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How to deal with short circuits

There are various causes which can cause a short circuit. The most common is when a circuit breaker trip and causes the circuit to shut off and there are other conditions like power overloads. Therefore it is very important to determine why the breaker is tripping. Whenever the circuit breaker trips after being reset, then this shows that there is a wiring problem along the circuit or in one of the appliances connected to that circuit.

The procedure to find out if you suspect a short circuit:

  1. Locate the tripped circuit breaker: At the main service panel, look for an individual circuit breaker with a handle that has snapped to the OFF position. Some breakers may have a red or orange window indicator to make it easy to spot. This tripped breaker will identify the circuit where the problem exists. Leave the circuit breaker OFF as you inspect along the circuit.
  2. Inspect appliance power cords: Inspect all the power cords plugged into outlets along the circuit that has tripped. If you find any that are damaged or on which the plastic insulation has melted, there is a good chance the short circuit is within the appliance or device itself. Unplug these appliances from the circuit. If you find suspect appliances, switch the circuit breaker back on after unplugging them. If the circuit now remains active without tripping again, it is very certain that your problem existed in an appliance. However, if the circuit breaker trips again immediately, proceed to the next step.
  3. Turn off all light and appliance switches along the circuit. Then, turn the circuit breaker back to the ON position.
  4. Turn on each light switch or appliance switch, one at a time. If you reach a switch that causes the circuit breaker to trip again, you have identified the section of circuit wiring where a loose connection or wiring problem exists.
  5. Repair the circuit wiring problem. This is a step that may require the help of a professional electrician. Do not attempt this unless you are very confident about your knowledge and skill level. This repair will involve shutting off the circuit, then opening up outlet and switch boxes to inspect the wires and wire connections and making any repairs that are necessary.

If you cannot find any obvious problem in one of the plug-in appliance or fixture wiring connections, the problem is likely hidden somewhere in the wall wiring. Solving this problem will require you to call a licensed electrician to deal with it. Do not reactivate the circuit until the problem has been identified and repaired—doing so poses a risk of fire and shock to you and your family. Any smell of smoke or signs of charring or melted plastic is a sign you have a serious problem.

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