Education Library

Breaker Tripping: Can I just replace it with a bigger one?

My breaker keeps tripping. Can I just replace it with a bigger one?

PROBLEM: Circuit breaker tripping repeatedly

breaker keeps trippingBreakers are protective devices, similar to governors on vehicles to control speed, or door stops to keep the door from damaging something. When installed correctly and properly sized, breakers are designed to protect wiring and devices from overheating and potentially causing a fire.

When the breaker is tripping, it is almost never a good idea to replace it with a larger one. Here’s why:
  • It increases the risk of fire. If the breaker is tripping because it’s overloaded (say, drawing 25 amps on a 20-amp breaker), increasing the size may cause the wire or the receptacle to overheat. It’s like running a car engine at full speed for a long period—it will cause the components to get too hot, and it could result in fire.

[Read more…]


FAQ 4: What are Surge Suppressors?

FAQ 4: What are Surge Suppressors?

ee surge suppressorsSurge suppressors (also known as surge protectors) are devices for protecting electronic equipment in homes and businesses. In commercial and industrial applications, where they protect entire panels, they are sometimes known as transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS). Their main function is to limit sudden high voltage inputs (called “spikes”) and stray electrical signals not intended (“trash”) to provide “cleaner” power—i.e., steadier, more consistent voltage.

DO I NEED SURGE SUPPRESSORS?

Unless you like playing Russian roulette with your power, yes. Lightning strikes, power surges from or outside the power company, or faults within your own building can take out electronic components in TVs, computers, circuit boards in newer appliances, etc. in a heartbeat. All of a sudden, it’s “not working”—and you won’t even know what hit you. [Read more…]


Breakers and fuses: What’s the difference?

FAQ 3: Breakers and Fuses: What’s the Difference?

breakers and fuses

Fuse panel

Breakers and fuses are both designed to trip (turn off) in the event of an electrical overload. However, breakers are mechanical and may be reset, whereas fuses are “one time only” and have to be replaced. Breakers typically offer greater protection, because modern technology allows for more sophisticated measurement and more precision tripping.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BREAKERS AND FUSES?

Both breakers and fuses are designed to trip when a circuit is overloaded. (And FYI, modern sophisticated fuses can often provide a level of protection greater than most breakers. But this is something more for industrial applications, and typically costs significantly more.)

WHY SHOULD I UPGRADE FROM FUSES TO BREAKERS?

Fuses often aren’t sized properly. [Read more…]


What is an ACFI, and why do I need it?

FAQ 2: What is an ACFI, and why do I need it?

ACFIwhat is an ACFIAFCI (Arc-Fault-Circuit-Interrupting) breakers and receptacles (also known as AFI or simply “arc-fault”) have been on the scene since the early 2000s. Beginning with the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) they are being required almost everywhere in residential applications that is not already protected by a GFCI.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GFCIs AND AFCIs?

Both have test buttons. Both protect. They look alike. (You may not be able to tell the difference unless you look closely!)

After that, the differences are HUGE. GFCIs protect from differential current—i.e., what’s coming in and what’s going out. (See our GFCI article.) AFCIs, on the other hand, protect from FIRE. They are designed to save lives. Thus, they are taking on a prominence that will only be increasing, and they are adding to the costs of construction significantly—typically, AFCI breakers cost between $40 and $80, and receptacles around $30 or more.

HOW DOES AN AFCI WORK?

AFCIs are a bit more complicated to explain than GFCIs, because they measure two things: arcing (electricity traveling through the air or other substance instead of wires) and current (load). [Read more…]


FAQ 1: What are GFCI receptacles, and why do I need them?

FAQ 1: What are GFCI receptacles, and why do I need them?

GFCI (Ground-Fault-Circuit-Interrupting) receptacles—the outlets with the push buttons—are designed to protect people and animals from electric shock.  They’re also known as GFIs or simply “ground-fault.”

HOW DO GFCIs WORK?

GCFIGFCIs measure incoming current vs. outgoing current, and are designed to trip if the smallest fraction (around 4-8 milliamps, or thousands of an amp) are going out through some other path, whether through a person, a piece of equipment, or faulty wiring. Remember that tingle you felt when something didn’t work right? A correctly-functioning GFCI would trip and keep you from getting electrocuted. (Since nearly two-thirds of all home-related electrical deaths are due to ground-fault conditions, GFCIs are important in keeping people safe!)

Believe it or not, [Read more…]


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