a 20 amp circuit breaker being replaced

Circuit Breaker

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 1/11/2021

If you suddenly find yourself with no power, one of the first things you should do is check 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.


The term circuit breaker refers to a type of electrical switch that automatically trips (shuts off) to stop the flow of electricity if a problem is detected. Unlike a blown fuse that needs to be replaced, 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.

How To Tell If A Circuit Breaker Is Bad

There are a few key signs that will indicate when it’s time to replace a circuit breaker. And, although replacing a circuit breaker 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 need to look into how to change a circuit breaker. A burning smell is a good indicator that a circuit breaker has gone bad.

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.