a 20 amp circuit breaker being replaced

Circuit Breaker

Originally contributed by • last updated 2/23/2021

Enduring Charm LLC

If you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you have no electricity getting to your home’s appliances or devices, one of the first things you should do is check the main electrical panel to see if you have a tripped breaker. The circuit breakers inside your breaker box may seem complicated at first, but knowing how to reset one is a must have homeowner skill, especially when faced with a complete loss of power to the home.


The term circuit breaker typically refers to a type of electrical switch that, when a problem is detected, automatically shuts off (trips) to disrupt the circuit and stop the flow of electricity. Unlike a blown fuse that needs to be replaced after the connection is broken, a tripped breaker can typically be reset, either manually or automatically, by flipping the breaker switch back to the on position. Circuit breakers come in many different sizes and variations, ranging from smaller low voltage breakers (the kind typically found in a home’s breaker box) to larger high voltage industrial units.

What Causes A Circuit Breaker To Go Bad?

Most modern circuit breakers found in your home have a typical lifespan of about 15 to 20 years and rarely need to be switched out. However, there are a few key signs that will indicate when a circuit breaker has gone bad. And, although replacing one is not inherently difficult, it does require working with electricity and could be dangerous. Please, consult a professional:

  • If your breaker keeps tripping and won’t stay reset, it might be time to replace it. A circuit breaker that keeps tripping may be damaged and should be changed out for a new one if necessary.
  • If there is a burning smell coming from the breaker box, you may want to look into how to change a circuit breaker. A burning smell is a good indicator that one of your switches has gone bad and needs to be replaced with a new one.

WARNING! Working with electricity can be dangerous, even for experienced DIYers. If you’re unsure about working with electricity, you should probably consult a professional electrician.