Circuit breakers are an essential part of the electrical wiring in your home. Knowing when to replace circuit breaker components is vital. Circuit breakers must meet safety codes in the US under the National Electrical Code. These safety devices save lives by preventing fires caused by overloaded circuits, short circuits, and ground faults.
However, they can malfunction or wear out over time like any other mechanical device, putting yourself and your family at risk of fire or electrocution.
With a bit of knowledge on when to replace a circuit breaker, you can feel confident in the safety, comfort, and protection of your electrical system against power outages and other problems.
Below, we outlined some tale-tell signs you need to look out for to replace your circuit breaker with a new one as soon as possible to keep your home safe from electrical fires and electrocution.
Replacing Current Circuit Breakers
All circuit breakers are rated for a certain amount of usage. Because the components are copper, and every time you flip that switch, it wears away by friction. So if your breaker keeps tripping or turning off, it may be time to replace it.
The best way to determine when you need a new breaker is to see how much electricity it shuts off each year. However, most circuits should last about 20 years before needing replacement. If your breaker has been in use for more than 30 years, there’s probably little reason not to replace it just as an added safety precaution.
Most professionals recommend updating older breaker boxes to prevent overloading, which could cause fire or electrocution.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Breaker?
The average cost of replacing a circuit breaker varies based on your location. For example, according to HomeAdvisor, homeowners in New York pay around $180 for an electrician to replace a circuit breaker.
Meanwhile, those in Denver pay approximately $93 for a similar service call. The national average falls between these two extremes at about $121 per hour. The cost is higher than some other maintenance services because you’re paying for labor and any parts and materials needed.
For instance, if your circuit breaker needs repair or replacement, your technician will need to buy a new one before they can install it. Fortunately, these parts are pretty affordable (as little as $5). If you don’t plan on being an expert on your home’s wiring system anytime soon, it may be worth using professional help to ensure that everything is functioning correctly.
How Do You Know If You Have a Bad Breaker?
How do you know if your circuit breaker is bad? There are three steps for determining whether or not you need to replace your breaker.
First, check the amperage: The label will tell you what amps can handle. If it’s too high, it might signify that it needs replacing.
Next, check the voltage and time setting: If either is higher than it should be, there may be an issue with your circuit breaker.
Finally, listen carefully: If there’s buzzing from inside or outside of it, something could be wrong since buzzing sounds indicate heat buildup, which means there could eventually be an electrical fault or fire if left unchecked.
Major Signs of a Bad Circuit Breaker:
- Noticing flickering and blinking lights inside your home.
- Experiencing interruptions and poor performance with appliances.
- Replacing light bulbs regularly.
- Uncovering damage like melted wiring or scorch marks.
- Frequent circuit trips.
- Breaker panel produces an electrical burning odor.
How Do You Check If a Circuit Breaker Is Bad?
To determine if a circuit breaker is bad, you’ll need to check if it has tripped. To do so, check out the circuit breaker box and find all of your breakers. Then flip each breaker one by one, starting with any you haven’t turned on yet.
As you flip them, pay attention if they trip or not. If there are no fuses out, but you have an open slot that doesn’t light up when flipped, then that’s most likely where the problem lies. If you find a tripped breaker, reset it and see if it trips again when flipped back on. Repeat the process until you isolate which circuit it is that needs replacing.
When Should I Replace My Circuit Breaker?
Several factors determine whether your circuit breaker is working efficiently and safely. You should consider replacing an old breaker if any of these symptoms persist:
1) It frequently trips for no reason: If a circuit breaker is tripping for no apparent reason, there may be something wrong with it, or it could be an indication of faulty wiring in your home or apartment. The most common reasons that trip breakers repeatedly include:
- Broken fuses or wires.
- Short-circuiting appliances.
- Bad sockets or switches.
- Overloaded circuits.
- Faulty wiring or installation.
Don’t delay getting help from a professional if you have any doubts about why your breaker keeps flipping on and off.
2) There are frequent power surges in my area: Your circuit breakers can only handle so much electrical energy before they overheat. Surges can cause overheating damage inside your wall box or fire damage to other appliances connected to the same outlet.
Finding a Professional Electrical Contractor
The general idea here is to get references from people in your community. The more, the better! Talk to people who have done similar projects and use their experience about what went well, what didn’t go so well, and which contractors they used for various services (insulation, power lines, etc.).
Good research will give you an idea of what to look for in terms of cost and customer service quality. Another option would be to reach out directly on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Call Effective Electric for All Your Circuit Breaker and Service Panel Needs
At Effective Electric, we provide our clients with high-quality, long-lasting, and honest electrical service. We offer detailed service panel inspection with reliable installation and upgrade. Whether you need a professional landscape lighting design, install a backup generator, or need an extra outlet in your home, our experts at Effective Electric are ready to assist with no excuses. We are licensed in Putnam, NYC, Westchester, and Connecticut. Call 914 737-3651 for free consultations and quotes.