Can a Power Surge damage a Circuit Breaker

Power surges are sudden increases in electrical voltage that can occur in a power system. They can happen for various reasons, including lightning strikes, power outages, and faulty wiring. These surges can cause significant damage to the electrical components in a home or building, including circuit breakers. In this article, we will explore whether power surges can damage circuit breakers and what steps can be taken to prevent such damage.

How does Circuit Breaker work?

Working of a circuit breaker
Working of circuit breaker

Firstly, it is important to understand the function of a circuit breaker. Circuit breakers are safety devices designed to protect electrical circuits from overloading or short-circuiting. They work by interrupting the flow of electricity when a fault occurs, thus preventing damage to electrical equipment and potential fires. Circuit breakers are designed to withstand a certain amount of electrical current and will trip when that limit is exceeded.


How do Power Surges occur?

Power Surge
How power surges occur

Power surges can occur when the voltage in an electrical system increases beyond its average level, typically exceeding 120 volts in a residential setting. These surges can be caused by various factors, including lightning strikes, power outages, or even turning on large appliances. When a power surge occurs, the increased voltage can cause damage to electrical equipment, including circuit breakers.

How Can a Power Surge Damage a Circuit Breaker?

A power surge can damage a circuit breaker in several ways. The most common way is by causing the breaker to trip repeatedly, which can cause the internal components to wear out or fail. This can happen if the power surge exceeds the breaker’s interrupting capacity. In some cases, a power surge can cause a circuit breaker to fail completely, rendering it useless and leaving the electrical system unprotected.

Brown out Circuit breaker
Effect of a power surge on the circuit breaker

Another way a power surge can damage a circuit breaker is by causing an arc fault. An arc fault occurs when the electrical current jumps across a gap between two conductors, creating a burst of electrical energy. This burst of energy can cause damage to the circuit breaker’s internal components, including the contacts and the trip mechanism.

How to Protect Circuit Breakers from Power Surge?

Preventing power surges from damaging circuit breakers is essential for maintaining the safety and reliability of an electrical system. One way to protect against power surges is to install surge protectors on all sensitive electrical equipment, including computers, televisions, and other electronics. Surge protectors work by redirecting excess voltage away from the equipment and into the ground, protecting it from damage.

How surge protector works
Working of a surge protector

Another way to protect against power surges is to install whole-house surge protectors. These devices are installed at the main electrical panel and provide protection for the entire electrical system. They work by diverting excess voltage away from the system and into the ground, protecting all of the electrical equipment in the home or building.

best whole house surge protectors
best whole house surge protectors


Regular maintenance of the electrical system is also essential for preventing power surges from damaging circuit breakers. This includes inspecting the wiring and electrical panels for signs of wear or damage and replacing any damaged components as necessary. It is also important to ensure that the electrical system is properly grounded, as this can help to dissipate excess voltage and prevent damage to the circuit breakers.

Maintenance of Electric appliances
Inspect your electric circuits regularly

Some FAQs

1: Does MCB protect from surge?

Yes, Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs) offer some level of protection against power surges. While their primary function is to protect against overcurrents, MCBs can also provide limited protection against minor power surges. However, for robust surge protection, it is recommended to use additional surge protection devices specifically designed for that purpose.

2: What can damage a circuit breaker?

Circuit breakers can be damaged by various factors. Common causes include excessive overcurrent, prolonged overheating, short circuits, and physical damage due to external factors like moisture or improper handling. Additionally, using a circuit breaker beyond its rated capacity or repeatedly tripping it without investigating the underlying cause can also lead to damage over time.

3: Can a power surge damage an electrical panel?

Yes, power surges can potentially damage electrical panels. When a power surge occurs, the increased voltage can overload the electrical components within the panel, leading to damage or failure. To protect the electrical panel from power surges, it is recommended to install whole-house surge protection devices at the main electrical service entrance.

4: What is the major cause of failure of a circuit breaker?
The major cause of circuit breaker failure is typically prolonged overheating. When a circuit breaker handles excessive current for an extended period, its internal components can become damaged or weakened. This can result in a reduced ability to trip properly, leading to failure in interrupting the circuit when necessary.

