My circuit breaker keeps tripping with nothing plugged in. What could be the cause?
You are not alone. Many people have experienced power tripping. A tripping breaker can be a sign of circuit overload, overcurrents, short circuits, or other minor problems.
But if one of your breakers keeps tripping without a load, know that something is plugged in along the circuit, or you have a damaged wire, bad breaker, or a ground fault.
keep on reading for all the details.
Reasons your circuit breaker keeps tripping with nothing plugged in
It is very rare for a breaker to trip without a load. But if this happens to you, check to know:
If they plugged in some devices.
If the breaker is tripping without load, there may be some appliances plugged along the circuit.
Make sure you check all the branch circuits the breaker controls to rule out overload.
Short circuit/ Damaged input wire
A short circuit is one of the factors that can trip OFF your circuit breaker. It occurs when a hot wire and neutral bridges.
The contact causes the flow of high currents through the circuit, generating more heat than what the circuit can handle.
When such happens, the breaker trips off to avert wire burning and damage to electrical appliances.
Short circuits may occur for several reasons, such as faulty wiring and a weak connection.
Troubleshooting a short circuit requires the use of your sensory organ (the nose and your eyes) to trace the area with a burning smell usually left in the affected area and also correct the fault.
I suggest you look for a qualified electrician for the repair, as doing it yourself may cause electric shock.
Most of the circuit breakers are thermal, and thermal circuit breakers trip on over current.
When there is a high current, it hits the bi-metallic metal of the breaker until it becomes hot and trips off.
Their causes include ground faults, overload, faulty arcs, faulty wiring, short circuits, fuse, and others.
Consult an electrician for troubleshooting whenever you have over current.
Ground faults and earth faults mean the same thing and are like short circuits. It occurs when a hot wire comes into contact with the earth; the contact pushes more current to the circuit than it can handle, causing your circuit breaker to trip off.
Contact your electrician if you have a ground fault, to avoid complications that may arise from doing it yourself.
Faulty circuit breaker
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Reasons your GFCI breaker keeps tripping with nothing plugged in
Normally, travelling lights supposed to follow its path. But if for any reason it follows a different path to the ground, a ground fault will occur.
A ground fault occurs when there is contact between live wires and water, or wet materials. Causing currents to flow through the water.
Ground faults can lead to electrocution in buildings without ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
But if you have the interrupter, it will shut off the light without delay.
How to troubleshoot a breaker that is tripping without load
Just follow these seven steps to find out what is wrong with your circuit protector.
1. Check to find out if something is plugged in
You may not know that an appliance is plugged in along the branch circuit which is causing the tripping.
Trace the entire branch circuit of the breaker to make sure it is free from overload.
2. Check the input cables
Wires that have been severally exposed to high voltage are bound to have tears and wear and may be the cause of your tripping breaker.
Busted wires lead to leakage of current, which result to overcurrent and breaker trips.
Make sure you check the circuit wires to find out if they are the cause.
3. Reset the main circuit breaker
Once you have identified the cause of the tripping, which is either an overload or bad input wires, reset the breaker.
To reset the circuit protector, turn it “OFF” and “ON” again. The indicator light will turn on which is a sign of resetting. Once it is complete, the indicator light will go off.
But if you did not see any faults and the breaker is still tripping, test the circuit breaker.
You can do that by pressing and holding the test button, this will cause the breaker to turn off immediately. If it does not trip, it may likely mean that your circuit breaker has gone bad.
Test it with a digital multimeter to confirm its status. Here is a guide on how to test a circuit breaker with a multimeter.
Once you confirm that the receptacle is faulty, replace it.
4. Replace the circuit breaker.
If all the troubleshooting fails and the receptacle still trips without a load, replace it, it has gone bad.
When replacing an old breaker, always consider the make, type, and size of your new breaker. The type and size should be compatible with the old one, else it won’t fit into your electrical panel.
Also, make sure the receptacle passes all the NEC requirements else, it will not serve you well.
However, it is advisable to use a circuit breaker from the manufacturer of breaker panel, to avoid sizing and fitting problems.
For more details on replacing a bad breaker, read our guide on how to replace a bad circuit breaker.
My light went out but the circuit breaker did not tripped, why?
Some circuit breakers work like that; they are called trip-free circuit breakers. Trip-free circuit breakers shut off the lights even when the switch is ON.
They work best on circuits that do not withstand overcurrents. If you experience a free trip, call your electrician for troubleshooting.
How do you know if a circuit breaker has tripped?
If your lights have gone off in a certain part of the house rather than the entire building, you suspect a tripped breaker.
You can also find it by looking at the breaker’s switch to see if it is ON or OFF. Although some types of circuit breakers (the trip free) remain ON when there is no light however, using either of the two methods can help you detect a tripped breaker.
How do I reset a tripped circuit breaker
To reset the tripped breaker, turn it off and unplug all the appliances connected to it, and then ON it again. For safety reasons, we recommend that you stand by the side of the breaker’s panel should it spark a light while resetting.
You should wear goggles and also make use of torchlight to illuminate the area if there is no light.
After the reset, wait for some time before plugging back your appliances to make sure you do not overload the circuit.