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Electrical Tips

How can I tell if my circuit breaker has “tripped” ?
If your circuit breaker has tripped, it will be in the tripped position.  This can be difficult to see if you have an old electrical service or poor lighting near your electrical panel.  The tripped position is in between the ON and OFF positions.  Looking down the line of breakers the tripped breaker should look out of line from the others.  If you can’t find the tripped breaker you can start at the top and push each breaker to the ON position.  All of the functioning breakers will not move since they are already in the ON position.  The tripped breaker will move to the ON position then flip right back without staying ON.  In order to “reset” the breaker you will have to push it to the OFF position until it clicks then all the way back to the ON position until you hear another click and it stays ON.

After I reset my breaker it continues to trip ?

If the breaker you just reset trips again there is a problem with that circuit.  If you can’t determine what that problem is by unplugging any faulty or damaged appliances you should not reset the breaker again.  You may damage the wiring at the point of the fault.  This could be behind the walls or anywhere inside you house.  Continuing to reset the breaker can result in a more costly repair in the end.  Contact a qualified licensed electrician to look at the problem.

Should I shut of the main breaker in my electrical panel before I attempt any electrical work?

You can turn off the main breaker if you panel is fairly new and in good condition.  If your panel is old it might not be a good idea.  The main breaker doesn’t get much exercise and can sometimes break when it is used for the first time in awhile or ever.  The breaker will turn off the power to your house although in some situations when you try and flip it back on the internal parts will fail leaving you without and power at all.  So if you want to do some of your own electrical work I’d suggest turning off the individual breakers one by one.  

Should I be concerned that a certain switch feels hot?
Light switches should not heat up if they have been installed properly and are in good condition.  However some dimmers can generate a little heat that can be felt at the switch plate.  If too much heat exists you might want to see if the dimmer you are using is rated for your type of lights and that the wattage load does not exceed the listed amount.  Normally residential dimmers are available in 600 watt, 1000 watt and 1500 watt versions.  You can determine your wattage load by adding up the number of light bulbs controlled by the dimmer, and multiply that by the wattage on the top of the bulbs.   

Why aren’t the outlets in my kitchen or bathroom working?
In most houses the outlets installed in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and outdoors are GFCI protected.  A ground fault circuit interrupting outlet will interrupt the 120 volt current before you can get seriously injured or killed.  Sometimes these outlets trip without you realizing it.  To reset the outlet you will have to press the “reset” button which is on the face of the outlet.  Press hard until you hear a click, you can use the back of a pen if the button is too hard to press all the way in.  If the outlet will not reset check to make sure the breaker is on in the electrical panel and try again.  If the outlet is still not working you may have to replace the GFCI outlet.  They do not last forever and sometimes fail.





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