Electric Current Will Only Flow Through A Circuit That Is What Causes Your Circuit Breaker to Burst

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What Causes Your Circuit Breaker to Burst

Circuit breakers are electrical components designed to protect us from the dangers of electric shock and our homes from fire and other types of damage that can be caused by electrical faults. Each circuit breaker in your electrical switchboard typically protects one or more connected circuits from overload, short circuit, and ground leakage.

In order to understand what causes a circuit breaker to trip (or more commonly known as a trip), we must first understand what a circuit is and what the terms overload, short circuit, and ground leakage mean.

What are circuits?

The electrical wiring in our homes is divided into electrically separate segments known as circuits. Each circuit supplies electricity to equipment in a very well-defined and specific group. All lighting fixtures and light switches are located in a single circuit known as the lighting circuit. Air conditioners, heating and ventilation equipment are grouped together in a second circuit known as the HVAC circuit. And last but not least, sockets are grouped into a circuit known as a circuit.

Each circuit consists of cables, switches, connectors and other electrical equipment designed to carry only the maximum electrical current specified by the manufacturer. When exposed to a current that exceeds this maximum, an electrical component may fail, melt, or catch fire. Circuit breakers were introduced to ensure that this does not happen by turning off the power supply when the electrical current flowing exceeds the maximum capacity that the circuit components can handle.

Overloaded circuits – the main reason for tripping of circuit breakers

Look at all the sockets in your house. How many devices are plugged into each outlet? Chances are you have more than the circuit is designed for. The ever-increasing use of electrical and electronic devices puts increasing pressure on our electrical wiring every day – sometimes to the point where the amount of electricity we use exceeds the amount the circuit can safely provide without overheating or damage. When this happens, the circuit breaker in your distribution panel will disconnect the circuit from the power supply.

Short circuits – when things go really bad

Whether you’re digging around the garden for a shiny new flower box or drilling a hole in the wall to put up that adorable family picture, any time you make changes around the house you risk damaging electrical cables hidden behind walls or in the ground. When you drill a hole through a cable or cut it with a spade, there is direct contact between the individual wires in the cable. This is known as a short circuit. Electrical cables are not designed to withstand the current flowing in such a short circuit situation. In cases like this, a short-circuit protection mechanism in the circuit breaker shuts off the power supply to ensure the cable doesn’t melt or catch fire.

Current drains into the ground

Sometimes known as ground fault current or residual current, it is electricity that flows from electrical wiring into the ground or other conductive materials in the home. Electrical systems are designed to pass current between live conductors of the installation. When appliances like kettles, fridges and washing machines malfunction, they can allow electricity to flow through their metal parts into your body and down to the ground. This is a dangerous situation known as ground leakage. Certain types of circuit breakers known as residual current devices or ground fault current interrupters trip when they detect current flowing to ground to protect you from electric shock.

In short, there are only 3 very simple reasons why switches are triggered:

1.) The circuit is overloaded, i.e. more devices are connected to it than the circuit can actually accommodate.

2.) A short circuit is present. Although less likely than overloading, the cable or other part of the fixed wiring may be damaged. You will need a qualified electrician to repair this fault and make your home safe again.

3.) The device causes a ground drain current. Of all the scenarios, this is by far the most likely cause. Devices break down all the time, and the result is a circuit breaker that keeps turning on.

What should you do if your fuse keeps tripping?

Contact your local electrician to help you find out what is causing it. If you are from Perth, Western Australia, contact a Perth electrician or one of the Perth electrical contractors.

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