How to Reset a Tripped Breaker

A tripped circuit breaker is one of the most common electrical issues in homes and businesses. Resetting a tripped breaker is usually a quick and easy fix to restore power, as long as you address the underlying problem that caused it to trip in the first place. Following proper safety procedures and troubleshooting is key to getting your electrical service back up and running.

What Causes a Breaker to Trip?

There are a few common causes of a tripped circuit breaker:


The most typical reason a breaker trips is simply being overloaded with too many appliances, devices, or lights on the circuit. Each circuit has a specific load capacity it can handle, usually 15-20 amps for general lighting and outlet circuits. Plugging in one too many devices can push it over the edge.

Short Circuit

A short circuit occurs when electricity takes an unintended “shorter” path, usually because of frayed wiring or a loose connection. This rapid spike in current will quickly trip the breaker. Short circuits can create sparks, heat up wires, and are a potential fire hazard.

Ground Fault

Also known as a GFCI trip, this happens when some of the current leaks through to the grounding wire or other paths it’s not supposed to take. It usually indicates damaged or faulty devices, cords, or wires.

Overheated Wires

Electrical wires and breakers are designed to handle a certain temperature. If too much current passes through undersized wires, they can overheat and trip the breaker even if they aren’t technically overloaded yet. This is an indicator the circuit needs thicker wire gauges.

Old/Faulty Breaker

While not as common, sometimes a breaker may simply be worn out or defective and trip due to age or mechanical issues. Breakers do wear out over time.

How to Reset a Tripped Breaker

Resetting a breaker is meant to be simple and safe for homeowners. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

1. Locate the Tripped Breaker

  • Find your main circuit breaker panel, usually located in basements, utility rooms, garages, or a closet.
  • Identify the specific breaker that tripped. It will be visibly switched to the “off” position compared to the other breakers.

2. Turn the Breaker Fully Off

  • Double check that the tripped breaker is fully disengaged and clicked to the off position.
  • Even if it looks off, press it firmly off then on again to reset it.

3. Identify and Address the Cause

  • Before turning the breaker back on, try to determine what caused the trip.
  • An overload is indicated if the circuit was powering many devices recently. Check for short circuits and ground faults by looking for physical damage to wires, outlets or appliances on the circuit.
  • Address any issues you find before continuing.

4. Turn Breaker On

  • With the cause addressed, flip the breaker back to the fully on position.
  • If it immediately trips again, the underlying problem still exists and needs further diagnosis.

5. Check Power Restoration

  • Return to outlets and devices on the circuit to verify power is restored properly.
  • If the devices work again, the reset was successful.
  • If power is still out, the problem may be elsewhere and needs an electrician.

6. Call an Electrician if Needed

  • If the breaker continues to trip after addressing any visible issues, contact a licensed electrician to inspect and diagnose the root cause.
  • Frequent or repeated breaker trips indicate a potentially dangerous wiring problem is lurking. It’s best to get professional help resolving it.

Breaker Tripping Troubleshooting Tips

Here are some helpful troubleshooting tips if your breaker keeps tripping after resets:

  • Check for overload issues first. Make sure you aren’t plugging in too many appliances on the circuit, especially high-draw devices like space heaters or window AC units. Spread plug usage across multiple outlets.
  • Reset GFCI outlets found in kitchens, bathrooms and outdoors. GFCI trips don’t always flip the breaker but cut power until the outlet is reset.
  • Plug problem devices into other circuits to isolate the overload.
  • Listen and feel for buzzing, sizzling or hot outlets indicative of a short. Unplug devices if you suspect a short.
  • Inspect the length of the wire run for damage, corrosion, loose connections, or staple punctures.
  • Check if high-wattage appliances like refrigerators, ACs or pumps have recently been added to the circuit. These may require their own dedicated circuit to avoid tripping.
  • Turn off and unplug devices before resetting to avoid immediately re-tripping the breaker.
  • Replace any visibly damaged or outdated appliances, wires and outlets.
  • Hire an electrician to upgrade wiring that’s outdated, undersized or substandard.
  • Install AFCI or GFCI breakers to protect against arcs, shorts and grounds. They trip faster and more sensitively than standard breakers.
  • Consider adding more circuits to evenly distribute the electrical load if the house wiring is constantly overloaded.

Breaker Box Safety Tips

Any time you work in the breaker box, follow these important safety measures:

  • Use extreme caution and only reset breakers if you feel comfortable doing so. Hire an electrician if unsure.
  • Always turn the breaker fully off before inspection, testing or resetting it.
  • If the breaker handle feels hot, do not turn it off. Overheated breakers must cool down first to avoid damage.
  • Use insulated tools and stand on dry surfaces when working with live electrical.
  • Double check the power is off by switching a known connected light on and off.
  • Take pictures of the breaker layout before touching anything so you can put it back together properly.
  • Only replace breakers with identical models rated for the panel. Never oversize breakers.
  • Ensure all wires are securely fastened with no loose strands touching other terminations.
  • Always keep panel covers safely reinstalled when done to avoid contact with live inside parts.

