How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker is an essential safety device that is designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit. When too much current flows through a circuit, the circuit breaker will trip and shut off power to that circuit. After a circuit breaker trips, it can be reset so that power can be restored to the circuit. Resetting a tripped circuit breaker is usually a pretty straightforward process. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to safely reset circuit breakers in your home.

Locating Your Circuit Breaker Panel

The first step is to locate your circuit breaker panel. This is usually located in the garage, basement, utility room or a closet. It may be behind a door or access panel. Once you locate the main circuit breaker panel, open the door and you will see rows of circuit breakers with labels showing what each one controls.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the layout of the panel. The main shut off switch is at the top. This allows you to cut off power to the whole house. Below that, there will be individual breakers controlling each circuit. There may also be separate breakers for major appliances like a stove, dryer or AC unit. Check the labeling to see which breaker controls the tripped circuit.

Shutting Off the Power

Before resetting a breaker, it is crucial to shut off the power. Locate the main breaker switch at the top of the panel and flip it to the “Off” position. This will ensure that there is no live current flowing while you work on the panel.

If you are only resetting a single circuit breaker, you can just flip that one to “Off” instead of shutting off the main. However it is still advisable to shut off the main breaker if possible, for maximum safety.

Resetting the Circuit Breaker

Once the power is shut off, you can reset the tripped circuit breaker. Find the breaker that controls the circuit you want to reset. It may be labeled something like “Kitchen Lights” or “Garage Outlets”.

You will know you have found the right breaker if it is flipped to the middle or “Tripped” position. It will look different from the other breakers, often being flipped halfway to the “Off” side.

Firmly flip the tripped breaker all the way to the “Off” position. Then flip it all the way back to the “On” position. This will reset it.

Sometimes a breaker will be stubborn and you may have to flip it off and on a few times to get it to reset properly. If it keeps tripping immediately, there may be a short circuit or other electrical issue that needs to be addressed.

Turn Power Back On

Once you have reset the tripped breaker, carefully turn the power back on. Flip the main breaker back to “On” if you shut it off initially.

Go and test that the circuit is working again by turning on lights or plugging in an appliance in the outlets powered by that circuit.

The circuit breaker has now been successfully reset and power restored!

Troubleshooting Tripped Breakers

While resetting the circuit breaker is simple, it is a good idea to investigate what caused it to trip in the first place. Frequent breaker tripping indicates an underlying issue that needs attention.

Here are some steps to troubleshoot tripped circuits:

  • Consider what was running on the circuit before it tripped – an overloaded circuit drawing too much current is the most likely cause of tripping.
  • Check the condition of devices and cords plugged into the circuit – frayed cords or faulty devices can cause shorts. Unplug everything one at a time to isolate the problematic device.
  • Inspect the outlets, switches and wiring – loose, damaged or improper connections can interrupt flow of current.
  • Test the circuit with a multimeter to measure if current is within a safe range when it is turned back on.
  • Have an electrician inspect the circuit if you cannot determine or resolve the issue yourself.

Addressing the root cause will minimize nuisance tripping and prevent damage from potential electrical hazards.

When to Call an Electrician

While resetting a circuit breaker is usually safe for a homeowner to do themselves, there are times it is advisable to call a professional electrician:

  • If you cannot isolate the cause of the tripping through troubleshooting.
  • If the breaker immediately trips again after resetting.
  • If you have older wiring, suspect a short, or notice signs of damage.
  • If multiple breakers are tripping for no apparent reason.
  • If you do not feel comfortable working with electrical equipment.

Electricians have the proper training, knowledge and tools to be able to diagnose and fix any underlying issue. They can ensure your electrical system is functioning safely and properly.

FAQs About Resetting Circuit Breakers

Here are some frequently asked questions about resetting tripped circuit breakers in your home:

How do I know if a circuit breaker has tripped?

The biggest indicator is loss of power to outlets or lights on the circuit. You can also check your breaker panel and see if a breaker has flipped to the middle “tripped” position.

What should I do if a circuit breaker keeps tripping?

Frequent breaker tripping likely indicates an overloaded circuit or underlying electrical issue. Try to isolate the cause by unplugging devices one at a time. If that doesn’t resolve it, consult an electrician.

Is it safe to reset a circuit breaker myself?

It is generally safe as long as you follow proper precautions – shut off power, troubleshoot issues, and call an electrician for anything complex. Never reset a breaker that appears damaged or charred.

Why does my power go out when I use a certain appliance?

Heavy appliances with motors like vacuum cleaners, saws and power tools can draw a lot of current. If they exceed the limit of a circuit, they can trip the breaker. Try plugging the appliance into a different circuit.

How do I know which circuit breaker controls each room or outlet?

Hopefully your circuit breaker panel is clearly labeled. If not, you will have to turn breakers on and off to isolate which outlets/lights it controls through a process of elimination.

Should I replace an old breaker that keeps tripping?

If a breaker repeatedly trips with no overload or short circuit present, it could be worn out or defective. Replacement by an electrician is recommended for old or faulty circuit breakers.

What causes a circuit breaker to trip instantly when reset?

This often occurs when there is still an underlying short circuit or faulty wiring issue. The instant tripping is the breaker doing its job to prevent electrical danger. Call an electrician to investigate the cause and fix it.

Why do I have to flip a breaker off and on twice to reset it?

Some breakers don’t reset properly if they are just flipped on from a tripped position. Flipping it fully off and then on again usually provides the contact needed to reset the mechanism.

Should I label my circuit breaker panel?

Absolutely! Correct labeling at your circuit breaker panel avoids confusion down the road for you or anyone else that needs to work on the electrical system. Leave notes on what each breaker controls.

Key Takeaways on Resetting a Tripped Circuit Breaker

Resetting tripped circuit breakers is a relatively simple task that most homeowners can perform themselves. The key steps include:

  • Locate the circuit breaker panel and identify the tripped breaker controlling the problematic circuit
  • Shut off main power supply before resetting the breaker to avoid electrocution
  • Flip the tripped breaker all the way to Off, then all the way back On to reset it
  • Check if the circuit is functioning and investigate the source of the tripping issue
  • Call an electrician for assistance if you cannot resolve the reason for repeated tripping
  • Replace damaged or faulty breakers that cannot reset properly
  • Clearly label your circuit breakers for easier identification and troubleshooting

Following proper safety procedures when resetting a circuit breaker can allow you to easily restore power and get your electrical system up and running again. Paying attention to the panel and being aware of tripped breakers will help prevent blown fuses, fried wires and potential electrical fires in your home’s circuits.