Some circuit breakers (not all) have three positions: ON, OFF, and TRIPPED. The ON position is towards the inside or top of the panel, and OFF is towards the outside or bottom of the panel. The middle position means the breaker has tripped due to an overcurrent problem—too much electricity was flowing through the circuit that the breaker protects, and it reacted and shut off to avoid overheating the wires and a potential fire.
A tripped breaker can be due to too many lights and appliances drawing more amperage than the rating of the breaker (typically 15 or 20 amps for general purpose circuits) or there may be a “short” in the circuit. A short happens when the electric current is unintentionally diverted, by loose or frayed wires or contact with components within an appliance that should not be electrified, to create a route with little resistance to current flow.
A short circuit will always trip the breaker immediately after you attempt to reset it and make it appear to be “stuck in the middle,” but too many lights and appliances on the circuit may take a few seconds or longer to re-trip a breaker. If disconnecting some of the loads on the circuit does not stop the breaker from tripping, then you likely have a short and need to call an electrician.
For a more detailed explanation of this problem and its solutions, see our blog ”My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?"
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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about ELECTRIC PANELS:
• What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?
• What is the maximum number of circuit breakers allowed in an electric panel?
• When should a corroded or damaged electric panel cabinet or disconnect box be replaced?
• What is a tandem circuit breaker?
• When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?
• Can an electric panel be located in a closet?
• Can an electric panel be located in a bathroom?
• Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?
• What is a split bus electric panel?
• How do I identify a combination AFCI (CAFCI) circuit breaker?
• What does a circuit breaker with a yellow or white test button indicate?
• What is the maximum gap allowed between the front of a recessed electric panel box and the wall surface surrounding it?
• What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?
• Why is a fuse box/panel an insurance problem for homebuyers?
• Why is bundled wiring in an electric panel a defect?
• What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?
• Why are old electrical components not always "grandfathered" as acceptable by home inspectors?
• What happens when you press the "TEST" button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?
• What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)?
• What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?
• What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors?
• What does it mean when a wire is "overstripped" at a circuit breaker?
• Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?
• Who is the manufacturer of those "bad" electric panels?
• What is a double tap at a circuit breaker?
• What is the right electric wire size for a circuit breaker in an electric panel?
• What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?
• My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?
• Why do some breakers in my electric panel have a "TEST" button on them?
• What is the right size electric panel for a house?
• What do I need to know about buying a whole house surge protector?
• What is the maximum allowed height of a circuit breaker (OCPD) above the floor?
• What is the maximum height you can mount an electric panel above the floor?
• What is the code required clearance in front of an electric panel?
• What is the main bonding jumper and where do it find it in an electric panel?
Visit our ELECTRIC PANELS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.