Your fuse box and/or circuit breakers perform an extremely important function; they blow or trip if the circuit is overloaded, saving you and your family from risk of dangerous shocks or electrical fire. That said, it’s not a pleasant moment when all of the lights go out in your house after dark and you have to figure out some way to get things back to normal. Here’s some tips for how to safely restore a circuit:

breakerThe first step is something you ought to do before a circuit trips of a fuse even blows; if you haven’t already done this, it’s worth your while to make a list of all the branch circuits in your house by number and by what area each branch controls (the bathroom, the kitchen, the playroom, etc.). That just makes it much easier for you to figure out which receptacles and fixtures are on each branch circuit without having to try to remember.

Is this advice coming too late and you have no idea which one does which? Just turn on all the lights in your house and then remove a fuse or trip a circuit. Investigate to see which lights have flipped off and what appliances are no longer functioning, and you’ll know what areas of the house each circuit breaker or fuse controls. Use night lights to figure out each receptacle; it’s the easiest way. Once you have that figured out, write it all down on a card and tape that card to the inside door of the fuse box.

If a circuit trips or a fuse blows, there may be some other indicator of what the electrical short was caused by. If a lamp flared or an appliance sparked, you know what the trouble was. Disconnect any clearly faulty equipment, take a flashlight, go the the main entrance panel and see which fuse or breaker applies to the trouble spot. Disconnect whatever appliances you can that might be connected to that particular circuit and examine everything on the circuit for signs of malfunction.

derpNow you’re ready to reset the breaker or replace the fuse. If the circuit holds and functions normally, it’s likely that something that you disconnected is the faulty player. Check what you disconnected for electrical faults. If you can’t find any clear indicator that a particular appliance is faulty, you may have just overloaded the circuit and need to remove some of the appliances drawing energy from it.

If the new fuse blows or the circuit breaker cannot reset, the problem likely lies in the equipment that is still attached to the circuit or the circuit cable itself. If you can figure out a way to check the still-connected appliances for faults, now’s the time. If the circuit goes out even when no loads or appliances are connected to it, you know that you have an issue with your circuit wiring. That’s the point at which it makes sense for most people to call an electrician, unless they are already electricians.