01.10.2020By Alex Altuhov

How Circuit Breaker Works: What You Should Know to Take Care of Your House


According to the National Electric Code, all residential, industrial, and commercial units must have a circuit breaker installed. And when highly respected standards for the safe electric wiring and circuit breaker installation says so, you should follow this recommendation.

Even though a circuit breaker is a major component, it somehow remains a mystery to most people. In this guide, we’ll take a look at how a circuit breaker works, what the common problems are, and how to address them. By the end, you will learn basic information every homeowner should know.

What a Breaker Is and How It Works

Circuit breakers are switching devices that react to the abnormal or fault current and interrupt it when needed. When protective relays detect a fault, they will automatically stop the current from flowing. Those are located inside of an electrical panel box for safety.

The purpose of a circuit breaker is to prevent damage to your electrical system, devices connected to the circuit, or even a fire. This is required by law, and, as you can guess, there is no reason to overlook this requirement. If there is no such major safety measure in the households and in the electrical grid, it can get out of control.

Each electric circuit breaker is connected to the wires running through the house. An important part of the wiring is solder resist, which is a thin layer of polymer used for protection against oxidation. If the wiring overheats, the solder melts, which triggers a switch and shuts down that particular circuit. If there is no significant damage, it can be reset.

In order for this equipment to work properly, you need to determine the right electrical panel size for the house. More accurately, it needs to be done by a licensed specialist. This will ensure that you are protected from the unexpected.

purpose of circuit breaker

Remember that electrical work is not a good DIY project. For any repairs and installations, you can always count on Handy Kith. It will be a worthwhile investment in your electrical system and the well-being of everyone in the house. Still, it won’t break the bank – reach out to us and ask for a quote!

Common Problems with Circuit Breakers

Now that you know what a circuit breaker does, it’s important to discuss common issues that occur with it. The reason is simple. If you want to ensure that the purpose of the circuit breaker is carried out properly, you should be able to identify when something’s wrong.

Here are some indicators that your electric circuit breakers or the panel box that hosts it needs to be replaced:

  • The breaker trips frequently. It means the demand, or load, on the circuit is too high, and it can’t sustain it.
  • You feel heat or subtle shocks when you plug in/out or touch your appliances.
  • You are experiencing an insufficient flow of electricity.
  • You’ve recently had water damage near the control panel and the circuit breaker.
  • It’s an old house, and the electrical systems haven’t been updated for a long time.

If you notice any of the following signs, address the issue immediately. The sooner you resolve it, the easier and cheaper it will be to fix it. Besides, you prevent the problem from escalating.

How to Reset a Breaker Box

If your breaker trips for some reason, you need to turn it back on safely. Make sure your hands are dry, and you stand on a dry surface. Below are the instructions on how to reset a breaker box:

Unplug appliances with electronic components and turn off all the light switches.

  1. Open the cover of the circuit breaker. However, we don’t recommend doing that on your own because you may not know everything about electrical panel box safety.
  2. Find the right breaker. It will be in the “off” position and may be labeled according to the area of the house.
  3. Identify the cause and fix it before resetting.
  4. Turn the plug back on and see whether it trips off again.
  5. If it doesn’t, the malfunction is managed successfully.

Circuit Breaker Common Sizes and Types

Generally, most types of breakers fall into three major classes, which are: standard; Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters, or AFCI, and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, or GFCI. We’ll also look into the subcategories of standard breakers, which are either single- or double-pole.

Single-Pole Breakers

Single-pole circuit breakers are used most commonly. These monitor the flow of electricity for virtually all the standard lighting in your home. If you have outlets with standard two-slot outlet receptacles, those are probably single-pole ones.

Common circuit breaker sizes for this type are full size (1-inch wide), half-size (1/2-inch wide), and twin/tandem (1-inch wide with two switches and controls two circuits).

Double-Pole Breakers

While single-pole breakers can operate with up to 120 volts, double-pole breakers can handle a total of 240 volts. These protect two energized wires and, therefore, take up two slots on the electrical wiring home circuit breaker panel. Households that have heavy-duty appliances, such as dryers and water heaters, will require the installation of those.

