliances smoothly. If you're unable to use a toaster and a microwave simultaneously without tripping a breaker, it's a sign that you may only have two to three circuits. I can assess and increase the number of circuits to meet your needs.

  • Ground Fault Corrections: Shifting parts over time might lead to a ground fault where a metal screw inside an outlet or switch becomes energized upon touching the metal enclosure—a situation that prevents the resetting of your circuit breaker. I identify and remedy these ground faults to restore safe and consistent power.

  • Short Circuit Resolution: In the event of a crosswire—where the hot and neutral wires inappropriately touch—your breaker will trip instantly when attempting a reset. This issue is critical to address promptly to prevent potential hazards. I provide the precise expertise required to diagnose and fix any short circuits in your home's wiring.

For inquiries about these services or any electrical concerns, you are encouraged to contact me directly. Your electrical safety and functionality are important, and I'm here to provide you with the necessary assistance and peace of mind.

Getting in Touch

For any inquiries or issues you may have encountered from watching our video or reading our posted content, please feel free to reach out to us at Arnold Electric Services. Your concerns are important, and we're ready to assist with any electrical challenges in your home. For immediate assistance, especially for urgent matters, our dedicated team is available around the clock.

To discuss the electrical systems in your home, particularly if you are situated in an older home on the northwest side of Chicago (though we cater to homes in all areas), schedule a consultation or if a pressing electrical concern arises, use the following details to contact us:

773-647-1120 (Available 24/7 for emergency services)

Remember, whether it's for a service request, consultation about adding more circuits, or understanding ground faults and short-circuits, your effective solutions are just a call away. We ensure your coffee maker and toaster can run concurrently without an interruption. Your electrical safety and convenience are our highest priority.

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