Preventing Overloaded Circuits
The holidays have passed us by leaving us with brand new electronic devices to enjoy in and around our homes. Space heaters, treadmills, vacuums, crock pots, microwaves, sound systems, computers, and large appliances to name a few. It’s easy to get excited and just plug in your new devices without putting to much thought into the toll it can take on your circuits and overall electrical system. The consequences for overloading your circuits can be costly so keep reading to learn more about our top tips for preventing overloaded circuits in 2020.
What is an Overloaded Circuit?
An electrical circuit typically consists of wiring, a breaker(or fuse), and electrical devices such as lights, appliances, or other electronics plugged directly into an outlet. An overload occurs when your devices draw more electrical power then a circuit can safely handle. Most of the time when this happens it will trip your breaker and immediately shut off power to your circuit. Without breaker protection your wiring would begin to overheat, melting the plastic coating, leaving exposed wires, and eventually starting a house fire.
Signs of Overloaded Circuits
There are many signs that your circuits are overloaded, the easiest way to diagnose these overloaded circuits is your breaker tripping and shutting off all the power to a particular area of your house. Other symptoms may include:
- Flickering & dimming lights (If you notice this exclusively when you are using more electronics it is even more likely the circuit is being overloaded)
- Outlets are hot to the touch
- Power tools lacking sufficient power
- Smoking outlets
- Humming or buzzing sounds
- Burning smells
A common example of this could be your lights dimming every time you vacuum in a certain room.
How to Prevent Overloaded Circuits
Inspect Your Wiring
Inspecting your wiring is always an important step in preventing overloaded circuits and electrical fires. Wires come with two parts: the outside part made of plastic called the insulator and the inside (the actual wire) which is made out of copper. When inspecting the wires you will want to check for cracks or breaks in the insulator. If you find any damage it’s an indication that your circuits are being overloaded which causes overheating, which leads to insulator damage, which leads to exposed wiring, which leads to electrical fires.
Also, pay attention to how many outlets are required to meet your needs. One of the quickest ways to overload your circuits is by using outlet extensions that allow you to plug in multiple devices into a single outlet. If you must, only use outlet extensions and extension cords for temporary fixes.
Know Your Circuit Breaker
Your circuit breaker is a panel of switches that automatically shuts off power when your circuits become overloaded. Your circuit breaker can typically be found in your basement or utility room. While you don’t necessarily need to be an expert on electrical you should at the very least understand which switches go to what circuits within your home. Generally they are labeled for specific areas or appliances.
Many older homes don’t have circuit breakers but instead have outdated technology such as fuse boxes, pushmatic breakers, or split bus panels. If this is the case you should call an electrician to upgrade your panel as these older technologies are notorious for being fire hazards.
Utilize Dedicated Circuits
While its perfectly acceptable to have multiple outlets, lights, switches, and small appliances on a single circuit there are many electronic devices that should have their own dedicated circuit, typically this includes anything that requires over 1,000 watts. Below are common electrical devices that should have their own dedicated circuit:
- Electric Range
- Electric Dryer
- Space Heaters
- Air Conditioners
- Hot Tubs
- Garbage Disposals
- Large Toasters
- Washer & Dryers
If your kitchen counters look like your having a used appliance sale you may want to reconsider the placement of those devices. Spacing out your microwave, toaster, cappuccino maker, and blender will help reduce an overwhelming electrical load to one outlet. If you do need to keep all of your appliances together unplug them when they are not in use.
Get an Professional Electrical Safety Evaluation
At the end of the day if your nervous at all about your electrical system you should call a certified professional to give you a safety evaluation. Professional electricians will be able to quickly tell if there is something wrong and give you options on how to best address the issue. If you live in the Spokane or Coeur d’ Alene region give VPC Electric a call at 844-715-7233