A circuit breaker that makes noise is not only an inconvenience, it is also a hazard. If you notice that yours has been buzzing lately, it is good that you’ve been paying attention!
You’ve probably noticed this noise the most as soon as your AC kicks in, and it understandably might cause you to feel nervous. In this article, we will cover the signs of a normal circuit breaker versus one that is dangerous. You will be able to confidently protect your family while remaining certain that your circuit breaker is working as it should.
When is Buzzing Normal?
Sometimes, it is normal to hear a buzzing noise coming from your electrical panel. These are a few signs that you can look for that indicate your circuit breaker is actually working as it should:
- Buzzing Softly: In order to prevent yourself from over-worrying, the first thing that you need to do is observe when your circuit breaker makes noise. If the noise is not constant and not very loud, this is likely just the device doing what it should be doing. Circuit breakers are not going to always be silent, so you can rest assured that a slight buzzing noise is nothing to worry about.
This buzzing occurs because there is a large amount of energy that flows very rapidly through the panel. Without being able to see exactly what is going on inside, it is easy to forget this. This energy can create vibrations that will cause the circuit breaker to have a slight buzz as it is working.
This should be a noise that you can hear when you are in the same room as your panel. You might even need to put your ear up to the panel in order to fully hear the buzz. If you cannot hear it from a different room, then it is likely not a problem.
- Buzzing Only When AC Kicks In: Another normal form of buzzing can happen when your AC kicks in. You might hear this noise steadily at first, and then it will taper off as soon as your AC is in full effect. This is another normal function because your AC takes a lot of power to run. It is going to be pulling a lot of energy from the source in order to kick in. The buzzing should last for around 30 seconds or less. If this is something that your panel is doing, then rest assured that it is also normal.
How to Determine Your Circuit Breaker is Bad
If your buzzing is different than what is described above, then you might need to look into repair options. A circuit breaker that is constantly buzzing suggests that there is an internal electrical problem which does not allow the breaker to trip.
Think of your circuit breaker like your toilet. Without the stopper, your fill valve won’t know when to stop filling the bowl. This can cause your toilet to run. The same can happen to your circuit breaker with electricity.
You’ll know if you have a problem when you can hear the breaker humming from other rooms of your home. Any noise this loud indicates that something isn’t working right internally.
A breaker that is working this hard without tripping can lead to electrical fires. There is no need for you to open the panel and try to mess with the wiring. This can be very dangerous. Your most important asset here is going to be your listening skills.
How to Fix the Problem
Before you call in an electrician, there is a way that you can safely test your panel to determine where the problem might be coming from. Hunker explains that this can be done in a 3-step process:
- Open your panel. Starting from left to right, flip all of the switches off. This will isolate all of your electricity temporarily.
- Keep listening to see if you still hear a buzzing noise. You shouldn’t be able to hear anything. If you still do, then this is an indication that the problem is coming from an external power supply.
- Doing the opposite of the first step, begin to slowly turn each switch back on. Listen carefully as you do this. As long as there is no buzzing, you can leave the switch on. As soon as you find where the buzzing is coming from, this will tell you where the fault is coming from. Leave the buzzing switches off until you get them repaired.
If you find that you do have a problem, the final step is to contact an electrician for the repair. It is important that you hire someone who is reputable and experienced. Electrical problems are far too dangerous for the average homeowner to tackle on their own, so they are best left to be repaired by professionals.