5: Why is my MCB not tripped but no power?
If your MCB is not tripped but there is no power, it could indicate a fault in the electrical circuit. Check for loose connections, damaged wires, or a faulty appliance causing a short circuit. Additionally, the problem could lie in the electrical panel itself, such as a faulty MCB or a tripped main circuit breaker. In such cases, it is advisable to consult a qualified electrician to diagnose and rectify the issue.

6: Can a circuit breaker be repaired?
In most cases, circuit breakers are not designed to be repaired. When a circuit breaker trips or fails, it often indicates an underlying issue in the electrical system or the breaker itself. It is recommended to replace a malfunctioning circuit breaker with a new one of the same type and rating. Only qualified electricians should handle circuit breaker replacements to ensure proper installation and safety.

7: Can a power outage trip a breaker?
Yes, a power outage can sometimes trip a circuit breaker. When the power is restored after an outage, the sudden surge of electricity can cause a temporary overload on the electrical system, leading to the tripping of circuit breakers. This is a protective measure to prevent damage to the system. In such cases, simply resetting the tripped breaker should restore power.

8: Do you have to reset the breaker after a power outage?
In some cases, you may need to reset the breaker after a power outage. When power is restored, check the breaker panel for any tripped breakers (indicated by a position between “on” and “off”). If you find a tripped breaker, turn it off first, then back on to reset it. However, it’s important to note that if the breaker trips repeatedly after resetting or if there are other issues, it’s advisable to consult a professional electrician.

9: Why do breakers trip when power goes out?
Breakers can trip when the power goes out due to a phenomenon called a “voltage sag.” When power is suddenly restored after an outage, the initial surge of electricity can cause a temporary drop in voltage, resulting in a voltage sag. This sag can trigger the breaker’s protective mechanism, causing it to trip and interrupt the circuit.

10: What causes a breaker to suddenly start tripping?
Several factors can cause a breaker to suddenly start tripping. It could be due to overloading the circuit with too many appliances or equipment running simultaneously. Other causes include a short circuit, ground fault, or a faulty breaker itself. Identifying the specific cause requires troubleshooting the electrical system and addressing the underlying issue.

11: How do you fix a tripped breaker?
To fix a tripped breaker, follow these steps:

  • Identify the tripped breaker by visually checking the breaker panel.
  • Move the tripped breaker to the full “off” position.
  • Wait for a few seconds to allow the breaker to reset.
  • Finally, turn the breaker back on by moving it to the “on” position.
    This should restore power to the affected circuit. If the breaker continues to trip repeatedly, consult a qualified electrician to investigate and resolve the issue.

12: Why does the breaker keep tripping after a storm?
Storms can cause electrical disturbances such as power surges, lightning strikes, or fallen tree branches damaging power lines. These events can result in electrical faults like short circuits or ground faults, which cause breakers to trip. Additionally, heavy rain or flooding can lead to moisture-related issues in electrical systems, triggering breaker tripping. It’s advisable to have a professional electrician inspect and address any storm-related electrical problems.

13: Why do multiple breakers keep tripping?
Multiple breakers tripping simultaneously can indicate a widespread electrical issue. It could be caused by a fault in the main electrical supply, such as a short circuit or a ground fault affecting multiple circuits. Another possibility is an overloaded electrical panel, where the combined electrical demand from various circuits exceeds the panel’s capacity. In either case, it is crucial to seek professional assistance to diagnose and rectify the problem.


In conclusion, power surges can cause significant damage to electrical equipment, including circuit breakers. These surges can cause the breaker to trip repeatedly or even fail completely, leaving the electrical system unprotected. However, by installing surge protectors and whole-house surge protectors, and regularly maintaining the electrical system, homeowners and building managers can protect against power surges and prevent damage to circuit breakers. It is essential to take these precautions to maintain the safety and reliability of the electrical system and prevent costly repairs or replacements.

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