Why Does My Space Heater Keep Tripping the Breaker?

Trips are circuit breaker warnings that something is wrong with your space heater. 

The space heater tripping the breaker usually happens if the circuit cannot keep up with the device’s electrical demands. The excess current drawn from the circuit causes it to overload or overheat. Other possible issues are a defective space heater, outlets, or wiring. 

We’ll list why your space heater is tripping the circuit breaker below. 

Overloaded Circuit

A circuit breaker trips, when supplied current exceeds the system’s maximum capacity. 

Space heaters are electrically intensive devices. They require large amounts of electricity to maintain a high room temperature constantly. This usually exceeds the safety limit of most general-purpose circuits (circuits connected to more than one outlet). The combined power demand of the space heater and other connected devices is often too much for general circuits to handle, causing it to trip frequently. 

One solution is to install a dedicated circuit for the space heater. 

A dedicated circuit is meant to power a single electrically intensive device. Connecting the space heater to a dedicated circuit allows it to draw electricity freely without hindering other devices. One drawback to this solution is that most homes already have dedicated circuits. You’ll need to consider which device to disconnect and replace with the space heater. 

An alternative solution is to avoid using other devices alongside the electric space heater. 

A general circuit can act as a makeshift dedicated circuit if only one device is connected. All outlets in one room are typically connected to the same circuit. You’ll need to disconnect all other devices within the room except for the space heater. 

You can get around this by figuring out the maximum load that the circuit can handle without tripping. Get the power requirements of the space heater and the maximum amps rating of the circuit. You can connect more devices to the outlet provided the combined current does not exceed the maximum amps rating. 

Overheated Circuit

Constantly drawing large currents from the circuit causes it to heat up. 

This is generally not a problem since circuits are made to handle a certain level of heat. However, drawing more electricity than needed causes the circuit to exceed its temperature limit. The heater trips the circuit breaker when it begins to overheat. This cuts off the electricity before it results in an electrical fire. 

It’s possible to detect whether a circuit is overheating by checking the power cord and wiring of the space heater. 

The outlet will radiate excess heat when it overheats. This action heats the power cord and wirings near the outlet. Be careful when touching the power cord, as it can reach high temperatures. Unplug the space heater if you feel that it’s causing the circuit to overload. 

The only solution to an overheated circuit is to remove the space heater. 

The space heater will continue to draw power without regard to the heat building inside the circuit. The only way to cool down the circuit is to remove the space heater. Leaving it in might cause the outlet to blow out – possibly even causing a fire. 

The Space Heater is Defective

The electric space heater is defective if it continues to trip despite being connected to a dedicated circuit. 

Operating a broken heating element with a space heater will trip the circuit breaker. 

The heating element is what makes it possible to transform electricity into heat. A defective heating element will either produce too much heat or no heat. The former will often exceed the maximum operating temperature limits and overload. 

A common cause of heater trips circuit breaker is clogged air filters. 

Air filters protect the internal components by preventing dust and debris from entering. However, excess build-up prevents airflow from properly circulating inside the space heater. This keeps the heater from effectively heating the room. The space heater trips the breaker by drawing in more current to produce more heat. 

Damaged Outlets and Wirings

If the circuit can effectively handle your space heater’s load, then the problem might be the outlet. 

The outlet might supply too much or too little electricity to the space heater. Supplying too much is more dangerous than too little. This can result in sudden electrical bursts from the outlet.  

burnt outlet
Video | TheRenderQ

Space heaters shouldn’t be powered using an extension cord. 

Extension cords can’t keep up with intensive electrical demands. The heater tripping the circuit breaker happens when the extension cord heats up due to excess electricity. Avoid using extension cords. Instead, plug the space heater into the proper outlet. 

Another possible issue is a defective or worn-out power cord. 

The power cord takes the brunt of any current transferred from the outlet to the space heater. The cables inside the cord may get mangled due to wear and tear. This will cause the space heater to trip breaker since the power cord won’t deliver the proper current. 

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

Video References

Consumer Reports

Everyday Home Repairs


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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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