Special Considerations for GFCI and AFCI Breakers

Ground fault (GFCI) and arc fault (AFCI) breakers require slightly different resetting methods than standard thermal breakers when tripped. Here’s what you need to know:

Resetting Tripped GFCI Breakers

  • GFCI breakers combine the benefits of a circuit breaker and GFCI outlet in one device.
  • They may trip from ground faults or overload just like a standard breaker.
  • Check for the “Test” and “Reset” buttons on the breaker to differentiate it from a standard model after a trip.
  • Press the Reset button firmly until an audible click sounds. This will reconnect the circuit.

Resetting Tripped AFCI Breakers

  • AFCI breakers protect against dangerous arc faults by sensing small fluctuations in current when arcs occur.
  • They are required by code for bedroom circuits but may activate from some normal arcs in switches, motors or power tools.
  • AFCIs are reset just like a standard breaker by switching fully Off then On after a trip.
  • Swapping to standard breakers defeats the enhanced protection. Leave AFCIs installed or consult an electrician.
  • If AFCI trips become frequent, have the circuit diagnosed. Loose wires or corrosion are common causes.

Signs Your Home Needs an Electrical Service Panel Upgrade

Here are some signs that the main service panel in your home may be outdated, unsafe or underpowered for modern needs:

  • Frequent tripped breakers when using multiple devices
  • Not enough circuits or breaker slots for all your needed outlets and appliances
  • Having to unplug devices to use others on overloaded circuits
  • Flickering lights or noticeable voltage drops when devices turn on
  • Older fuses instead of modern circuit breakers
  • Rust, dirt, moisture or insect infestations in the panel box
  • Scorched, cracked or severely worn wire insulation
  • Buying an EV charger or other high power device you can’t install
  • Previous homeowners amateur modifications or additions

If you notice any of these issues, it’s recommended to schedule an inspection by a licensed electrician to evaluate if a service panel upgrade is warranted. Upgrading provides safer, more reliable power distribution for modern homes and families.

When to Call An Electrician

While the average homeowner can reset a tripped breaker, more complex electrical issues are safest left to the experts. Contact a licensed electrician anytime you experience:

  • Frequent or recurring tripped breakers with no explainable cause
  • Burning smells from outlets or walls
  • Visibly damaged, overheated or hazardous electrical wiring
  • Flickering lights throughout the home
  • Sparks or smoke from outlets, switches or appliances
  • Handling breakers requires working very close to exposed live terminals
  • Confusion over wiring modifications done by a previous owner
  • Unsure which circuit controls an outlet or switch
  • Diagnosing tripped GFCI outlets that won’t reset
  • Older home with outdated fuse panel instead of modern breakers

Electrical systems are complex and can be extremely dangerous if improperly serviced. Hiring a pro to handle tricky diagnostic and rewiring work is money well spent for your safety.

Key Takeaways on Resetting Tripped Breakers

  • Always fully turn off tripped breakers before resetting them to avoid damage.
  • Identify and resolve the underlying problem, not just the symptom of a tripped breaker.
  • Overloads, shorts, grounds faults and old wiring are common tripping causes.
  • Exercise great care and caution when working in the breaker panel.
  • Upgrade inadequate electrical panels or circuits to prevent nuisance tripping.
  • Consult licensed electricians for diagnosing tricky tripping issues or complex wiring jobs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if a breaker immediately trips again after resetting?

If a breaker trips immediately after being reset, the underlying problem causing it still exists and needs further diagnosis and repair. Leaving a rapidly tripping breaker turned on can damage the equipment and poses a fire risk. Physically locate the circuit and unplug devices to isolate the issue before resetting again.

Why does my breaker keep tripping with nothing plugged in?

Frequent breaker tripping with no appliances plugged in likely indicates a more serious underlying issue like a short circuit, ground fault or overloaded wires. Trace the circuit to check for damage, corrosion, loose wires or junctions and consider upgrading undersized wiring. Hire an electrician if the cause isn’t obvious.

Can I swap a 15 amp breaker for a 20 amp?

It’s not recommended to install oversized breakers exceeding the circuit’s design capacity. The wires and outlets are rated for standard 15 or 20 amp breakers. A higher amp breaker won’t properly protect mismatched wires. Oversizing breakers is an unsafe workaround if your circuits are constantly overloaded. Adding more 20 amp circuits or upgrading the panel is the proper long term solution.

How long should a breaker last before needing replacement?

Breakers gradually wear out from heat cycling on and off over many years. While they can last 10-30 years, breakers older than 15 years may not trip reliably and should be replaced. Signs of a faulty breaker include frequent unexplained trips, not resetting properly, overheating and being unable to stay on. Replace deteriorated breakers with identical models.

Why do GFCI outlets keep tripping with nothing plugged in?

GFCI outlets can trip from ground faults when moisture causes some current to flow through the grounding wire. This is normal and protects against shocks. Frequent trips indicate corrosion, damaged wires or a defective device. GFCI breakers trip power to the whole circuit, not just one outlet like a GFCI outlet. Test and reset the outlet or breaker. If trips continue, hire an electrician to diagnose and repair.


