Bad Circuit Breaker Symptoms: What Are Signs of a Defect?

Unveil the secrets of cranky circuit breakers and their telltale signs.

So you’ve been asking yourself, “Self — what are the signs of a bad circuit breaker or a defective circuit breaker?” Great question! (And an important one, too.)

If you have any of the following signs of a defective circuit breaker, it’s important to get it examined by an experienced electrician.

What Is a Circuit Breaker?

First, let’s start with the basics. A circuit breaker is a safety device that is an essential component of your home’s electrical system. It’s designed to protect against electrical overloads, short circuits, and other issues. The circuit breaker acts as a switch that automatically shuts off power flow when it detects irregularities in the current.

How Long Do Circuit Breakers Last?

The lifespan of a circuit breaker can vary based on several factors including the type, quality, usage, and environmental conditions. On average, most circuit breakers are designed to last for a long time, often ranging between 15 to 30 years. However, this is a general estimate and does not apply universally to all breakers.

How To Tell If a Circuit Breaker Is Bad

Can a circuit breaker go bad? Yes. Like any other home device, your home’s circuit breaker won’t last forever. That’s why it’s important to know the potential signs that something might be amiss.

1. Flickering Lights

Are the light bulbs in your home flickering on a regular basis? If they raise and lower or turn off or on, this could be a sign that your circuit breaker is not working as it should.

2. Electrical Appliance Problems

Does your dryer turn off mid-cycle or does your oven not reach the right temperature? Don’t rush out to get your appliances replaced. This may not be a problem with the machines, but instead, your circuit breaker. Replacing your breaker could help your appliances operate consistently as they should.

3. A Burning Smell

If you notice a burning odor coming from the panel, do not ignore it. This could mean that there is a potentially dangerous insulation or wiring problem that is causing the panel to overheat.
If this happens for a long period of time, it could cause a serious electrical emergency or fire. An electrician can decide the best course of action, which may include them having to shut off the main power to help diagnose the problem and protect the system and the building’s occupants.

4. It’s Hot to the Touch

A circuit breaker that feels excessively hot might be experiencing an overload or a loose connection, which requires a professional inspection.

5. It Makes Buzzing or Humming Sounds

Unusual sounds emanating from the breaker panel, like buzzing or humming, might suggest loose wiring, an overloaded circuit, or a defective breaker.

6. Tripped Breaker

To protect your home, the circuit breaker is designed to trip when too much power is being pushed through it. If you notice that the circuit breaker is tripping every time you turn on the same appliance, the breaker may be starting to fail.

You can reset the breaker (i.e., flip the breaker). But continuing short circuits at your home or business can be a sign of overloaded circuits or electrical issues because the breaker is bad.
A professional electrician can determine if you have a faulty circuit breaker, if you just need to add a new circuit, or if the whole electric panel itself is worn out. Keep that electricity flowing by consulting an expert!

7. Age

Circuit breakers can last for many years. However, if your home is older and the circuit breaker has never been replaced, or it has not been serviced in 10 to 15 years, it’s important to have it checked. Chances are, it will need to be replaced.

This is especially important if you notice a burning smell or if the panel itself is visibly damaged or if the breaker trips frequently. These are all signs of a bad circuit breaker or faulty electrical wiring — with some signs being more obvious than others!

The last thing one needs is an electric fire that could have been prevented with a little proactive preparation.

Your electrical system is an important part of your home, so investing in it to make sure it is safe and functioning as it should means you will have peace of mind knowing that your home is a safe place for you and your family.

How to Evaluate the Health of Your Circuit Breaker

1. Visual Inspection: Does it pass the eye test? Look for signs of wear, corrosion, or physical damage on the breaker itself. Cracks, rust, or bent components could indicate potential issues. These are indicators that you should seek a professional inspection and possible replacement.

2. Consult Manufacturer Guidelines: Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for inspection frequency and procedures.

3. Reset the Breaker: If there aren’t any visual concerns, next try resetting the tripped breaker. If the breaker immediately trips again, it’s important to avoid repeated resets, as this could exacerbate the issue.

4. Operational Checks: Toggle the breaker manually several times to make sure it moves freely without sticking or hesitation. If there are any signs of arcing or sparking during operation, you need an immediate replacement or repair.

5. Testing: Conduct load testing periodically to make sure the breaker can handle its specified current load. Use a multimeter to measure the current passing through the breaker. You can also perform an insulation resistance test to ensure there are no leaks or breakdowns in the insulation of the breaker.

6. Review Maintenance History: Review the maintenance records to ensure regular servicing and adherence to manufacturer guidelines.

7. Scheduled a Professional Inspection: Schedule regular inspections by a qualified electrician or technician. They can conduct thorough tests using specialized equipment to detect hidden issues.

8. Replacement and Upgrades: If a breaker consistently fails or exhibits significant issues, consider upgrading older circuit breakers to a newer model with improved safety features and efficiency.

Safety Precautions

Turn Off Power: Always turn off the power supply before inspecting or working on a circuit breaker to prevent electrical accidents.

Use Proper Equipment: Utilize appropriate tools and safety gear when inspecting or handling circuit breakers.

Regular evaluation and maintenance of circuit breakers are vital for a safe and reliable electrical system. Ignoring warning signs or neglecting maintenance could lead to electrical hazards or system failures. By following these guidelines and seeking professional assistance when needed, you can ensure the optimal performance and safety of your circuit breakers.

What to Do When Your Circuit Breaker Goes Bad

If you’re unsure about evaluating or handling circuit breakers, it’s always best to consult a qualified electrician or technician to address any concerns or issues. Call a professional at Prairie Electric today to talk about getting your circuit breaker checked or replaced.

We are dedicated to providing our customers with the highest quality electrical work and customer service. Our electricians are highly trained and experienced in all aspects of electrical work.
Prairie Electric is licensed, bonded, and insured. We are committed to safety and quality in all of our work.

What Makes Prairie Electric Different?

At Prairie Electric, we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to electrical work. That’s why we customize our services to meet your individual needs.
Whether you need a new wiring system installed or an existing system repaired, our team of experienced technicians can handle the job quickly and efficiently. We take pride in our work and make sure that every job is done right the first time.

Our Commitment to Safety

Safety is our first priority at Prairie Electric. Our electricians follow strict safety protocols to ensure that all projects are completed safely and without incident. We always use high-quality materials and tools to ensure that all jobs are up to code and meet industry standards. Additionally, all of our electricians receive ongoing training in safety procedures so that they remain up-to-date on the latest advances in electrical safety technology.

When it comes to electrical services in the Pacific Northwest, trust Prairie Electric for reliable results every time.

We have more than 40 years of experience providing top-notch customer service and quality workmanship. You can be sure that your project will be completed safely and correctly. Our team is made up of highly trained professionals who know their stuff.

Contact us today for more information or to get started on your next project.

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