When to Fix-It-Yourself and When to Call an Electrician

Messing with electrical appliances and components is serious business. Hello, my name is George Tanner. I’m a retired electrician. I can’t even begin to tell you how many horror stories I heard over the years of working as an electrician. People who thought they could quickly fix something in their homes but never should have even tried. Some got hurt and others were lucky. My goal here is to provide you with some guidelines as to what electrical malfunctions are easily fixable by nearly any adult, and what you should never attempt on your own. One thing you are going to hear me stress more than once is that electrical components are not to be taken lightly. We protect our children from them; we also have to protect ourselves. I hope you find this blog to be helpful!

Tips for Replacing a Circuit Breaker

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American homes are full of devices, appliances, and tools that love to consume electricity.  In most newer homes a breaker panel acts as a control center for the various electrical pathways in the house.  Of course, like all electrical parts it's possible for an individual breaker to wear out.  Replacing a breaker is relatively simple (essentially a matter of removing the old one and plugging in a new one) and can instantly improve your panel's function.  Here are some tips for safely replacing a broken breaker.

Use a Multimeter to Tell If You Need to Replace a Breaker

Does your breaker trip frequently?  Or have a hard time staying reset?  There's a chance it's time to replace it.  Especially if the breaker feels warm to the touch, smells off, or shows evidence of damage such as scorch marks or frayed wires, you probably need a new one.  You can also check using a multimeter.  When breakers go bad they leave the circuit open, so if there's no power across the breaker even when it's been reset, it's definitely time for a change.

Invest in a Voltage Tester

Before doing anything else, it's crucial to shut off the main breaker heading into the panel.  Generally located at the top of the box, this breaker controls all the branch circuits below it.  In theory, once you've turned it off you can safely work anywhere in the box.  It's best to play it safe though.  A voltage tester can inexpensively be purchased from any hardware store and used to check for power in the breaker you're replacing.  Buying a voltage tester is a small investment that could literally save your life. 

Take a Picture of the Breaker You're Replacing

There are a variety of amperage ratings for circuit breakers and dozens of manufacturers.  And only one will fit and function in your panel.  Make your life easier by snapping a picture on your cell phone of the breaker you've removed and of the panel spot it goes in.  You'll save yourself lots of frustration (and multiple trips) by referencing these pictures and double-checking the specifications before you purchase a replacement.

Don't Over-tighten the Screws

When you insert the new breaker, only screw it until nice and snug.  No need to over tighten though. Besides being an annoyance if you ever need to remove the breaker, screwing things together too tightly could potentially crush the wires.

Don't Stand Directly in Front of the Panel When It Turns Back On

Finally, when it's time to throw the main breaker back on, make it a point not to stand directly in front of the box.  On the off chance that something goes wrong you want to avoid being in the immediate line of fire for any sparks, debris, or arcing current.

These tips should be able to help you safely replace a malfunctioning circuit breaker.  However, if even with a new breaker you're still experiencing frequent trips and having difficulty keeping the breaker reset, it may be time to consider expanding the panel.  Consult an electrician like http://attaboyservices.com/ to determine if a panel upgrade is necessary to manage your home's electric use.

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20 April 2015