Can circuit breakers wear out?

Circuit breakers are used everywhere around the world in almost everything that involves electricity. With that said, it’s a good idea to learn more about them even though you won’t be the one placing or fixing them.

Can circuit breakers wear out? 

Circuit breakers can wear out like many other devices. They usually last for a long duration so you don’t need to worry about replacing them every short period of time. However, knowing when a circuit breaker isn’t working anymore and replacing it immediately is a life savior.

But first of all, what do circuit breakers do?

In simple words, circuit breakers protect your house from burning down to aches if some fault in electricity occurs in your house.

All the electricity that flows in your house will have to first pass through the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker makes sure that only the allowed amount of current flow through the wires inside the house.

If the electric current is higher than the allowed limits, the circuit breaker will cut the electricity inside the whole house to prevent the very high current from damaging any of your electronic devices and to protect your house against a possible fire trigger.

With that said, circuit breakers are unsung heroes that protect you and your house from any possible damage due to high electric current.

But the more interesting question is, how can the circuit breaker do that?

How does the circuit breaker work?

The concept behind the circuit breaker is very simple. You can read about it in more detail in this ‘how stuff works’ article.

But in simple words, most of the circuit breakers contain something called an electromagnet. An electromagnet is a coil that becomes magnetic when a certain amount of current flows through it.

The way circuit breakers work is that once the current passing through the circuit is above the allowed limits, the electromagnet will become magnetic and will apply enough force to break the circuit and cut the current flow inside the house.

How can circuit breakers be damaged?

Salty water is one of the ways a circuit breaker can malfunction. Salty water can cause serious threat to many electronic devices in general. It can cause the circuit breaker to keep the circuit closed even though the current is at a dangerous level.

Very high temperature can be a problem too, among many other problems. Even though a circuit breaker is simple, there are many ways it can malfunction and you need to be careful of that.

How to know if a circuit breaker isn’t working anymore?

You usually can’t 100% be sure whether or not your circuit breaker is working, however there are some obvious signs that tell you that you have to replace your circuit breaker as soon as possible.

If the circuit breaker is showing any signs of burn, then you need to change it. Some of the circuit breakers have very obvious signs that indicate that they’ve been burned. You might either be able to smell the burned device or notice that parts of it are completely destroyed.

If your circuit breaker is heating very quickly and more than usual, then it might be a sign that it isn’t working the way it is supposed to work and you need to get someone to check it.

One last thing, if your circuit breakers trip very frequently, then it might not be functional anymore. 

You need to remember something though. If a circuit breaker trips, it means that there is something wrong with the electricity in the house and the problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

However, if the circuit breaker trips for no apparent reason very frequently, then it might be a sign that it has to be replaced.

What to do in case the circuit breaker isn’t working anymore?

Call an expert immediately. If you aren’t an electrician yourself, do not attempt to fix any electricity related thing in your house.

A friend of mine is an electrician, and he once told me that an electrician’s first mistake can very likely be their last mistake too.

Electricity is dangerous and you need to stay away from it if you don’t know what you are doing.

To summarize

Circuit breakers can wear out over time, however they usually do remain functional for a very long time and you don’t need to worry about replacing them every short period of time.

You need to keep an eye on any possible signs if you think your circuit breakers aren’t working correctly, and it’s always better to call an expert whenever you suspect anything.