How to Flip a Breaker

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Flipping a breaker is like flipping a light switch.
Flipping a breaker is like flipping a light switch. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

If part of the electricity shuts off in your home, chances are a breaker tripped. Tripping a breaker occurs when a circuit is overloaded with too much electricity and it turns off. Only that circuit is affected, not the entire house. That one circuit can include several outlets, lights and appliances in your home. To turn it back on, you must find the service panel and flip or reset the breaker. It is not difficult to flip a breaker, but if you’ve never done it before, you could be stumped.

Locate the service panel for the electric in your home. It may be outside, in a utility room or garage, for example. Keep a flashlight on hand if you need to locate and examine the panel in the dark.

Pull the handle to open up the panel and examine the inside to find the tripped breaker. Often, a little area next to a switch is red to flag the tripped breaker. There could also be a label next to each breaker listing the rooms it services so you know which one to flip based on the area of the house that lost electricity. If you don’t know which breaker it is, reset each one until you turn on the electricity in the right area of the home.

Flip the tripped breaker to the off position. This is similar to turning on and off a light switch except the switch is horizontal and there is a bit more tension. After two or three seconds, flip it back to the on position. If it doesn’t work and you are sure it is the right breaker, try again. Make sure you turn the breaker all the way to the off position and not just part of the way.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have to flip more than one breaker to find the right one, label next to the breaker the rooms it affects for future reference.
  • Use extreme caution when working with electricity.
  • If a breaker continually turns off, you have too much plugged into that circuit and you should unplug something, or else something may be wrong with the circuit and you should call an electrician immediately. Never try to override a circuit breaker by overloading it, as this is a fire hazard.

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