Space Heater Tripping Your Circuit Breaker? Here’s Why

person trying to check the circuit breaker switch

Stuck trying to stop your space heater from tripping your circuit breaker?

Sadly, this is a common issue and can be super annoying when it happens. 

In an ideal world, all our household appliances would work perfectly and give us no trouble. And while this is mostly true, there will always be unfortunate events that puzzle us, and frustrate us.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to get this problem fixed. 

If your space heater keeps tripping your circuit breaker, chances are there’s a circuit overload, and a damaged wall outlet or power cord. A dirty air filter, a broken heating element, and a faulty thermostat could also explain the issue. 

Read on to leave this situation in the past!

Troubleshooting a Space Heater Tripping Your Breaker

Space heaters can be great, but they’re not much fun when they cause a breaker to blow! After all, this appliance should make your life comfortable, not complicated.

I was in your position not too long ago, so I know exactly how you feel. Luckily, to fix my issue, I had to gather useful information, and do thorough research. Today, I want to share my findings to help you.

Below, you’ll learn more about the reasons why you might be experiencing this issue and some solutions for it. I’m sure one of them will do the trick. 

#1 Circuit Overload

I want to start off this list with something that has nothing to do with a fault in the appliance, but rather a user-related error.

As technology advances, our need for power sources grows. These days, you likely need twice as many wall outlets to use your gadgets, than you did 10 years ago.

It’s an inconvenient, inescapable truth.

And while this can be solved by purchasing multi-contact docks, and making sure to distribute the electrical load evenly, let’s be honest, very few of us actually do that.

If you’re like most people, you tend to plug several appliances into a single outlet.

Circuit overload
Try to distribute electrical load all over your home’s outlet to avoid circuit overload

This may sound like a good idea, and an efficient way of saving money and space, but let me tell you that it could be causing your problem.

Outlets and circuits are designed to handle a specific amount of voltage in order to function adequately. When you plug too many electrical devices into one, circuit overload occurs. This could explain why your space heater is tripping your breakers.

Solution: Try not to plug a lot of electrics into one outlet or circuit. A circuit is a collection of outlets which are all connected to the one breaker. Often, one or several rooms are on the same circuits. So if your space heater causes your breaker to trip, try unplugging a few other appliances and then plug in the heater again.

Being conscious with your electric usage will not only stop your breakers from tripping, but also extend the lifespan of your gadgets and devices.

#2 A Faulty Wall Outlet

Assuming you’re being responsible about your electrical load, we can safely move on to considering a faulty outlet.

This can be a little tricky to diagnose, as the signs are very similar to those of overheating or short-circuiting.

Depending on the severity of the damage to the outlet, it might not be supplying any electricity to your appliance, or be doing so intermittently. The latter is much more concerning than the former, as it could render your unit vulnerable to permanent damage as a result of random electricity bursts.

It is crucial that, as soon as you suspect this to be the source of the problem, you stop using your space heater, and test the outlet.

Solution: Unplug the heater, and let it cool down completely. Once you have done that, take it to a different section of your house and plug it back into a different outlet, preferably, as far removed from the one you normally use, as possible.

Should this stop your breakers from tripping, then you may have had a faulty outlet, or it could be going back to tripping the circuit like we outlined in Solution 1.

If the heater works fine in another outlet, try plugging a different appliance into the one that was tripping the breaker. If that causes the breaker to trip, then the outlet is likely faulty. If you want a DIY challenge and own a multimeter, you can test the suspicious outlet for continuity. This is completely optional, but strongly encouraged, as a faulty wall outlet could be the first sign of a greater malfunction in your home’s electrical layout.

It’s best to nip these kinds of things in the bud.

#3 A Damaged Power Cord

Let’s move on to the next chain in the power supply link.

While your power cord might look thick and sturdy on the outside, you must remember that inside its rubber casing, there are several smaller cables that make it up and transport electricity.

And while they’re built to last, they’re not indestructible.

Bad habits such as storing your cable away improperly, keeping it tangled, or pressed against a wall in a sharp angle, are more than enough to do it in.

