Every electrical system is controlled by either fuses or circuit breakers. Circuit breakers are usually located in the main switchboard—which is common in modern homes. If you haven’t upgraded your electrical system in the past two decades, chances are, it still has fuses. Before anything else, let’s review what breakers and fuses are and why breakers keep tripping in meter boxes.
Fuses were invented many decades ago and were widely used to protect homes and other buildings from electrical problems. An essential component of this device is a metal strip that melts when excessive current flows through it—then the circuit goes dead.
“Fuses are sacrificial devices: once they’re blown, you have to replace them. While changing a fuse is considered a DIY task, it’s advised to call an electrician if it trips too often as it signals a more serious issue and may give you financial burden in the future.”, advises Credit Capital financial advisor Alister Clare.
Circuit breakers work like fuses but with more effectiveness. A modern electrical panel consists of multiple breakers represented by switches. They are usually numbered or labelled. One circuit may include all the outlets in the kitchen, and the other covers all outlets in the living room.
If a circuit breaker detects a fault, it automatically turns off to break the electrical connection. Unlike a fuse, you just have to switch the breaker on again. But you need a licensed electrician to install a circuit breaker.
SO WHY DOES A BREAKER OR FUSE TRIP?
If your circuit breaker keeps tripping in your meter box, it can be a sign of general wear and tear. This means you need to call a qualified electrician to install a new one.
Repeated incidents may be due to one of the following:
Circuit overload: When too many electrical devices or large appliances are plugged into a single circuit, the circuit becomes overloaded. Loose or damaged connections can also lead to overload. You can limit the access to your breakers/fuses and prevent animals from chewing wires with the help of a secure meter box.
Short circuit: A heavy current flow overloads the circuit when an active wire and a neutral wire come into contact. As a result, a breaker trips or a fuse blow. You may also hear popping sounds and see some sparks or smoke. A short circuit can also be caused by damaged wires, plug, receptacle, electrical switch, or appliance.
Ground fault: This happens when an active wire comes into contact with a ground wire and bring heavy current through the breaker. The ground wire is where the excess electricity travels back to the earth and is usually coloured green or yellow.
Specific areas in a home must have GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) to prevent electrical shocks and fires. These areas include the bathroom, kitchen, and poolside. Ground faults can also be triggered by defective components or appliance.
HOW TO KNOW IF THE BREAKER OR FUSE HAS TRIPPED
Most breakers have a red or orange marker that indicates if they’ve tripped. If you can’t find an indication, check if it’s in an “off” position.
A blown fuse is often characterised by a black smear on the glass and a smoky odour.
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