how to fix overloaded circuit breaker



Overloaded circuit breakers can be a frustrating issue for homeowners, causing unexpected power outages and potential damage to electrical devices. When a circuit breaker trips due to overload, it is a safety mechanism designed to prevent overheating and electrical fires. However, frequent tripping can indicate an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. In this article, we will explore the causes of overloaded circuit breakers and provide step-by-step solutions to fix them.

Symptoms of an Overloaded Circuit Breaker:

Symptom 1: Frequent Tripping

One of the telltale signs of an overloaded circuit breaker is frequent tripping. If you find that your circuit breaker keeps tripping, cutting off power to specific areas of your home, it is an indication that the electrical demand on that circuit exceeds its capacity. This can be caused by running too many appliances or devices simultaneously, such as space heaters, air conditioners, or kitchen appliances.

Symptom 2: Buzzing Sounds or Burning Smell

Another common symptom of an overloaded circuit breaker is hearing buzzing sounds or detecting a burning smell near the electrical panel. These signs suggest that the circuit breaker is struggling to handle the electrical load, resulting in heat buildup. If you notice any unusual smells or sounds, it is crucial to address the issue promptly to prevent potential electrical hazards.

Symptom 3: Flickering or Dimming Lights

If you notice that your lights flicker or dim when you turn on certain appliances or plug in devices, it could indicate an overloaded circuit. When high-power devices draw excessive electricity, they can cause voltage fluctuations, resulting in the fluctuation of light intensity. This symptom should not be ignored, as it can lead to damaged devices and pose a fire risk.

Symptom 4: Warm Electrical Outlets or Switches

When electrical outlets or switches feel warm to the touch, it is a clear indication that the circuit is being overloaded. This warmth is caused by the excessive current flowing through the wires, generating heat. Warm outlets or switches should be addressed immediately to prevent potential fire hazards.

Symptom 5: Discolored Outlets or Burning Marks

If you notice discolored outlets or burning marks near electrical sockets, it is critical to take immediate action. This can be caused by an overloaded circuit or loose connections, which can lead to electrical sparks and fires. Any signs of discoloration or burning should be addressed by a qualified electrician.

Causes of Overloaded Circuit Breakers:

There are several common causes of overloaded circuit breakers. By understanding these causes, homeowners can effectively prevent future overloads.

Cause 1: Power-hungry Appliances

Many modern appliances and devices are power-hungry and can overload a circuit when used simultaneously. Appliances like air conditioners, space heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines typically draw significant power. Using multiple high-power devices on the same circuit can quickly exceed its capacity, resulting in an overloaded circuit.

Cause 2: Inadequate Circuit Design

Sometimes, the root cause of an overloaded circuit is inadequate circuit design. Homes with outdated electrical systems or insufficient circuits may not have enough capacity to handle the electrical demands of modern appliances and devices. In such cases, an electrical upgrade or installation of additional circuits may be necessary to prevent future overloads.

Cause 3: Overloaded Extension Cords or Power Strips

Using extension cords or power strips incorrectly can also lead to an overload. These devices have a specific amp rating, and exceeding that rating by connecting too many devices can overload the circuit. It is crucial to distribute the electrical load evenly and avoid daisy-chaining extension cords or power strips.

Cause 4: Loose Electrical Connections

Loose electrical connections can create resistance and generate heat, potentially leading to an overloaded circuit. Over time, the connections between the circuit breaker, wires, and outlets can become loose due to regular usage. Periodic inspections and tightening of these connections can help prevent overloads.

Cause 5: Faulty Electrical Components

Faulty electrical components, such as damaged wiring, switches, or outlets, can cause an excessive electrical load on a circuit. These components can create irregular electrical flow, leading to an overloaded circuit and potential hazards. Regular electrical inspections are essential to identify and replace any faulty components.

How to Fix an Overloaded Circuit Breaker:

Once you have identified an overloaded circuit breaker, it is important to take appropriate steps to rectify the issue. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you fix an overloaded circuit breaker:

Step 1: Identify the Overloaded Circuit

Start by identifying the overloaded circuit by tracing which specific areas or appliances are connected to it. Check for the symptoms mentioned earlier, such as tripped breakers, warm outlets, or burning smells. Once you have identified the circuit, unplug or turn off any appliances or devices that are causing the overload.

Step 2: Determine the Circuit's Load Capacity

Each circuit has a load capacity measured in amps. To determine the load capacity of the circuit, check the amperage rating of the circuit breaker in your electrical panel. Typical residential circuits have a load capacity of 15 or 20 amps. It is crucial not to exceed this capacity to avoid overloads.

Step 3: Distribute the Electrical Load

To prevent overloading the circuit, distribute the electrical load evenly among multiple circuits. Avoid plugging power-hungry appliances into the same circuit or using extension cords excessively. If necessary, consider rearranging appliances or devices to balance the electrical load effectively.

Step 4: Upgrade the Circuit or Electrical Panel

If you frequently experience overloaded circuit breakers, it may be an indication that your home's electrical system is outdated or insufficient for your needs. In such cases, consult a qualified electrician to assess your electrical panel and upgrade it if necessary. Upgrading to a higher amp capacity or installing additional circuits can help prevent future overloads.

Step 5: Address Faulty Electrical Components

If you suspect any faulty electrical components, such as damaged wiring, switches, or outlets, it is crucial to address them promptly. Replace any damaged components and ensure that all electrical connections are secure and properly tightened. If you are uncertain about handling electrical repairs, it is recommended to seek professional assistance.


Overloaded circuit breakers can disrupt our daily lives and pose potential electrical hazards. Understanding the symptoms and causes of overloads is crucial in effectively fixing the issue. By distributing the electrical load evenly, upgrading the electrical panel if necessary, and addressing faulty components, homeowners can mitigate the risks of overloads and ensure the safety and proper functioning of their electrical systems. Regular maintenance and periodic inspections by qualified professionals are key to preventing future overloads and maintaining a safe home electrical system. Remember, safety always comes first when dealing with electrical issues.


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