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Why Is My Circuit Breaker Hot?

Electrical Repairs by Lon LockwoodWhen it comes to electrical safety, few things are more alarming than burning, heat, smoke, and fire. It’s imperative that homeowners monitor their electrical systems to ensure their equipment is not overheating and increasing their risk of experiencing an electrical fire. Of particular concern are hot circuit breakers. A circuit breaker that is hot to the touch can be a clear indication that something is very wrong with your home’s electrical system.

In this blog post, Lon Lockwood Electric’s expert electricians take a deep dive into the common causes of an overheated circuit breaker. We also let you know when it’s time to call in a professional team for service. Read on to find out why your circuit breaker is hot to the touch!

How Hot Is Too Hot?

Every circuit breaker has an ambient temperature rating that’s set by Underwriters Laboratories. It’s natural for circuit breakers to produce some heat, due to the fact that electrical resistance is constantly passing through its contacts and bimetal trip device. During normal operation, the sides and back of the system will reach higher temperatures than its knob. Generally, units should not exceed an ambient temperature greater than 90º F, and the knob temperature should not exceed 185º F. Knobs are expected to reach higher temperatures since most of them are created from plastic.

Most homeowners probably wouldn’t think to break out the thermometer when checking out their circuit breaker. In most cases, it’s safe to say that if your circuit breaker is hot to the touch, something has gone awry within its system. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that this may be happening.

Common Causes of an Overheated Circuit Breaker

There are a few possibilities that could contribute to a circuit breaker overheating. The following list illustrates the top three causes of an overheated circuit breaker:

  • Loose Connections: Because electrical resistance increases wherever loose connections exist, a loose circuit breaker will naturally produce more heat. If your unit was not properly seated at the time of installation, it will protrude significantly. When this is the case, you can push in the unit manually until you hear the “click” that signifies the breaker has been properly seated. However, if the unit is already seated correctly, the issue may lie in a loose wire instead. This is a job best left to the professionals.
  • Current Limit: A circuit breaker automatically shuts off when a current passes through that exceeds its capacity; however, sometimes the units will overheat without initiating an emergency shut-off (or trip). This happens especially if the current is just below its rating. In other cases, it may be that an appliance that’s powered by the breaker is faulty and requires service.
  • Bad Breaker: If your hot circuit breaker is partnered with flickering lights and unreliable circuit power, you likely have a bad unit. Certain types of circuit breakers are more prone to this problem than others, and the only solution is to have it replaced or upgraded.

While pushing in the unit until it’s properly seated is an easy fix, many times, circuit breaker issues require professional attention. Never risk attempting DIY electrical repairs on your own: Instead, rely on the experts to get the job done safely and correctly!

Lon Lockwood Electric for Wiring Upgrades

If your circuit breaker is overheating, it may be time for an upgrade. At Lon Lockwood Electric, our team provides the electrical upgrades homeowners need to stay safe and connected. Get the electrical upgrades your home needs by scheduling service with our team today.