Circuit breakers are important for homes because they moderate electrical energy. Power moves through your home from room to room as you turn on lights, appliances, and electronics. Without the circuit breaker, this energy could overload your electrical system.
Overloading a home electrical system has dire consequences. It could lead to power outages, property damage, or an electrical fire. To manage these risks, all homeowners should know where the circuit breaker is at home, and how to use it.
At DNA Electric, we serve customers across Coeur d’Alene, ensuring you feel confident using your breaker. Here, we’ll talk a bit more about how circuit breakers work and how to manage them.
Finding Your Circuit Breaker
Circuit breakers are in different areas of a house, depending on your home design. If you have a basement, your breaker is likely there. It’s a box, usually with a metal door, containing a collection of switches.
If you don’t have a basement, check the garage, storage closet, or another low-traffic area of your home. Modern circuit breakers should be separate from connected units in an apartment or duplex. Older buildings may share a breaker or master switch. If this is the case, you should speak to your electrician about safety implications and switching to a new breaker.
Some older homes may also have an exterior circuit breaker. This means travelling outside to manage the box.
How to Use a Circuit Breaker
The switches in the circuit breaker box should be labelled by room. When you turn off a switch, it cuts power to that room by breaking the circuit of electricity. Hence the name circuit breaker. If you’re a new homeowner, your switches may need to be labelled. Your electrician can help you.
The switches in the box may switch off by themselves. This happens when a breaker is overwhelmed with energy. To prevent too much power from causing damage, the switch resets, or trips, to break the circuit. This cuts power to that area of your home. To restore power, simply flip the switch back to restart it.
Circuit Breakers vs. Fuse Boxes
Some older homes might be equipped with a fuse box over a circuit breaker. The concept is the same. The fuse box protects against power surges by essentially destroying the fuse and breaking the circuit.
The major difference between a fuse box and a circuit breaker is that your breaker can be reset with the flip of a switch. Fuses only work once. When a fuse is blown, the wire inside is melted. The fuse must be replaced to restore power to that area of your home.
Fuse boxes are a cheaper option than a circuit breaker. They also react quickly to power surges. They’re slightly less convenient in that you’ll need fuse replacements on hand.
You can upgrade a fuse box to a circuit breaker. This is beneficial for many reasons, including the ability to add new circuits to your breaker if you expand your home. Never try to exchange a fuse box for a circuit breaker on your own. The process is complicated and very dangerous if mismanaged. A professional electrician should oversee the job.
Circuit Breaker Condition and Maintenance
Circuit breakers should be kept clean and dry. A bad seal on the door or water leaking into the breaker is a big problem, especially if your unit is mounted outside. Keep the breaker door closed, and make sure it’s inaccessible to children.
If your circuit breaker looks damaged or isn’t working as expected, don’t try to fix it yourself. Similarly, if the breaker continuously shuts off power to a space in your home, you should consult your electrician.
The circuit breaker is there to prevent accidents, and you can flip each switch manually to restart it. If you need to restart it manually on a regular basis, it could mean an electrical problem is brewing in your home.
Working closely with our clients, DNA Electric ensures your electrical system is in good working order. We can help you replace, label, and maintain your circuit breaker. We’re also happy to help you better understand it.
When in doubt, we always recommend calling a professional to help with breaker issues. While switching off the master switch in your breaker should cut power to your home, it’s always safest to have an expert manage wiring and electricity.
For more details on circuit breaker maintenance and other electrical services in Coeur d’Alene, call us today!