Just as it happens with your wall outlet, the damage could be total or partial, being the latter much more dangerous due to the aforementioned electricity bursts.

If your space heater keeps tripping your circuit breaker, there’s a very good chance that you have to replace the cord.

Solution: Test a different cable.

You probably don’t have one, but in case you do, go ahead and use it. This will save you both time and money, as well as provide you with an immediate answer.

Just make sure it meets the same amperage and voltage requirements as the broken one.

If you don’t have another cable, that is fine too. You can do a quick Google search on your appliance’s make and model to find the right replacement at any online marketplace.

#4 A Dirty Air Filter

multiple dirty air filter
It is recommended to clean your filters regularly

At this point, you’re likely asking yourself, “Why on Earth does a heating appliance need an air filter?”.

And the answer is simple. To protect its internal components.

You see, while your space heater does not pull in the air in the same way that an air conditioner or a dehumidifier does, it’s still constantly exposed to the outside world and harmful particles.

The air filter prevents these from reaching the unit’s internal components and damaging them.

And while it all sounds great, there’s a caveat.

When the filter becomes excessively dirty or obstructed, it can compromise airflow and make it difficult for your heater to dissipate its temperature adequately. This could explain why your space heater is tripping your circuit breaker.

This is known as overheating, and it’s very dangerous.  

In fact, that’s an understatement. You should always do everything in your power to keep your space heater from exceeding its recommended temperatures, as you could experience a multiple issues otherwise.

Solution: If you’ve cleaned your air filter before, feel free to move on to the next point. Provided that this is your first time doing this, read on.

  1. Carefully unplug the heater, and let it cool down completely.
  2. Turn it around, and undo the screws holding the back panel wall in place.
  3. Remove the filter, clean it with dish soap under running water, and let it dry completely.
  4. Vacuum off any remaining debris.
  5. Reassemble.

Please note that, while a lot of manufacturers claim their filters are lifetime-guaranteed, this is not always so.

If you want to prevent further inconveniences in the future, it is recommended that you clean the filter a month, and replace it every 6 months. If your filter is already older than that, no amount of cleaning will make it work normally again, and you’ll have to replace it. Which sucks, I know.

#5 A Broken Heating Element

This part is the powerhouse of your appliance.

In case you’re not familiar with what it does, let me briefly explain. Your heating element is responsible for transforming the electrical energy drawn from your wall outlet, into heat.

When it malfunctions, the fallout can be disastrous, as things can go one of two opposite ways. You could either be stuck with a heating element that does not generate heat or one that generates too much.

If your case is the latter, it could explain why your space heater keeps tripping your circuit breaker .

While a proper test would involve taking off the back casing and testing the heating element with a multimeter, we can do an easy troubleshooting that takes no DIY ability. Just turn on the heater, and keep the temperature set to low.

After 10-15 minutes, see if it really is on low, or if it’s overheating like crazy. If it is, you’ve got a dangerously malfunctioning heating element – so be careful. You’ll either need to replace it, or get a new model. But at least you’ll have found the issue.

#6 A Faulty Thermostat

Lastly, let’s take a look at your thermostat.

While your heating element is responsible for creating the heat you’ve come to love, the thermostat is in charge of regulating it to stay at your desired settings.

You can think of it as the heating element’s boss.

When this part is working normally, you should experience no issues. However, any malfunction could cause it to get inaccurate temperature readings, and allow for overheating to occur.

If your space heater keeps tripping your circuit breaker, and none of the solutions above have worked for you, there’s a good chance that you need a new thermostat.

Should it need replacing, you can get a new one from either your nearest hardware store or your manufacturer.


To have your space heater keep tripping your circuit breaker can ruin your week. Especially if you live in an excessively humid and cold area.

Not only are you stuck with a malfunctioning appliance, but also in the uncomfortable position of having to find out what the problem is, and coming up with a solution for it.

Luckily, as I hope you’ve learned in this piece, addressing most of the causes behind the situation is simple and quick. More often than not, double-checking your power sources, and keeping your air filter clean, is all it takes to keep the appliance running perfectly.

Thank you for reading. If you found this article helpful, why not keep the learning going through other incredible resources below?

Good luck!

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more