When it comes to electricity, safety should always be a top priority. That is why circuit breakers are an essential component of any electrical system. With the ability to interrupt or break the flow of electricity, circuit breakers keep our homes and businesses safe from the dangers of electrical fires and overloads. Like all things, circuit breakers too have a lifespan and can wear out or develop faulty circuit breaker symptoms. Let us take a closer look at what causes a circuit breaker to go bad.

Can a Breaker Go Bad?

What comes into your mind we say – can a breaker go bad? Circuit breakers malfunction occasionally. You should be able to determine if your system has tripped or is genuinely defective. So, to simply answer your question, yes, circuit breakers do eventually stop working as they should, just like any other important home appliance. Breakers are electronic devices, and like any other electronic device, they can fail or malfunction over time. Some signs that tell us about a bad circuit breaker include:

  • It trips frequently, even when the electrical load is not high.
  • It fails to trip when there is an overload or short circuit.
  • It feels hot to the touch.
  • It emits a burning smell or sparks.
  • It shows signs of physical damage, such as cracks or corrosion.

What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Go Bad?

JAN23 What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Go Bad 1

Circuit breakers are designed to protect electrical circuits from overloading, short circuits, and other electrical faults. While we answered if a breaker can go bad or not, it is equally important to understand what causes a circuit breaker to go bad in detail.

1. Overloading

If you have too many appliances or devices plugged into a single circuit, it can overload the circuit and cause the circuit breaker to trip. If this happens repeatedly, it can cause damage to the circuit breaker and make it go bad. The major cause of breakers tripping is heat. Once it reaches that threshold, the electricity is immediately cut off.

2. Wear and Tear

Circuit breakers have a limited lifespan and can wear out over time, especially if they are frequently tripped or used in high-stress conditions. As a result, they may become less effective at tripping when they need to, or they may fail to reset properly.

3. Short Circuits

A short circuit occurs when a hot wire comes into contact with a neutral wire, which can cause a sudden surge of electricity that can damage the circuit breaker. Short circuits can also cause sparks or fires, which can further damage the circuit breaker.

Also See: Can You Put a GFCI Outlet on an AFCI Circuit?

4. Moisture

If a circuit breaker is exposed to moisture or humidity, it can cause the contacts to corrode, which can lead to malfunction or failure. This happens especially with grounded wires in industrial and commercial buildings.

5. Manufacturing Defects

While rare, manufacturing defects can cause a circuit breaker to go bad prematurely. These defects can include poor materials, faulty design, or errors during the manufacturing process.

After knowing the reasons behind a bad circuit system, you might wonder – is it common for a circuit breaker to go bad? Well, the answer to this question is described in detail in the next pointer.

Also Read: Can Circuit Breakers Go Bad Without Tripping?

Is it Common for a Circuit Breaker to Go Bad?

It is common for a circuit breaker to go bad over time, especially if it is subjected to high-stress conditions, frequent power surges, or if it is used in high-humidity environments. The lifespan of a circuit breaker can vary depending on factors such as the brand, quality, and usage, but most circuit breakers are designed to last for 20-30 years. Some circuit breakers even have a lifespan of 50 years.

Not all circuit breaker failures are due to normal wear and tear. In some cases, manufacturing defects, poor installation, or other external factors can cause damage to the electrical system. One of the main reasons for a circuit breaker to go bad is tripping. If your circuit breaker is constantly tripping, it’s time for you to replace it. This is because the more the overloading, the more it trips.

Faulty installation, exposure to moisture, and electrical faults can also cause circuit breakers to go bad prematurely. It becomes of significant importance to have your electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician regularly to ensure that your circuit breakers and other electrical components are functioning properly and safely.

Also See: Is it Dangerous If Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping?

What are the Faulty Circuit Breaker Symptoms?

JAN23 What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Go Bad 2

After learning about what causes a circuit breaker to go bad, the next thing that is crucial to understand is the faulty circuit breaker symptoms. There are several symptoms that may indicate a faulty circuit breaker, which include the following:

1. Physical Damage

Around your circuit breaker, outlets, or other electrical appliances, you could see burn marks. These signs may be related to problems with your electrical panel and suggest that the wiring in your home is melting and deteriorating. The hazardous wire that has melted might start a terrible blaze. Unplug any fixtures from that specific circuit breaker while you wait.

2. Tripping Frequently

If a circuit breaker trips frequently, even when the electrical load is not high, it may be a sign of a faulty circuit breaker. This could be due to wear and tear, or a fault within the circuit breaker itself. Usually, circuit breakers trip when too much electricity is being drawn from them.

3. Burning Smell or Sparks

If you smell a burning odor or see sparks, that means your circuit breaker has gone bad and the wires are overheated. One of the reasons for this could be a short circuit. In such a case, try to turn off the main power of your house immediately. You should also consult an electrician.

4. Hot to Touch

A circuit breaker that feels hot to touch is a sign that it is overloaded or faulty. If a circuit breaker is frequently hot, it may be overheating and could eventually cause a fire. It is possible that there are other things that are heating up than the circuit breaker. The same problem can potentially be affecting the home’s dimmer switch.

5. Deterioration of a Circuit Breaker

With time, it becomes important to upgrade and replace the circuit breaker for smooth working else it could lead to bigger problems.

Wear and tear, overloading, and electrical faults are what causes a circuit breaker to go bad. So, is it common for a circuit breaker to go bad? With time, circuit breakers can go bad but if it trips frequently, then you need to have a check on them. Regular maintenance and inspection can help prevent such issues. Remember, a small investment in preventative measures can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Recommended: How to Cancel Green Mountain Energy- A Step-by-Step Guide


Olivia is committed to green energy and works to help ensure our planet's long-term habitability. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and avoiding single-use plastic.

Leave A Reply