Several factors may cause a circuit breaker to trip persistently. Typically, this fault can be traced to a wiring issue like a short circuit or a fault in the ground, or there’s too much load on the circuit that cannot be borne by the amount of current in it. However, just like everything, overtime your circuit breaker may deteriorate or go bad completely.
In some occasions, when there is an issue in the circuit that makes the breaker to trip now and then, failure happens. At other times, using the breaker to turn on and turn off the power several times may cause failure. We advise you to stop doing this if you have; it’s not good. The only time circuit switches should be used is during circuit servicing. And there, it is used for switching off the power; not to turn on and turn off the circuit. Power surge and atmospheric reactions like lightning can also damage circuit breakers. Again, leaking water and worse cases like flooding can harm breakers. Should you be facing any of these problems, get an emergency electrician to help you out.
Refitting a circuit breaker
The solution to circuit breaker failure is taking out the old and replacing with a fresh one. It is not expensive and a straightforward task to change a faulty circuit breaker so far you understand electrical problems quite well.
That said, you will have to fix the problem at the main service panel without the safety cover. This is why most people don’t feel comfortable performing it themselves. The procedure is simple, even simpler than many wiring jobs, but the main power bus bars won’t be covered as you carry out a replacement so, if care is not taken, you might get a serious electric shock.
The National Electric Code (NEC) since 1999 had made it needful for arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection to be a part of circuits used in homes. Presently, it is mandatory that nearly everywhere people reside or work should have special AFCI circuit breakers installed for safety. During replacement of old standard circuit breakers by expert electricians, the law mandates them to fit an AFCI circuit breaker should there be a need for it. Should you seek to carry out this function according to the code, you must replace faulty breakers with AFCI protection for circuits that need them. There is also the GFCI circuit breakers. These ones differ a little in installation from the AFCI as they are connected to the neutral (white) circuit wires, and carry a white coiled wire connected to the panel’s neutral bus bar.
Equipment and tools for the job
- Safety glasses
Materials for the job
- New circuit breaker
How it’s done
- Note the type, size, and brand of the circuit breaker: This is important prior to replacing a faulty circuit breaker so you can get the correct replacement part. Each circuit breaker panel has a designated circuit breaker! There are major breaker manufacturers that have specific breakers for their panels only.
There are various shapes and sizes of breakers. Avoid replacing a breaker with another one from a different manufacturer. They may resemble, but they differ in tension, their connection to the holder, and the extent to which they position the bus bars. Take a good look at the front of the breaker, you will see a small label close to the reset lever carrying the identification number you need. Please take note of these specifications and use them to purchase a matching replacement.
- Switch off the power from the mains: Experts in electrical works often replace circuit breakers with the main power source on. However, as a first timer and an inexperienced person, please turn off the power source from the mains. This cuts off the current flowing through the two hot bus bars moving around the service panel.
Safety tip: Electricians that are careful usually stand to one side of the panel when switching on or off a circuit breaker, with their eyes looking away from it until the power is turned on. This is because there could be an explosion in the panel (it’s rare). So, taking a one-sided stand and not looking directly at the panel saves your eyes from getting hit. Safety glasses are worn by some electricians while working on electrical parts and systems.
Find the main circuit breaker and turn it off. Everywhere may go dark, and this is where your flashlight comes in. When this happens, all linked circuits in the panel are turned off.
Safety tip: There is no power supply to linked circuits when the main breaker is switched off; however, there is no effect on the incoming power service lines or the service lugs (terminals they connect to) in the panel. This means that these units still carry enough voltage except your power company switch off your service. Please, don’t ever touch the bare wires or service lugs of the incoming service lines
- Take out the cover plate of the breaker panel. Loosen the screws used to hold the panel cover plate. Start with the corner screws and remove the middle two screws last. Hold the cover while loosening the remaining screws, so it doesn’t fall. Don’t allow any part of the cover tip inside the panel as you take it off.
- Uninstall the old circuit breaker: After getting the cover out of the way, look for the faulty breaker. Hold the reset lever of the breaker and turn it off. Be careful to stretch out the insulated black circuit wire connected to the breaker if it is folded tightly around the corners of the panel. Don’t let it touch the panel or any other wires.
Gently hold the edge of the old breaker at the middle of the panel and pull it out towards the exterior of the panel. The breaker should loose hold and eject from the panel. Take care not to touch the metal bus bar that was adhered to the breaker. When the breaker is detached from the panel, it certainly becomes inactive since it has lost touch with the two hot bus bars in the panel.
- Disconnect the wires: Loose the screw holding the black circuit wire connected to the breaker from the terminal. In case you are replacing a 240-volts breaker, it typically has two hot wires (black and red).
Should you be replacing a GFCI or AFCI circuit breaker, there will be a neutral circuit wire connection on the breaker together with a white coiled wire that connects to the panel’s neutral bus bar. Disconnect these wires as well. To disconnect a bus bar wire is easy. Simply loosen the screw holding it to its lug.
- Fix wires to the new breaker: Locate the screw terminal of the new breaker and insert the bare end of the black wire to it and tighten the screws. This terminal is labeled ‘load’ or ‘load power’ in some circuit breakers.
Should you be either an AFCI or GFCI or both, connect the neutral (white) wire to its screw terminal on the circuit breaker. The label for this terminal may be ‘neutral’ or ‘load ‘neutral’. Again, the panel’s neutral bus bar has a screw terminal to which you should connect the coiled white wire adhered to the circuit breaker. Before fitting the new breaker, switch it off from the reset lever.
- Fix in the circuit breaker: Attach the back of the new breaker to the holder clip behind the breaker panel and drive it forward into position. Sometimes, doing this may demand little pressure exertion. Ensure the breaker is in symmetry with the bus bar during installation. As the breaker fits snugly in the hot bus bar, it would ‘click’.
Adjust the excess wire, laying them neatly into the void beside the panel. Remember to avoid contact with other wires or metal parts of the panel.
- Switch on the power:Return the cover of the service panel and re-screw it into place. Turn off all the branch circuit breakers using their levers before switching on the main breaker. Doing this will not put so much urgent power demand on electrical service when the main breaker is on.
Now that all the branch breakers are off, turn on the main circuit breaker. Then, switch on each branch circuit breaker one after the other.
Test electrical fixtures and outlets connected to the circuit powered by the new breaker to know if it’s functioning properly.
Is it time to call an expert electrician?
Circuit breaker replacement is not hard to perform, but people get anxious, including those with advanced skills. This is because you have to work directly on the main breaker panel, which carries the possibility of getting an electric shock.
So, if you feel you can’t or the breaker panel is old and looks confusing, it is time to call expert emergency electrician London for assistance. They will have a better knowledge of all AFCI and GFCI requirements and perform the job in compliance with the code. In case you don’t know who to call for help, give us a call today.