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The Power Behind the Circuit Breaker


Electricity usually works quietly behind the scenes to provide everything we’ve come to expect from modern living. It’s only when our TV, lights or even hair dryer quit working that we remember, “Oh yeah, all this cool stuff needs power!” If the power only goes out in one room, it’s probably a tripped circuit breaker.

The Necessity of Circuit Breakers

The Necessity of Circuit Breakers

Electrical wiring is composed of two wires, a “hot” wire carrying the power and a “ground” wire that literally leads to the ground. Electrical shorts will happen when these two wires touch. That’s why each wire is insulated. But when appliance motors malfunction or a pet chews through power cords, the resulting electrical surge can lead to fire and injury. Circuit breakers detect these power spikes and disconnect the circuit before things get dangerous.

Handling a Breaker Trip

Check all the electrical appliances on the affected circuit for excessive heat or a burning smell. If a light or wall outlet is not working, check to see if a wall switch controls it. If everything looks normal, find the master control panel, usually located in the garage or a utility room. Open its door and look for a “tripped” breaker. It will be the one that doesn’t line up with the others in its row. To reset it, push it all the way to the “off” position until it clicks. Then turn it back on. If no breakers are tripped, it might be a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, or more commonly known as GFCI.

Handling a Breaker Trip

The Meaning Behind GFCI

GFCI have built-in power sensors that often control more than one outlet. They look like regular outlets with one “test” button and one “reset” button. They’re designed to protect us in wet areas like bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages, patios — anywhere someone operating appliances or power tools might come in contact with water. To restore power on a GFCI, press the “reset” button.

Sure, it can be annoying when a circuit breaker interrupts your day, but remember that it is designed to prevent damage to your home.


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