How To Reset a Circuit Breaker

Resetting a tripped breaker is easy for most do-it-yourselfers, and with the following instructions you should be able to reset the breaker yourself. Remember that your breakers are located in your power panel, which is usually located where the power comes into your home. (There are situations in older homes where the panel may be in a cabinet or broom closet.)
It is advisable, before proceeding to reset a tripped breaker, to unplug any portable appliances from their outlets. This is in case they might have caused the problem.

Step 1

After you locate your panel, open the panel door. Most doors open by inserting your finger in a colored plastic latch recessed in the panel door and pulling the plastic tab towards the outside edge of the panel. See picture.

Step 2

All home-style breakers have 3 three positions for the breaker switch. Position 1: Switch is facing all the way to the center of the panel. Breaker is on. Position 2: The switch is tripped (tripped off by an electrical short, circuit overload or too many appliances on one circuit) and the switch is in the center of the breaker. Position 3: The switch is all the way to the outside of the breaker panel. This is the off position.

Look for a breaker whose switch is in the center position. It should be easy to spot as it will probably be the only breaker whose switch is in the center (either center or just slightly away from the center of the panel).

Step 3

Once you locate the tripped breaker, (and have unplugged as many things as possible from their outlets which are on the dead circuit), you use one finger to push the switch all the way towards the outside edge of the panel, then bring the switch back all the way to the center of the panel (not the center of the breaker). If the breaker stays in that last position, you should have the dead circuit live again.

If the breaker stays in the "on" position, then test an empty outlet with a tester or lamp, to make sure you have a live circuit. Assuming you do, then re-plug in any items you unplugged earlier. Do this on a one-at-a-time basis. If the breaker trips as you plug in an item, that item has a wiring problem and you should leave it unplugged.

Important: If a breaker refuses to "re-set" when you follow the instructions above, you may have an electrical short in the wire run to that breaker, or a breaker has gone bad. A bad breaker is not very likely and I would recommend you call an electrician.

Ron has been a licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Licensed electrician, Director of Finance for a local non-profit, Systems consultant for Ameritech and Digital Equipment Corporation. View more detail at:

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Thanks for the feedback, James.

By Ron Ambler

easy stuff. thank you.

By James Goetz