Understanding Main Breaker Failure

If you have recently noticed that the main breaker in your breaker panel trips often, then this may be a sign that a replacement is needed. This is true if the breaker is hot to the touch and if you hear a sizzling or buzzing sound coming from the device. These are all signs that the circuit breaker has failed, and an electrician should complete a replacement as soon as possible. Keep reading to understand better why the breaker fails, so you have a complete understanding of the problem.

Constant Overloading

A circuit breaker works as a switch that allows electrical current to run through a closed circuit. The electricity will feed all of the sockets and electrical installations in a specific area. All of the smaller breakers branch off from the main breaker. While the smaller breakers control electrical flow through the various circuits of the house, the main breaker will control the flow of power from the electrical feeder wire that comes into the home from the main power line. The main breaker of the house will trip if it is overloaded according to its amp rating. Main breakers will typically have an amp rating of 100 or 200. If you have an older house, then you are likely to have a breaker panel with a 100 amp main breaker. 

A typical home will likely not use more than 100 amps of power at one time. However, if you have recently made upgrades to your home that include a central air conditioning system, electric heating system, or an addition that contains a new electrical circuit, then it is very possible that your house exceeds the 100 amps of power on a regular basis. When this happens, your main breaker will be constantly overloaded with electricity. 

When a breaker is overloaded with electricity, electrical current will flow more strongly through the electromagnet held within the device. The increased magnetic pull will force a metal bar within the breaker to shift. The circuit will open and the breaker will trip. If this happens too often, then the electromagnetic can retain its increased magnetic charge. The metal bar in the breaker can also loosen a small amount. Both of these things will cause the breaker to trip more and more often. Not only should a new main breaker be added to your breaker panel, but the panel should be upgraded as well. This will allow for an increased flow of electricity through your home, so contact an electrical contractor for this service.

Short Circuit And Arcing Issues

A short circuit within the wiring of the main breaker is another reason why a main breaker is likely to fail. This short occurs when the hot black wire attached to the breaker touches either a neutral white wire or another hot black wire in the breaker panel. A break along one of the wires attached to the breaker can cause a short issue as well. A short will cause sudden fluctuations in electricity and the breaker will trip. This can cause the breaker parts to weaken and fail over time. An electrical contractor can prevent this problem from occurring again in the future by making sure wires do not touch one another when the new breaker is installed. 

Another wiring issue that can cause breaker problems involves the poor tightening or connecting of the lugs on the wires that attach to the breaker. When these lugs are not tightened correctly, some of the wire will be exposed to the air. When this happens, electricity can move from the wire, through the air, and connect to another metal part. This is called an arc and it is extremely hot. The heat and the electrical current together can create a weld on metal parts. Not only can this damage the breaker, but it can cause the metal busbar behind the breaker to degrade. The breaker will then fail. Fires are also possible, so if you hear a sizzling or buzzing sound coming from the breaker box, contact an electrical contractor immediately. These noises as well as a constantly tripping breaker are signs that an arc is being formed. When the issue is fixed, a new busbar may need to be installed with the breaker.