How to Fix Light Switch Breaker Overloads

Light switch
Raymond Forbes LLC / Stocksy United

Do your breakers trip when you turn on your lights? If so, your home’s electrical system is likely suffering from one of the following problems.

Loose Wire Connections

The wiring in old switches can come loose and cause grounds and short circuits–both of which can trip your breaker. Turn off the power to your switch and remove the cover to inspect the terminal screws. Check each terminal screw to ensure its tightness. Reseat any loose wires and tamp down loose terminals.

Short Circuits

Most short circuits are caused by a live wire touching any of the other two wires in your switch. This contact allows additional current to flow through your circuit and overload your breaker. Turn off your switch’s power and remove the cover. Check each wire to ensure there is no contact. Look at the wires’ insulation as well. Deteriorated insulation can cause shorts and grounding.

Short circuits can also occur in the wiring behind your wall. Addressing this issue will require the expertise of a pro. Ignoring short circuits–especially those behind your wall–can result in fires.

Ground Faults

Ground faults occur when an energized wire touches a metal frame or housing unit. This diverts the flow of electricity from its normal path and can overload your circuit. Ground faults can also cause electrical shock, fires and insulation damage. Have a pro tackle this repair.

Faulty Light Fixtures

Damaged light fixtures are a common source of overloaded breakers. Old fixture wiring can deteriorate and cause grounds, shorts and ultimately tripped breakers. Replacing faulty fixtures will require working with potentially dangerous electrical systems. Call a pro if you’re not sure how to tackle this job.

Bad Switches

Many older light switches have deteriorated wiring that can fail and cause circuit overloads. Here’s how to replace an old or damaged switch:

  1. Cut the power. Turn off the breaker that supplies power to your switch. Flip the power main if you’re unsure which breaker is connected to your light switch. Use a tester to ensure your work area is powered down.
  2. Remove the old switch. Remove the faceplate and unscrew the old switch. Set it aside.
  3. Connect your ground. Your ground is normally a green or bare copper wire. Connect it to the green screw.
  4. Connect the remaining wires. In a single-pole switch, you can connect either wire to either screw. These are located on the opposite side of the switch from the ground.