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David Naples

Expert Wire Electrical Services


6 Appliances That Can Trip Circuit Breakers

The purpose of a circuit breaker is to break the circuit in the event of an electrical short, a fault, or an excessive energy draw so that the system doesn't cause a fire or put people at risk. The earliest known mention of the circuit breaker was described in a patent filed in 1879 by Thomas Edison. It's purpose was to protect wiring from accidental overloads and short circuits. In 1924, Hugo Stotz of Germany, filed a patent and developed the miniature circuit breaker, which was the first generation of today's standard breaker. A standard circuit breaker may trip for two main causes, including:


  • an overload 

  • a short circuit (fault)


Each circuit breaker in an electrical panel is assigned a different circuit in the home. General use circuits are often designated to individual rooms, while many appliances will have a dedicated circuit. Depending on the design of the breaker, a spring or compressed air will alow it to snap open. This method allows it to be reset for further usage. Any appliance can cause a breaker to trip, however, some are more fault prone than others. 


1. Hair Dryers. Hair dryers, flat irons and curling irons all produce a serious amount of heat in a short period of time, resulting in a significant power draw. GFCI's are commonly found in bathrooms. A circuit can break at this specific outlet, or at the breaker supplying the circuit, and can be manually reset.


2. Irons. Like hair dryers, irons produce heat quickly resulting in a significant power draw. Iorns are often used in general living areas such as bedrooms or living rooms. The outlets in these rooms generaly aren't rated for the same amount of power consumption as a kitchen or bathroom outlet. Using an iorn at the highest setting for an extended period of time can cause a breaker to trip. 


3. Fans. Often times, during the summer, running muliple fans at the same time may cause the breaker trip. A single fan, by itself this is not enough to trip the circuit. However, running several fans simultaneously, throughout the day, could vey well draw too much power and cause an overload.


4. Extension Cords. A single extension cord may not pose a threat to your circuit. However, multiple cords have been used to increase the amount of available power outlets (especially in older homes where there is often times not enough properly placed outlets). This situation can easily overload a circuit by plugging in too many devices.  


5. Refrigerators. Refrigerators have become significantly more efficient in the last 20 years. Because these power hungry machines usually last more than a decade, many older models are still being used today. On particularly hot days, or when the AC breaks down, the frige may run longer and cause the breaker to trip. 


6. Vacuum Cleaners. Vacuum cleaners tend to utilize quite a significant amount of power and can overload a circuit easily if other devices are being used on the circuit at the same time. In addition, vacuums and other appliances which have a motor can cause a nuisance trip of an AFCI breaker. This is because arcing is a natrual occurence in motors. The breaker should recognize the difference between a motor's arc and a dangerous arc, however, it's not always the case. You may require an electrician to investigate and determine if the culprit is the vacuum, the circuit, or the breaker.  

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