GFCI Circuit Breaker

GFCIs protect the entire circuit, including the wiring and all devices and appliances. These are needed when connected to it and require ground-fault protection. For example, it can be a large deck, patio, or a garage workshop.

AFCI Circuit Breakers

On some control panels, an AFCI circuit breaker is installed to help protect against fires resulting from electrical arcing. These may be caused by damaged or deteriorated wires and cords. It ensures additional protection since regular circuit breakers don’t always trip in these instances.

Circuit Breaker Installation

In order for you to understand what the electrician will do, let’s examine the process of circuit breaker installation. Below are tools that are required:

  • Flashlight
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife
  • Wire cutter
  • Cable clamps
  • Electrical staples
  • Voltage tester
circuit breaker installation

Here are the steps to install a 120-volt circuit breaker:

  1. Shut off the power at the main panel and check is there are any live wires left.
  2. When the electrical wiring is no longer live, open the home circuit breaker panel.
  3. Screw the new cable clamp into the panel.
  4. Attach the ground wires from breakers to the ground bar.
  5. Attach the neutral wire to the neutral bus
  6. Place the last wire under the screw – this will be a black wire.
  7. Secure all elements and place the cover on the panel.

Safety Is the Top Priority

For a full list of electrical requirements for owners as well as the control panel testing checklist, check out the official NYC guidelines. What we want to focus on is several recommendations that will help you prevent serious issues or manage them in time:

  • De-energize, i.e., turn off the power, in the electrical panel when doing any electrical work.
  • Make sure you select devices that conform to wiring, load requirements, and your type of breaker panel.
  • Install a new circuit only when you have an open slot in your breaker panel.
  • Don’t touch wires leading into the electrical panel and follow general electrical panel box safety.
  • Ensure the electrical equipment is properly inspected and tested as required in the code.
  • Have AFCI and GFCI tested monthly to verify they are in working condition.

For essential electrical services, call Handy Kith and request a professional check-up. Not only will you receive high-quality service, but we will also explain the basic rules in more detail. For example, how often electrical panels should be checked, what you should do in case of an accident, etc. With us, you will finally find a specialist you can trust to do the job right.


How Easy Is It To Add Extra Plug Sockets?

It is quite easy to add an extra plug socket, if you have even a little experience with electrical repairs. You
simply have to unscrew the faceplate and feed the wires into the mount. This is a task that you can do
yourself. If you can’t, hire a professional.

What Are Warrants of HandyKith Electricians?

The number of sockets that are needed per room depends on the room and its function in the home. For
instance, a living room needs 8 outlets, while the bedroom needs 6 outlets for the main and 4 outlets for the

How can you tell if an outlet is bad?

There are signs to look out for when trying to asses the state of your home’s outlets. You should call an
electrician if the breaker tripped after one appliance was plugged. Also, outlets could feel warm to touch and it
could be a sign of damage if it gets too really hot. This might even cause an electrical fire.

Why is powerpoint in the bathroom different?

The powerpoint in a bathroom is quite different from the ones in other parts of the home. This is due to the
increased exposure of the sockets to water. So, you should use outlets like GFCIs to prevent shocks.

Can a bad outlet make other outlets not work?

This depends on if the outlets are in one circuit together or separate. It is more likely that a bad outlet
would affect others, if this is the case. If separate, the chances are lesser.


Why You Should Trust Electrical Experts

The load of everyday appliances and the high amp usage of new electrical equipment is a common thing in most households. As a homeowner, you want to be aware of whether your electrical service panel box is in good condition and follow the control panel testing checklist. But of course, most people aren’t equipped to carry out extensive new wiring procedures – but Handy Kith professionals are.

If you need the right person for the circuit breaker installation, you can reach a qualified electrician at Handy Kith. Contact us to learn more about the rates, complexity of work, and general info. With us, you’ll get a piece of mind knowing that you have the best circuit breaker panel and all the systems repaired or upgraded.

We want to remind you once again that any work on your electrical system should be performed by a professional. There are risks ranging from damaging your equipment and wiring to getting electrocuted or injured more seriously. You can conduct visual inspections, calculate the electrical panel size for house and generally, keep an eye on it. But anything beyond that should be left for specialists.


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