When we think of a circuit breaker that keeps tripping, common wisdom would be that you’re dealing with a home that’s using up too much energy. So, if it’s happening to you, you might unplug some stuff. But, sometimes, the breaker just will keep tripping regardless of how much stuff you unplug. Clearly, it’s not energy consumption anymore. So, what gives?
A circuit breaker that keeps tripping without a load is a circuit breaker that’s malfunctioning. Sometimes, this can be fixed by simply restarting the breaker. Other times, you may have an electrical problem dealing with your breaker’s input wire. At worst, you may need to replace your circuit breaker.
We have circuit breakers installed in homes to keep us safe from short-circuiting and electrical fires. If yours is malfunctioning, you owe it to yourself and your family to figure out what’s really going down.
Table of Contents
- Why Would A Circuit Breaker Trip Without Anything Plugged In?
- Troubleshooting Your Circuit Breaker
- Why Is This Problem A Hazard?
- Who Do I Call To Fix This Problem?
- How Much Does A Replacement Circuit Breaker Cost?
- Can You Replace A Circuit Breaker On Your Own?
- Related Questions
- What is the average lifespan of a circuit breaker?
- How do I know if my breaker went bad?
- What can cause a breaker to go bad?
- Can a bad breaker cause a fire?
Why Would A Circuit Breaker Trip Without Anything Plugged In?
A breaker is meant to break electrical currents due to an overload, so it really shouldn’t be breaking without anything plugged in. This means that you might be dealing with an electrical issue regarding the breaker. This can be potentially dangerous, so it’s important to troubleshoot this as soon as possible, and call an electrician to fix it.
Troubleshooting Your Circuit Breaker
So, you already know that you’ve got a breaker that’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. What should you do now? The answer, clearly, is that you are gonna have to troubleshoot your circuit breaker. Here’s how to do it:
- Before anything else, check to see that you don’t have anything that could be causing the breaker to trip. If your breaker’s tripping is related to two rooms, check to see that it’s not your DJ equipment or extra-large entertainment set up in the next room that’s causing it.
- If nothing is plugged in, check the input wires to the breaker. If you notice that they’re frayed or have reason to believe that their movement is causing the breaks, call an electrician. You need to get the input wires replaced or fixed.
- Reset the breaker. Remove all connected items in your room from their plugs and reset your breaker. If it breaks again, then there is an issue that you have to fix.
- Keep an eye out for signs of a short circuit, fuse issue, or ground fault. When you’re dealing with a short circuit, you might notice a burn mark or a smell near an outlet. With a ground fault break or fuse issue, you may have a problem with wiring overheating or being exposed to water. If you believe you have an issue with this, give an electrician a call.
- If all else fails, you have a faulty breaker. Even circuit breakers will eventually need to be replaced. They will eventually go bad. If you can’t find anything else wrong, it’s time to get a new circuit breaker. If you’ve had your circuit breaker for a very long time, it’s possible that your breaker just ran its course and needs to be replaced.
Why Is This Problem A Hazard?
A circuit breaker that regularly trips suggests that there’s an electrical problem somewhere in your house. Regardless of whether it’s a bad wire somewhere or in the breaker itself, electrical problems are inherently risky. They can cause fire damage, electrocutions, or just damage your appliances.
Since they do pose a fire risk and a risk to one’s health, it’s important to address the issue as soon as you can.
Who Do I Call To Fix This Problem?
Assuming that you didn’t need to simply reset the circuit breaker, the best person to call would be an electrician. We do not suggest doing electrical work on your own due to the high risk it carries of injury or fire. Most electrician companies will be able to fix everything from input wire problems to ground fault problems with ease.
How Much Does A Replacement Circuit Breaker Cost?
In many cases, a circuit breaker that constantly trips is going to be indicative of a need to replace your current breaker. This can be a fairly expensive endeavor for most homeowners. Thankfully, you don’t always have to replace the entire breaker box. Sometimes, replacing the breaker switch is enough to fix the problem.
If you are just replacing a single switch, you may be able to get it done for $35 to $60 a pop, not including labor. If you have an AFCI circuit breaker requirement, you may need to pay between $45 to $80 for each replacement. With labor, the average price will be between $130 and $280.
If you need to replace the entire breaker box, you are looking at a cost between $500 and $2000 for both parts and labor. The national average for price paid for a full replacement is approximately $1180. Upgraded boxes will cost slightly more, at around $1800.
There’s a lot of price variation here, isn’t there? Well, it’s done with good reason. The price that you pay will depend on how advanced the breaker is, the complexity of the wiring, as well as the price for labor in your local area.
Can You Replace A Circuit Breaker On Your Own?
Technically, most people would agree that this could be a DIY job. However, I’m a little skeptical. With electricity, working on it without much knowledge of what you’re doing is a lot like trying to shoot an arrow up in the air and hope that it won’t hit anything. You might be fine, but you might not be.
If you choose to go the DIY way, just make sure that your local building codes allow you to do this. Many cities now require all electrical work to be done through the use of a certified electrician. So, if you aren’t sure, check with your local municipal office to find out whether DIY is an option.
What is the average lifespan of a circuit breaker?
When properly maintained, a typical circuit breaker box should last for around 30 to 40 years. This means that many homeowners might not ever have to replace a circuit breaker in their lifetimes. Even if you do, expect it to be a one-time thing.
How do I know if my breaker went bad?
A bad circuit breaker will keep tripping. You might also notice flickering or dimming lights, as well as a burning smell. Some bad breakers may also have signs of damage around them.
What can cause a breaker to go bad?
Though it can also be linked to wear and tear, a breaker can go bad for other reasons as well. The most common reason is that you may have overloaded the breaker by plugging in too many items. If your breaker box got exposed to water or if you recently had an electrical storm, a short circuit could have also caused it to go bad.
Can a bad breaker cause a fire?
A breaker is meant to prevent fires by ensuring that you don’t have a short circuit that keeps getting power, causing it to overheat. If your breaker goes bad and is unable to pick up on a short, then you may, in fact, get a fire.