A tripped breaker is most commonly caused by an overloaded system, but load studies can help anticipate and solve overloading issues before they become a problem. Identifying where the overload occurs is more difficult than it first appears because the cause could be internal or external. The solution for solving overloading problems is going to depend on both the intensity and length of the outage caused by the tripping breaker.
Overloading and short circuits
Overloading is when too much current flows through a system, which is why overloading is also known as overcurrent. Overcurrent can manifest itself as a short circuit, where the current bypasses the load and takes the path of least resistance. Some causes of short circuits include faulty wiring, improper equipment connections, or insulation breakdown.
Tripping a breaker
Tripping a breaker is a safety mechanism that protects equipment and components, as well as the safety of those working with and around the equipment. Tripping occurs when a current flowing through a piece of equipment exceeds its maximum operational current (as listed on the equipment). A tripped breaker can be a signal of something more serious, which is why it is important to diagnose overloading issues quickly to prevent future damage to the equipment.
Critical assets need devices that protect circuits and other components from overloading—such as circuit protection relays or fuses. Advanced protection also comes in the form of regularly checking the power quality of these pieces of equipment to identify potential overloading issues earlier. An overload—if allowed to persist—could cause damage to the wiring or equipment, and while temporary overloads can be harmless, sustained overloads can cause damage to equipment.