Understanding Circuit Breakers And Why They Overheat

28 June 2016
 Categories: , Blog


Circuit breakers control the flow of energy throughout your home, making them a very important component of your home. However, when a circuit breaker starts to have problems, then at lot more is at risk than just being without power; a bad circuit breaker can increase the risk of fires. Here's what you need to know about the different types of breakers, and what can happen if they overheat.

Why Would Circuit Breaker Overheat?

There are several types of circuit breakers including AFCI, GFCI, and the standard unit. When the breaker exceeds its rating, it will cause the electricity flowing through the unit to overheat. When this occurs, the circuit is broken, because the circuit has warmed up as an indication the unit is near or at its capacity.

Types of Breakers:

Standard: A standard breaker usually has a rating of 15 to 20 amps. These automatically switch off when too much voltage flows through the line, allowing you to replace the fuse without too much risk to your home.

GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters: A GFCI breaker will trip the appliance to which the power is connected, rather than the breaker itself. These are most commonly used in areas where water is common, such as in your bathroom or kitchen. In many cases, these breakers have a reset switch on the outlet itself, allowing you to easily reset the connection.

AFCI or Arc Fault Interrupters: An older style of circuit breaker is the AFCI, which are common in homes from a prior era. These switch off very quickly when arc is produced in the electrical current. Like the standard breaker, you can replace the fuse easily.

Reasons the Breaker Trips                

Breakers trip when too much current flows through them. The more a circuit breaker trips, the worse it will be if it continues to trip from the same reason. As it arcs internally, the parts can be worn down, causing it to become warmer than it should. A properly wired circuit should not be hot. When the contacts/wires are broken, they will get hot quickly.

It is a good idea to check the wires to be sure they are free of corrosion and are a tight fit. If the problem is the wires, rather than the breaker, then it might be wise to call an electrician, because replacing the breaker will only delay further problems. 

It is normal to be concerned if your breaker is hot to the touch. However, if you have used the unit, such as a clothes dryer, it will be normal for the breaker to be hot. But, if it is still hot after you finish the task, and doesn't cool down, you may have a problem. It would be advisable to contact an electrical company, such as Safe-Way Electric & Solar Co.