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How To Reset a Circuit Breaker

Has the power gone off in your home? If so, how are your reading this then? We'll assume for now you have a gasoline powered PC and internet connection. Anyway, if your home has lost power, it comes down to five possibilities:

  1. The power from the utility is out. Call them and complain, they love that. Plus, how would they know if your power is out, they always have power at the plant; they need to hear from you.

  2. The power is out, but only at your house, so the main breaker must have tripped. See below for information on how to reset the breaker.

  3. The power is out, but only in part of your house. It could be a circuit breaker. If you didn't read the instructions for number 2, we said to see below for further instructions. If you did read #2, then why are you still here and not reading the section below?

  4. The power is out, but only in part of your house. If it wasn't the circuit breaker (or fuse for those of you with woefully out-of-date electrical systems) then it may be a GFCI outlet has tripped. Everything on the circuit, downstream from and including the GFCI outlet will lose power when the GFCI trips. Try removing the electrical load on the circuit and then reset the GFCI.

  5. The power is out, but only in part of your house. If everything else checks out, you could have a faulty outlet, switch, wiring connection or other wiring fault.

  6. Okay we said five possible causes, but someone wrote us and said it turned out their problem was a burned out light bulb - Come on, are you kidding us? Maybe we should also mention flipping the switch to see if the light goes on. Don't even get us started on the electrical interference effects of nearby alien spacecraft.

Resetting a Circuit Breaker

Tripped Circuit Breaker

Resetting a circuit breaker is very easy. However, there a couple little tidbits of knowledge to help make it easy. First of all, a tripped circuit breaker doesn't always look like it has tripped. Most breakers don't flip all the way over to the "OFF" position. Usually the switch moves only a tiny bit. If you run your finger along a row of breakers, you might feel one is a little out of alignment with the others - or maybe you don't feel anything. If you can't tell which one it is, you may just have to go down the row and reset each of them. This is a bit of a hassle though because you'll have to reset your clocks, and it is possible to damage electronics - so it is best to turn off or even unplug things likes TVs, PCs (wait not yet - keep reading first), and so on.

The second tidbit is that you must turn the breaker all the way to the "OFF" position before trying to reset it to the "ON" position. If you just push it toward "ON", it won't reset.

Some homes have a main circuit breaker panel which houses only the main breaker or possibly a few of the home's circuit breakers. A second breaker panel, called a subpanel, may be located elsewhere in the home and houses more circuit breakers.

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