How to Safely Reset a Tripped Circuit Breaker

When the power unexpectedly goes out in all or part of your home, the first place to go for answers is your electrical panel. Your electrical panel is the main control center of your entire electrical system: it contains breakers that shut off in the event that too much current flows through any one particular circuit, and they can be easily reset when it is safe to do so. However, safely resetting a breaker isn’t something that we have found many people know how to do.

Here are some important, risk-minimizing tips you should follow in order to make sure you are safely and properly resetting your circuit breaker.

Step 1: Shut Off & Unplug

When the power goes on in a single room or area of your home, the problem is likely a simple tripped breaker. To fix this, the first step is to step way back on your electrical consumption in that particular area. Shut off all of the lights and unplug all devices in that room in order to eliminate virtually all current draw. Be careful not to miss anything—leaving the problematic device connected when the power comes back on could cause damage to your electrical system.

Once you are confident that everything is disconnected and shut off, then proceed to step two.

Step 2: Find the Impacted Breaker in Your Panel

Next, open up your electrical panel and look for a breaker that is flipped the wrong direction. Ideally, your breakers will be properly labeled, but this isn’t always the case. Before you reset the tripped breaker, use this opportunity to carefully inspect your panel for signs of damage. After several resets, breakers can wear out, and you could see issues like discolored wires, cracked switches, and general wear and tear. If you see any signs of this, be sure to make a note of it and call a professional for panel maintenance as soon as possible.

If the breaker you need to reset is damaged, DO NOT attempt to reset it. This is likely a sign that the breaker itself is no longer good, and attempting to reset it could seriously damage your electrical system.

Step 3: Resetting the Breaker

Once you find the breaker that has tripped, and have inspected it to verify that it does not appear damaged in some way, you should be safe to reset it. Move the switch all the way over to the OFF position to fully reset it (some breakers will not allow you to move the switch back into position without this movement). Then move the breaker all the way over to ON once again and wait a few seconds. If the breaker stays in place, then you should be free to start using your power once again.

At this point, head back into the impacted space and slowly start turning on lights and plugging things back in once again. If the breaker blows when you plug a device in, repeat this process and do not plug in the device or turn on the light that caused the problem to repeat. This could be a sign that something is wrong with this device, and it could damage everything else plugged in or turned on at the time.

Resetting the Main Breaker

What if the power goes out to your entire home rather than just a single space? Your issue might not be one of your sub-breakers, but rather your main breaker. Think of this sort of like the master switch and safety device for your home; when this breaker trips, everything in your home will shut off. When in good repair, it’s extremely rare for your main breaker to trip. However, if yours has, properly resetting it is a slightly different process.

  • Start by turning the main breaker switch all the way to the “OFF” position. Sometimes it can get stuck between “on” and “off,” so make sure you fully reset it.
  • Shut off every individual sub-breaker. It’s best to avoid restoring power to all areas of your home all at once, as this can cause a surge and make your main breaker trip again. Shutting all of your sub-breakers off allows you to turn the power back on slower, and to meter the reset to ensure nothing is going seriously wrong.
  • Turn the main breaker back on.
  • Start turning every sub-breaker back on. Space each one out by about five seconds to give your electrical system a chance to stabilize with each restoration.
Experiencing a problem with your electrical panel? Schedule a service with the pros at Lightning Bug Electric! Dial (404) 471-3847 today.