How to Reset a Circuit Breaker and GFCI Outlet

  |     |   Apartment Guide

Circuit breakers provide convenience and safety, shutting off electricity to a room or section of the electrical system whenever there’s an electric overload or short. That way you avoid the risk of electricity damage – or even worse, an electric fire – without shutting off the electricity to your entire house or apartment.

Breakers can go off for a variety of reasons, from lightning storms, to wider electric outages, to running too many electronics on the same path – especially if you live in an older building that wasn’t originally designed with 21st Century use in mind. If your lights or other electronics suddenly go off, don’t panic! Resetting the breaker is easy and you’ll be back to normal in no time.


Step 1: Find the breaker box
The first step in resetting the breaker is finding the breaker. Some apartment buildings have a main circuit breaker in each apartment, while others have all breakers located in the basement. In single-family homes, you’ll usually find the circuit breaker panel in the utility room, garage, or basement. Look for a gray metal box with a bunch of switches behind the door. If you’re renting and don’t know where to look, you may need to contact property management.

Step 2: Reset the breaker
Once you’ve found the main circuit breaker box, you’ll need to find the correct switch. Oftentimes it’ll be obvious which breaker is tripped because it’s out of line with the rest of the switches. To reset the breaker you’ll flip the switch off then back on.

If it’s not obvious which breaker is tripped you may have to do a bit of testing and try a few of the switches until you find the correct one.

Another option: GFCI Outlets
Another safety precaution that many homes and apartments have are GFCI or ground fault circuit interrupter outlets. These outlets are most often found in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms but any outlet could be upgraded to a GFCI. A GFCI outlet essentially works as a separate breaker, but instead of cutting off electricity to a certain part of the system, it only cuts electricity to that outlet. GFCI outlets minimize the risk of shock injury and burns as well as electric fires caused by water in the outlets, but they don’t protect against short circuits or overloading.

If your GCFI outlet trips all you’ll need to do is press the “TEST” button on the outlet, then the “RESET” button.


Electricity and electrical work can be intimidating. It’s important to remain cautious when working with any type of electricity, but not all jobs require an expensive electrician or for you to wait for a maintenance technician. Oftentimes all you need is a few minutes and a tiny bit of know-how. Now to go back and reset the oven and microwave clocks.

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