How to Reset a Circuit Breaker

Not all of the breakers on this panel are on.
Image: skippitywhistles.com

Please Note: Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.

The coffee maker’s gurgling away, and the waffle iron is steaming away, and you decide it would a great idea to warm up some syrup in the microwave. Fifteen seconds ought to do it. You push START, and the whole kitchen is plunged into stone-age darkness.  What happened?

Don’t worry – it’s a common issue. All those appliances are wired into the same electrical circuit. When the demand for electricity is too great, the circuit heats up and pops the circuit breaker.

Find the Circuit Breaker Panel

In older homes and apartment buildings there used to be fuses inside a big fuse box, but those are mostly gone now. Instead, there’s a rectangular electrical panel nearby. In apartments, it’s usually in the kitchen or a laundry room. In houses, it’s usually outside, near the electrical meter.

Find the electrical panel, and open the cover. Most have a metal latch and standard hinges. Some have a lift-off cover. 

Reset the one that's OFF.

Identify the Tripped Circuit Breaker

Inside you’ll find two neat rows of switches, all pointing the same direction. Well, all but one (1). The one pointing the wrong way is the one we blew in the kitchen. 

If it’s pointing only halfway, like it’s stuck in the middle, it’s only partially tripped.

Reset the Circuit Breaker

If it’s pointing entirely in the wrong direction – for example, every other breaker points to ON but this one clear points to OFF, simply snap it on. 

It it’s only halfway tripped, snap it completely to the OFF position, and then into the ON position.

Troubleshooter

The circuit breaker should stay in the ON position. If it snaps back to the halfway or OFF position, something in the kitchen is causing a short circuit. Unplug all of the appliances – the coffee maker, the waffle iron, the toaster if you were using it, and then reset the breaker. 

If the circuit breaker stays in the ON position, you know that one of the appliances you unplugged has a problem. Plug them in, one by one, until the breaker pops again. 

It might be simple, like a loose wire, or it could be serious, like a defective switch inside the appliance. In either case, don’t use it until you have it fixed. 

Until then, enjoy your breakfast, and congratulations – you did it!

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