Tripped breakers are a common occurrence in homes that is typically easy to resolve by following proper safety procedures. Resetting the breaker should restore power once any overloads, shorts or ground faults are addressed. For continued tripping or complex diagnostic work, leave it to the experts. If your home’s electrical needs have outpaced the service panel’s capabilities, an upgrade performed by licensed electricians provides modern safety and convenience. With some electrical vigilance and proactive improvements, your home’s power system will keep working properly for years to come.

How to Reset a Tripped Breaker: FAQs

Q: Why does my breaker keep tripping?

There are a few common reasons why a circuit breaker might repeatedly trip:

Overload – Too many devices or appliances are drawing power on the circuit, overloading and tripping the breaker.

Short circuit – Faulty wiring or a loose connection is creating a short that instantly overloads the circuit. This is dangerous and must be fixed.

Ground fault – Current is leaking from a hot wire to ground, tripping the GFCI breaker. Check for damaged cords or bad connections.

Overheated wires – Undersized wiring overheats from excessive current flow, tripping the thermal breaker. This may require new wiring.

Old/faulty breaker – The breaker itself may be worn out or defective, failing to reset or trip properly. Breakers do wear out over time.

Q: Can I just tape or prop a tripped breaker on?

Absolutely not! Bypassing a tripped breaker is extremely dangerous and can start fires or cause shocks and electrocution. The breaker is tripping for an important reason – forcing it back on leaves the underlying problem unchecked. Only professionals should diagnose and service tripped breakers.

Q: Why does my kitchen circuit keep tripping?

Kitchen circuits trip frequently because many hardwired and plug-in appliances are often used at once. The fridge, stove, microwave, coffee maker, toaster oven and more can add up to overload the kitchen circuit’s capacity, tripping the breaker. Try spreading appliances across multiple circuits to reduce the kitchen circuit load.

Q: What’s the difference between a GFCI and AFCI breaker?

GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) breakers detect current leaks to ground and help prevent shocks.

AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) breakers prevent fires by detecting dangerous electrical arcs in damaged wires and cords.

Both types provide important safety functions regular breakers don’t and are required in new construction.

Q: Why do lights dim when appliances turn on?

Dimming lights or flickering when large appliances kick on indicates the circuit is overloaded and service panel undersized. High startup current draws cause temporary voltage drops. This problem may precede full breaker trips. Adding new circuits or upgrading the main service panel may be needed.

Q: Is it safe to use a 15 amp outlet on a 20 amp breaker?

Yes, this is safe and allowed by code. The outlet is the limiting factor to protect against overloads, not the breaker. Using a 20 amp breaker with #12 wire and 15 amp outlets provides protection if larger loads temporarily draw over 15 amps. The outlet limits plug-in loads to 15 amps.

Q: Can I upgrade my old 60 amp fuse panel to use breakers?

Fuse panels should always be fully upgraded to modern breaker panels. Breakers provide safer overcurrent protection than the older screw-in fuses. Licensed electricians can assess your service and install a new breaker panel, additional circuits, and grounding as needed to meet current code. This improves home safety.


Resetting tripped breakers is usually a simple matter of flipping the switch back to on once the underlying issue is addressed. However, for continued tripping or other unusual electrical behaviors, it’s best to leave diagnosis and repairs to trained electrical professionals for your safety.

How to Reset a Tripped Breaker

Resetting a tripped breaker is usually a quick fix to get your electrical power back up and running in your home. Here is a simple step-by-step guide on how to safely reset a tripped breaker:

Step 1: Locate the Tripped Breaker

  • Find the main circuit breaker panel, usually located in utility rooms, garages, or closets.
  • Identify the specific breaker that has tripped. It will be switched to the “OFF” position compared to the other breakers.

Step 2: Turn the Breaker Fully Off

  • Double check that the tripped breaker is fully disengaged to the OFF position before attempting to reset it.
  • Even if it looks off, switch it firmly off and back on to ensure it resets properly.

Step 3: Fix the Underlying Problem

  • Determine what caused the breaker to trip and fix the root issue before resetting.
  • Overloads, short circuits, and ground faults are common reasons breakers trip.

Step 4: Switch the Breaker On

  • With the cause addressed, flip the tripped breaker back to the ON position.
  • If it immediately trips again, the problem still exists and needs diagnosis.

Step 5: Verify Power Restoration

  • Return to outlets on the circuit to confirm everything is working again.
  • If still no power, the issue may be elsewhere and requires an electrician.

Step 6: Call an Electrician if Needed

  • If the breaker won’t stay on after resets, contact a licensed electrician to inspect and resolve the cause.
  • Frequent or repeated tripping indicates a potentially dangerous wiring issue that professionals should handle.


With some basic safety checks and following proper procedures, homeowners can often quickly get their electrical service back up by resetting a tripped breaker. However, if the breaker keeps tripping or power stays out, consult a qualified electrician to diagnose and fix the root cause.

How to Reset a Tripped Breaker: Conclusion