How to Safely Reset Circuit Breakers and Fix Blown Fuses
August 4, 2017
Last week, we discussed the reasons why your air conditioner keeps tripping the circuit breaker. What we didn’t discuss is how to safely restore power to the circuit breaker or replace a blown fuse if it does happen.
This week, we will remedy that. Read on to learn how to properly reset circuit breakers and fix blown fuses.
How to Locate Your Electrical Panel
Most likely, you have one main electrical panel (also known as a distribution panel) that controls all of the electricity that enters your home; however, you may also have a “sub-panel” that controls the circuits in a different area. First, locate your main electrical panel. It will tell you if you have a sub-panel somewhere in the home.
Electrical panels are normally located in a closet, basement, garage, or laundry room. Every once in a while, however, it will be located outside, which is more common in newer homes.
Look for a large grey box embedded into a wall. Keep in mind that the box may have been painted over by the previous owners.
It’s a good idea to know where your electrical panel is located in the case of an emergency. Keep in mind that you never want to touch your electrical panel if you are standing in water. If you have lost power and water is coming into your home, stay far away from anything electrical, evacuate the home, and call your utility company.
If the electrical panel is in an area that is prone to flooding, speak with a qualified electrician about moving it to a safer location.
If you can’t find your panel, either consult your last home inspection report or call your local electrician. OnTime Service can help you find your electrical panel — just give us a call.
How to Safely Reset Tripped Circuit Breakers
Once you locate your circuit breaker, at the very top you will find the main breaker, normally a 200 or 100-amp main. Do not turn the main breaker off unless you want to turn off power to the entire home. This main switch is used for emergencies, such as floods, fires, and electrocutions.
Keep in mind that if you schedule circuit breaker service from an electrician, they may need to turn off the main breaker for repairs. Below the main breaker you will see all of the branch circuit breakers.
When you open up your electrical panel door, off to the right there is a label that will tell you what kind of breaker you have, when it was installed, and other important information. Many of these labels also have an area where you can write in information that corresponds to the breakers on the left.
We highly recommend labeling each of your circuits if you haven’t already. It will save you a lot of time when you need to turn on or off power to a specific room or outlet.
You will want to know where your electrical panel is located in the event of an emergency or tripped breaker. Find it in the light so you don’t have to go hunting in the dark during a power outage.
If you have a circuit breaker (most modern homes have them), here is how you safely reset a tripped breaker:
- First, make sure your hands and feet are dry.
- Use only one hand to flip a circuit breaker. Don’t touch anything other than the circuit breaker switch. And don’t touch more than one thing at a time. If your panel is faulty, you could receive a severe shock. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Locate your electrical panel, open up the cabinet door, and look for any breakers that look different from the rest. The tripped breaker could be in the “off” position (opposite direction of all the other breakers) or it could be somewhere in the middle of “off” and “on.”
- In order to restore power, you must first move the position of the tripped breaker all the way to the “off” position before flipping it back on.
This should restore power. If you have successfully flipped the breaker back on, but the outdoor lights or heat pump still won’t turn on, you may have an outdoor power switch that has been turned off.
Go outside a look for any power boxes near your unit. You may have a switch, lever, or fuse that is in a separate box near your condenser unit.
How to Safely Fix a Blown Fuse
Fuses come in two main types: cartridge fuses (cylindrical in shape) and plug fuses (looks like the bottom of a light bulb and gets screwed in).
Older fuses tend to be cartridge types while newer fuses are Edison-based plug fuses.
Unlike a circuit breaker, fuses must be replaced when they blow. Don’t worry, fuses are inexpensive and can be found at most home improvement stores. Just make sure that the replacement fuse is identical to the one it is replacing.
If you have a fuse box (typically found in older homes), here is how you safely replace a blown fuse:
Fuses are inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores, so we recommend stocking up now. Take in your old fuse and look for an identical replacement. Place your new fuses in a handy spot, near your electrical panel.
- Be extra careful when replacing fuses. Turn off the main power switch at the top of the electrical panel before doing anything else. You may have to remove a prominent fuse block with fuse pullers (found at your local home improvement store). Unless the main power is turned off, use rubber gloves to remove the blown fuse.
- Only use one hand and only touch one part at a time. For instance, you should never touch the metal door while you are removing or installing fuses.
- Locate your fuse box and look for the blown fuse inside the center window of the fuse body. It is normally discolored, cloudy, or has a piece of broken or melted metal inside.
- Once you know where your broken fuse is, unscrew it or pull on the handle and throw it away. You may be able to easily remove the blown fuse by hand or you may need to use fuse pullers.
- Replace your broken fuse with a new one that is the exact same size, type, and amperage. Double-check that the replacement fuse matches the amperage rating of the circuit.
Normally, fuses blow because of old age. This is common and normal. If, however, the fuse blows again, contact a qualified electrician. You may have a malfunctioning appliance or a loose wire that is causing a short circuit.
Make sure you have plenty of fuse replacements on hand so that you don’t have to make a trip to the hardware store. To make sure you have the proper replacement fuses, take your broken fuse to the store and replace it with the same type.
Speak with an electrician about installing slow-blow plug fuses for your large appliances, such as refrigerators and HVAC systems.
How to prevent overloaded circuits
- Only use appliances when they are in use. For instance, if nobody is in the room, turn off your fans and space heaters.
- Don’t plug multiple energy-hogs into the same outlet or electrical circuit. Relocate high-demand items to other circuits.
- Find your circuit breaker and acquaint yourself with the different circuits in your home and which large appliances are connected to which circuits.
It’s important to take care of electrical panel problems before they turn into electrical hazards. If you notice any melting plastic, burning, corrosion, or any other damage to your panel, contact a qualified electrician right away.
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