What To Do When A Circuit Breaker Trips

If a circuit breaker in your switchboard trips it can mean anything from one appliance going down to a whole section of the house being left in the dark. It pays to know how to reset one that’s fizzled out so you can get your day or night back on track, without having to call out the electrician.

Here are a few things to remember when your circuit breaker trips:


If the circuit breaker trips and its night then you’re in the dark. You can always use flashlight function on your phone to find your way around the house. It’s also a good idea to have a torch on hand for situations like these, or at least matches and a candle. Even if you know where your switchboard is and feel confident you could do it with your eyes closed; it’s just not a good idea to go feeling around inside electrical boxes without a proper light source.


  1. Turn appliances off
    Always turn off appliances that are connected to the affected circuit. Your circuit breaker tripped for a reason. Having all of your appliances on can do that. If this was the case when the breaker tripped, make sure you go around and switch off and unplug everything that’s connected to the circuit, otherwise it will be immediately loaded with power and may cause the issue to occur again.
  2. Safety switch
    Make sure you always have a RCD safety switch installed and tested regularly. These are essential for houses to ensure that everyone in the house is protected from getting a zap! These will also be triggered if, while making the Christmas pavlova, the mix master burns out. If that is the case unplug all of the appliances, see if they’ll work in another area of the house. If one of these appliances doesn’t work at all, it’s likely that this was the cause of the tripped circuit breaker. Don’t plug this appliance back in. See if you can replace it or have it fixed.


Turn on the main switch. After all this fuss you almost expect a sort of powering-up noise to signal that you’ve done it. No such luck. Go back to your appliances and turn them all back on.


One of the most common issues with breakers tripping is the RCD. If this happens you need to isolate which circuit it is and see what appliance or light is causing it. It could be moisture getting into a light or socket (often the dishwashers socket) or an appliance has a very small fault in it that the RCD doesn’t like.

The second most common problem of tripping a circuit breaker is what we call “overloading the circuit”. Too much extra power consumption on one circuit could cause the breaker to trip.

This may seem like an inconvenience, but it’s actually a nice reminder that your circuit breaker is working. Modern circuit breakers will cause a power outage, rather than allowing a circuit to overwork, catch fire, and burn your house down. Electrical circuits have a limit to how much electricity they can provide, so it’s also a reminder to consider the amount of appliances that you’re powering.

Common causes include an extravagant nativity scene on your house during Christmas, excessive powering of air conditioning and fans during a heat wave, or overloading a circuit with too many electrical devices.

If you notice your lights are dimming, buzzing, your outlets are warm or your appliances are lacking power then you can catch a trip before it happens.

There are a few ways you can prevent a circuit overload:


Now go back to whatever it was you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted. Resetting a circuit breaker isn’t rocket science, and certainly doesn’t require an electrician. It’s a matter of preparation and keeping calm. If you’re uncertain of what the problem is after trying the above, or if you want a professional to look at it, just give us a call on 021 289 5444 or flick us an email: hello@jmwelectrical.co.nz, we are always here to help.