Space Heater Tripping Your Circuit Breaker? Here’s Why
Does your space heater keep tripping your circuit breaker? The problem might be coming from your power source. Here’s why.
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.
One of the most common inconveniences you can experience at home, is when a space heater starts tripping your circuit breaker. After all, this appliance should make your life simpler, not more complicated.
Why is this happening to you?
There are several reasons why you could be experiencing this problem. From making the mistake of overloading your wall outlet, to a faulty thermostat. The possibilities are nearly infinite.
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 will find a list with the most common causes behind this occurrence, and the simplest steps you can take to address them. There’s not a doubt in my mind that, if you follow them religiously, your space heater will stop tripping your breaker immediately.
Sounds good? Let’s go!
Fixing a Malfunctioning Space Heater
You’re probably shivering from the cold as you read this, so it might be tempting to pry your appliance open and start looking for answers in there, but please, wait.
Here are 6 reasons why your space heater might keep tripping your circuit breakers:
- Circuit overload
- A faulty wall outlet
- A damaged power cord
- A dirty air filter
- A broken heating element
- A faulty thermostat
#1 Circuit Overload
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, unescapable 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 in several appliances into a single outlet.
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 all your problems.
You see, outlets are designed to handle a specific amount of voltage in order to function adequately. When you plug in too many electrical devices into one, circuit overload occurs, which is a fancy name for saying that you’ve exceeded the outlet’s maximum supported current.
Solution: Try to operate your appliances more consciously, and distribute the electrical load evenly.
This 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 of the utmost importance 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: Carefully unplug the machine, 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, mystery solved.
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
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 certainly not indestructible.
In fact, apparently unimportant 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
And the answer is simple. To protect its internal components.
You see, while your space heater does not pull in air in the same way that an air conditioner or a dehumidifier do, 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 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 myriad of 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.
- Carefully unplug the heater, and let it cool down completely
- Turn it around, and undo the screws holding the back panel wall in place
- Remove the filter, clean it with dish soap under running water, and let it dry completely
- Vacuum off any remaining debris
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.
Bummer, I know.
#5 A Broken Heating Element
This part is the lifeblood 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 would explain why your space heater keeps tripping your circuit breaker, as the recommended maximum operating temperatures are being exceeded often.
It is of the utmost importance that you stop using your unit until you test and replace this component.
Solution: Please follow these steps to access your heating element:
- Carefully unplug the appliance, and let it cool down completely
- Turn it around, and undo the screws holding the back wall panel in place
- Remove it and expose your unit’s guts
- Locate your heating element (in most models, it looks like a spiral metal coil)
- Make sure it’s cool, and gain comfortable access to it
- Test it for continuity with a multimeter
Now, I’d be remiss not to mention that, while a heating element that does not generate heat will likely provide null readings on the meter, one that overheats could still show activity.
You must look closely and choose wisely in this case.
#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.
Solution: Please follow the steps from the previous point to gain comfortable access to this part, and test it for continuity.
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 on 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?