How to reset a tripped breaker and save money

Tripped breaker

Want to save $100 on a quick and easy fix? Everyone runs into this at one point or another. They come home and the lights or outlets aren’t working in a room. You could have sworn they were working before you left. Before you grab your phone and call an electrician out, you should check if you have a tripped breaker.

I had a friend call me the other day with this exact problem. She went to school and came home to find her bedroom lights were no longer working. She went to the electrical panel and saw there was a breaker off. When she attempted to turn it back on, it showed no resistance and went back to the off position.

Circuit breakers

Most people think there are only two positions on a breaker. While for a switch this is true, it is not for a circuit breaker. There are actually three.

I’ll call them the O, T, and F positions. Or ON, TRIPPED, and OFF.

Tripped breaker
Circuit breakers in their three positions

In the above image, you can see three breakers in three different positions.

O T F positions on breaker
Better visual showing the three positions

As you can see, there is a third position that is right in between the ON and OFF. This is the position the breaker goes to when it is tripped. It does this to help be identified when troubleshooting. On some breakers, it may not be as obvious due to design or feature.

To properly reset a tripped breaker, you must turn the breaker completely off. You will feel resistance when moving it from the T position to the F. Trying to push the breaker from T to O will only result in the breaker going back to the T position. You may also notice there is no resistance in some cases. That does not mean your breaker is broken. It is still working as intended.

If when you reset your breaker and it remains in the ON position, congratulations! You just saved $100! Sometimes using too many items all at once can trip a breaker. A breaker doesn’t always trip immediately and can take time. It can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to trip.

Typical service call rates for an electrician can range anywhere from $50/hour to $100/hour and typically have a two-hour minimum. So before you call, take a look at your breaker and see if it is just a tripped breaker.

Appliances like electric heaters/electric blankets, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, some straighteners/curling irons and portable fans use a lot of electricity. The bigger the item, the bigger the load.  Try using a different outlet or unplugging a few items to reduce the load on the breaker.

If you reset your tripped breaker and it immediately trips again, there is a problem somewhere down the line that needs to be remedied first. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESET MORE THAN ONCE. Repeat attempts could cause damage to your breaker, further damage to what is causing the issue, or could even result in a fire. Please use common sense when resetting a breaker yourself.

Author: Jonathan

Hi, I'm Jonathan Villarin. I'm a licensed Journeyman Electrician in the state of Texas, a Class 1 Locomotive Engineer, and a Class 8 Conductor. I'm also currently in college pursuing a AAS in Process Technology and Instrumentation. I have a passion for fixing things. I love figuring out how things work and how to repair them. I'm a hobby and career collector. My passions are traveling and photography.

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