Space Heaters

What Causes a Space Heater Trips the Circuit Breaker?

What Causes a Space Heater Trips the Circuit Breaker

Space heaters are excellent home appliances that ensure we stay warm indoors. However, they are electronic devices prone to tripping the breaker. So, it’s understandable that you might be wondering why your space heater trips the breaker.

Well! There could be a couple of reasons. You might have connected the space heater to an extension cord, you may be running it on an overloaded circuit, it might be going bad, or the breaker itself is faulty. All these are possibly caused why the breaker trips when you’re using the space heater.

For a better explanation of these causes, read this post to the end. I have compiled the possible causes of your space heater tripping breaker and their suitable solutions. So, it’s a piece you will want to read all through to the end.

4 Reasons Why Your Space Heater Is Tripping Breaker

Breaker tripping is a common problem faced by most space heater owners. It’s an issue common to any home with electrical devices. If you have been experiencing it, here are some of the reasons why it’s happening.

Disclaimer: Working with electricity can be dangerous. So if you feel uncomfortable working around it, call an expert to take care of the problem for you.

Circuit Breaker

1) You’re overloading circuit connected to the space heater:

Another thing to remember is that if you have many appliances on one circuit, they could cause a circuit overload leading to a tripped breaker. If too much is being pulled from a single circuit, you’ll have an overheat or fire hazard.

Remember, a circuit is capable of supporting only a limited number of devices. This limit is based on the size of the wires used in the circuit and varies with the amount of current expected to be used by the device. An overloaded circuit can cause sparks or overheat, posing fire or shock hazards.

For this reason, you should avoid overloading electrical outlets and always make sure that every component connected to an outlet has its dedicated wire back to the panel box. You can check out this article for more information about how many watts are allotted per circuit in your home, depending on its configuration.

So, you’re using a 15 amp circuit, don’t plug a space heater that draws more than 12 amps of current onto it. If the circuit has too much current running through it, you can expect it to trip – the appliance may not be the only problem if this happens.

Make sure you keep your appliances on separate circuits to keep your home safe.

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2) You’ve hooked up the space heater to an extension cord:

Space heaters aren’t designed to work with ordinary extension cords as they can generate enough current resistance that can overheat the wiring and fray it.

The overheating can increase the current draw and cause the breaker to trip. It can also cause a fire hazard if the cord is too short and heating up.

And if you’re working with an extension cord designed to handle a space heater, the cable might be too long. If the extension cord you are using is too long, it can reach further than its rated length.

The excess wire can create resistance that can cause interference in the electrical current running through it. This creates an overload on one side of your circuit which can trip a breaker.

One policy I like to follow is if you need shorter lengths of cord, don’t use two cords and wire them together. Instead, purchase a cord that is already shorter in length than you need and plug it in directly into the wall.

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3) The space heater is going bad or overheating

If the space heater itself isn’t turning off for some reason, there might be a short in the cord, or one of the heating elements has gone bad.

Whether it’s heating more than normal as no indication that it’s overheating or it just won’t turn off, you’ll have to send the space heater back.

If the unit is heating up more than usual, it’s best to unplug the heater and let it cool down for at least an hour before plugging it back in or trying to fix these problems yourself.

Additionally, if your space heater has damaged or frayed wiring or a faulty fan, it will overheat the internal wires, making them weak. Eventually, the heating element will burn out from too much heat being transferred to other elements within the system, which pulls more power from your circuit.

If this happens enough, you run the risk of tripping a breaker due to too much electricity running through one side of your panel box.

The bottom line is that if your space heater is causing a circuit to trip, often, you will want to check both ends of the cord for any damage or fraying. You can also have an electrician come out and inspect your breaker to ensure it is working properly.

If all else fails, replace your space heater with one that has already been tested/checked by someone who knows how it works (not necessarily the hardware store) before trying to hook it up yourself.

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4) The breaker itself is faulty

If all else fails, the breaker itself may be faulty. It can break down from use when someone tries to turn it on and off too many times in a row and eventually burn out the internal components or if the circuit is overloaded and overheats, causing damage to it.

If you find that your space heater is tripping your breaker with no obvious problems with the cord or heating element, there is a good chance that you have a problem with your breaker.

You want to test your circuit breakers by turning off the appropriate switch in your electrical panel. So, unplug the space heater, reset the breaker and plug in another appliance; it’d be best to go for one with lower power settings and plug it in. If it’s still tripping, the breaker might be faulty or loose.

Do you know how to reinstall it? If yes, go ahead; if not, call an electrician to investigate what could be happening at the panel box level of your home’s electrical system. This will ensure that your home stays safe from any further issues or accidents that could result due to faulty wiring/overloading. For more information on home electrical wiring, I recommend you visit the National Electrical Code.

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The Best Solution if None of the Above is Working

If you’ve ruled out all these possibilities and can’t seem to find what causes it, then it’s time to call a licensed electrician for help.

The main point is – Don’t risk your safety by taking matters into your own hands regarding electrical repairs, especially with hazardous voltages. As a shortcut, make sure you’ve got a good quality heater and use it on a dedicated circuit if possible.

One of the most common problems is that many people don’t realize that space heaters need to be plugged into wall outlets that are properly grounded, or else it can also cause a fire hazard from any faulty wiring.

Instead of crawling under your house to get access to the wires that might be difficult for some, it’s best to call an electrician who will know what safety precautions need to take place to avoid these accidents.

Related Questions

How can I shut off a circuit breaker for a space heater?

Usually, the power supply unit will have a label stating which breaker is used to power it. It’s best to turn off this switch and only turn on the breaker when using the space heater.

Why does my outlet get hot when I turn on my heater?

This is an indication of faulty wiring. It could be caused by any number of reasons which include the switch, outlet or the breaker. You should call an electrician to find out the cause, as it can pose a serious fire hazard.

About the author

Sharif Hasan

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