A circuit breaker is an electric switch that keeps electrical circuits secure and protected from surges, overloads, and shorts. Circuit breaker maintenance and replacement, when necessary, are key parts of keeping your house’s electrical system reliable and safe.

When Should Circuit Breakers Be Replaced?

The average circuit breaker lifespan is between 30 and 40 years; however, every piece of technology needs routine monitoring and maintenance. Breakers are designed to disconnect the power supply when a fault occurs; without a properly-functioning one, circuits can overheat. Overheating may leave you and your home at risk of electrocution, shocks, blackouts, and fires.

To avoid dangerous situations, you need to know when to invest in a replacement circuit breaker. Thankfully, there are indicators your circuit breaker may need replacing.

Frequent Breaker Trips

Circuit breaker trips occur when excess power passes through it. If you’re experiencing repeated trips each time you turn on an electrical appliance, like a microwave or hair dryer, there may be a system failure.

Burning Smell

Distressed circuit breakers can give off a burning odor. If you’re smelling a burning smell throughout your home or from the panel, it may mean the wires or insulation are overheating or there is an electrical short.

Hot to Touch

If the circuit breaker, outlets, or switch is hot to the touch, this clearly indicates a faulty system.

Poorly Performing Appliances

If appliances that are new or in good shape are working incorrectly, shutting off when in use, or requiring frequent replacement bulbs, this can indicate a faulty circuit breaker.

Breaker Fails to Stay in Reset Mode

When a circuit breaker trips, reset it to its original position. If you’ve reset the circuit breaker and it becomes stuck in place or continues to trip, the breaker has likely failed.

Visible Damage

If you see burn marks, smoke damage, discolored outlets, or melted wires around outlets or the circuit breaker, there is a high risk of a potential electrical fire.


If you hear buzzing noises from the circuit breaker, this could be a sign that sparks are being released.


Circuit breakers are designed to last decades. However, if you haven’t serviced the panel in ten years or more or see signs of rust, it has a higher risk of failing.

What To Do If Your Circuit Breaker Needs Replacing

If you are experiencing any signs of a circuit break issue, the next step is to contact a professional electrician for an inspection and replacement. Never attempt to fix these issues yourself unless you have professional training.

Nies Electric is a licensed, bonded electrical company serving homes and businesses in Central Minnesota. If you’re concerned about your circuit breaker, contact us today to schedule an inspection.