A circuit breaker is a crucial part of every home’s electrical system and is an important safety component as well. Knowing when a circuit breaker needs to be replaced is one essential step for home safety, and this short guide will tell you how to identify problems with your circuit breaker so that you can know when to repair or replace it.
Circuit breaker panels, also called “breaker boxes,” are typically located in a house or apartment home’s basement or utility closet. Sometimes the panels are concealed by a small door that is painted the same color as the surrounding walls, in order to keep the breaker box concealed and out-of-the-way (unless there is a problem). The function of the circuit breaker is simple: it’s there to turn the electrical circuit off in case it becomes overloaded with electricity, most often due to a spike in the power supply. Without circuit breakers, kitchen and household appliances would be at major risk of overloading with electricity during a power surge, thus causing fires or other accidents. Circuit breakers “break” an electrical circuit during such an overload and keep you, your other appliances, and your home safe.
When an overload occurs and a circuit is broken, you will hear a brief click, followed by the power going out in one or more areas of your home (usually just one). When a breaker is working properly, if you open the panel and look at the rows of breakers for various areas of your home — all of which have “on” and “off” switches — you should easily be able to spot which breaker is in its “off” position, as the breaker for the affected area automatically switches to its off position during an overload. After an overload, you should switch the affected appliance(s) or light(s) to their “off” positions before checking the breaker box; you can then turn the switch in the breaker box to its “on” position to safely restore power.
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