How To Tell If A Circuit Breaker Is Bad

Circuit breakers are more than just a switch to turn off the electricity; they are a key component in home safety. These devices protect your home from electrical hazards like overloads, surges, and short circuits, which can lead to fires and other dangerous situations. In this article, we’ll discuss how to recognize when a circuit breaker needs to be replaced to keep your home safe and sound.

How to Tell If Your Circuit Breaker Is BadHow to Tell If Your Circuit Breaker Is Bad

Circuit breakers are the silent guardians of your electrical system. They automatically cut off power to a circuit when they detect an issue, such as too much current flowing through it. This prevents overheating and potential fire hazards. Given their importance, it’s necessary to ensure your circuit breakers are in good working order. So, how can you tell if a breaker is bad?

5 Signs That You Have a Bad Circuit Breaker

1. Frequent Breaker Trips

Have you ever noticed your circuit breaker tripping frequently? This can be frustrating, but it’s also a clear sign that something is wrong. Frequent breaker trips can occur for several reasons:

  • Overloading the Circuit: If you’re using too many electrical devices on one circuit, it can cause the breaker to trip.
  • Failing Breaker: Sometimes, the breaker itself is the problem and may need replacement.
  • Too Few Circuits: Your home might not have enough circuits to handle the load of your electrical devices.

If your breaker trips often, it’s doing its job by protecting your home. However, it also means there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Call an electrician to troubleshoot the problem. They might suggest upgrading your electrical service to handle the load better.

2. Lights Flicker

Flickering or dimming light fixtures can be a sign of a failing circuit breaker. While a loose bulb might cause this issue, persistent flickering often points to electrical problems. If you notice flickering lights, burning smells, or buzzing sounds, it’s time to call an electrician. These symptoms indicate a serious issue that needs professional attention.

3. Power Fluctuates

Do you experience power fluctuations, like appliances losing power or lights dimming for no apparent reason? This can signal a problem with your breaker, wiring, or electric panel. To troubleshoot, try plugging your appliances into different outlets. If the issue persists on a particular circuit, the breaker could be at fault. An electrician can diagnose the problem and ensure your electrical system is safe.

4. Physical Damage or Wear

Sometimes, a visual inspection can reveal problems with your circuit breaker. Look for signs of physical damage, such as scorch marks, frayed wires, or a burning smell around your circuit box. These are clear indicators that something is wrong. Even if the breaker hasn’t tripped frequently, physical damage can compromise its functionality and safety. Don’t hesitate to contact an electrician if you notice these signs.

5. Age of Circuit Breaker and Electrical Panel

The age of your circuit breaker and electric panel plays a significant role in their reliability. Circuit breakers typically last between 15-20 years, while electrical panels can last 25-40 years. Regular inspections every 10-30 years are recommended to ensure everything is functioning correctly. Older systems might need upgrades or replacements to maintain safety and efficiency.

How to Inspect Your Circuit Breaker

Before diving into an inspection, remember to shut off the main power for the breaker. This ensures your safety while you examine the circuit box. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Visual Inspection: Look for any signs of damage. A circuit breaker that is visibly damaged, has scorch marks or emits a burning smell should be replaced immediately.
  2. Feel for Heat: Check if the breaker is hot to the touch. This could indicate an overloaded circuit or a malfunctioning breaker.
  3. Test Reset: Try resetting the breaker. If it doesn’t stay in reset mode or trips immediately, there could be a serious electrical problem.

If you encounter any issues during your inspection, it’s advisable to call an electrician for further diagnosis and repair.

Contact Our Professional Electricians for a Home Electrical Safety Inspection

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of electrical problems or haven’t had an inspection recently, it’s wise to seek professional help. At Boulden Brothers, we prioritize electrical safety. Our team of experienced electricians can conduct a thorough inspection and address any issues, ensuring your home is safe. You call. We come. It’s fixed. Contact us today to schedule a service and keep your electrical system in top condition.

Maintaining and inspecting your circuit breakers is essential for home safety. By recognizing the signs of a bad circuit breaker and scheduling regular inspections, you can prevent serious electrical problems. If you notice any issues or it’s been a while since your last inspection, contact Boulden Brothers. Our skilled electricians help keep your home safe and your electrical system reliable. Fixed right the first time.


How often should I inspect my circuit breakers?

At Boulden Brothers, we recommend you inspect your circuit breakers at least once a year. Regular inspections can help identify issues early and prevent potential electrical hazards.

What should I do if my breaker doesn’t stay in reset mode?

If your breaker doesn’t stay in reset mode, it indicates there could be a serious issue. This could be due to a short circuit or an overloaded circuit. Turn off the power and call an electrician immediately to inspect and fix the problem.

Can I replace a circuit breaker myself?

While it’s possible to replace a circuit breaker yourself, it’s not recommended unless you have experience with electrical systems. Incorrect replacement can lead to serious safety hazards. It’s always best to hire professional electricians for such tasks.

What causes a circuit breaker to fail?

Circuit breakers can fail for various reasons, including age, frequent trips, physical damage, and electrical overload. Regular maintenance and inspections can help extend the life of your breakers.

How can I prevent my circuit breakers from failing?

To prevent circuit breakers from failing, avoid overloading circuits, perform regular inspections, and ensure your electrical panel is not outdated. Upgrading your electrical system when necessary can also help maintain breaker health.

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