Why Does my Breaker Keep Tripping With Nothing plugged In?

A circuit breaker can trip, but when it keeps tripping with nothing plugged in, it may be a sign of short circuit, ground fault, or a bad breaker.

This article will guide you on why a circuit breaker trips with nothing plugged in and how to fix it.

why does my circuit breaker keeps tripping with nothing plugged in

Circuit breakers trip for four major reasons, and they include:

Circuit overload

Circuit overload is when you plug too many devices into a circuit than it can carry. Whenever there is more load on a circuit than rated, the circuit breaker trips to prevent electrical hazards.

Short circuit

A short circuit is one of the factors that can turn OFF your breaker. It occurs when a hot wire and neutral wire bridges.

This contact causes high current flow along the line, generating more heat than what the circuit can handle.

When such happens, the safety switch shuts off the current to avert damage to electrical appliances.

Short circuits may occur for several reasons, such as loose connections, damaged electrical insulators, faulty switches and appliances.

Grounds fault

Ground faults occur when a hot wire comes into contact with the earth wire. The contact pushes more current to the circuit than it can handle, causing your circuit breaker to switch off.

Ground faults can lead to electrical shock if left unchecked.

Faulty circuit breaker

If none of the above is causing your circuit breaker trip, it may mean that your breaker/outlet has gone bad. A bad circuit breaker can cause your lights to go off unexpectedly. If your power failure is because of a bad outlet, replace it with a new circuit breaker.

Consult an electrician to fix the issue for you.

You can buy a new breaker here on Amazon.

How to troubleshoot and fix a circuit breaker that keeps tripping without load.

To troubleshoot and fix a breaker that is tripping without load, follow these steps:

1. Check for overloaded circuits

If your breaker continues to trip, it may be that you plug too many appliances on the circuit.

  • Start by unplugging all the devices on the circuit
  • Reset the breaker
  • Plug those devices one by one and watch the circuit. If it goes off again, you then know it’s a circuit overload problem.
  • You can fix an overload problem by reducing the number of devices you plug into the circuit or by or by installing a new dedicated circuit for the load.

Related article: how many outlets on a 20 amp circuit?

2. Check for short circuits

Wires that have been severally exposed to high voltage are bound to have tears and wear and may be the reason your circuit breaker is tripping.

Troubleshooting a short circuit requires the use of your sensory organ (the nose and your eyes) to trace the area with a damaged insulator or burning smell usually left in the affected area.
I suggest you look for a qualified electrician for the repair, as doing it yourself may cause electric shock.

Test for ground faults

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupters. If your GFCI keeps tripping, it may be that you have a ground fault.

You can test for ground fault with a multimeter by inserting the red probe in the brass port of the outlet, and the black probe into the silver port.

If the voltage reading is zero, there is no ground fault, but if it’s otherwise, there is ground fault.

This will require the service of an electrician to replace it.

Related article: What are the differences between circuit breakers and GFCIs?

4. Replace the circuit breaker.

If all the troubleshooting fails and the receptacle still trips with no 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 breaker passes all the NEC requirements else. It will not serve you well.

Some good circuit breakers you can find are Square D 20 amp breakers for a single pole and 30 amp breakers for double poles.

However, it is advisable to use a circuit breaker from the manufacturer of the main 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.

Need an electrician? Contact us for inspection.

If the breaker trips every time even with nothing plugged in and you are not confident enough to find the cause, call us to help you fix the issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

My light went off, but the circuit breaker did not trip. 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 over-currents. 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 see that by looking at the breaker’s switch to see if it is ON or OFF. 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 if your circuit protector is off.

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.

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About mariaelectricals

Hi, I am Emmanuel Nwankwo, a commercial electrician and the founder of mariaelectricals.com. I established this blog to share my decades of work experience in electrical installations and repairs.