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Providing Dependable Electrical Service Since 1949

Take These Measures to Prevent Circuit Overloads

Fixing wires
An electrical overload is an inconvenience at best and an electrical hazard at worst. Take the following precautions so as not to overload your electrical system.

Understand Your Electrical System

The first step is to understand your electrical system since you won't know whether you risk an overload or not if you don't understand your wiring. Here are three specific things to zero in on:

Power Consumption

The power consumption is the electrical energy an appliance draws during normal operations. You measure power consumption in the units of watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). The watt is a factor of both current and voltage, and one watt is equal to one ampere multiplied by one voltage (1W = 1A x 1V). Many manufacturers also indicate the voltage and current of their appliances.

Circuit Map

You should also map your electrical circuits so that you know which breakers correspond to which outlets, fixtures, or devices. An easy way to map your circuits is to switch off every breaker in the electrical panel first. Next, switch on the breakers one by one as you test all the fixtures and outlets in the house for power. Write down how the outlets and breakers connect.  

Circuit Ratings

The circuit rating is the maximum electrical current that a circuit can handle before its breaker trips. For example, if a circuit has a rating of 15A, then the circuit can handle a total of 15A before the breaker trips.

Once you know appliance consumption and circuit rating, make sure you don't plug an appliance into an outlet that won't handle the appliance's rating. For example, don't plug a 6A lamp, 1A computer, and a 3A vacuum cleaner into outlets that are part of an 8A circuit. The 10A (6+1+3) energy consumption will overload the 8A circuit.

Go Easy on Extension Cords

An extension cord is a useful thing to have if you want to use electricity somewhere you don't have an outlet. For example, if you want to test a new computer and the nearby outlets are full, you can use an extension cord to get an additional outlet.

However, don't forget that an extension cord only increases the number of outlets you can use — the extension cord doesn't increase the circuit's limit. Thus, even if an extension cord has four outlets, the limit of the circuit of the outlet to which you have plugged the extension cord still applies.

Limit Concurrent Circuit Use

Don't use all your electrical appliances and devices at the same time — you risk an electrical overload if you do that. This precaution is even more relevant if the appliances and devices in concurrent use are all in the same circuit. For example, don't have the TV, computer, and vacuum cleaner all on at the same time if they are in the same circuit.

Don't Load Circuits to Their Limits

If a circuit has a rating of 10A, don't plug appliances that total 10A into the circuit. If you do that, you may forget and plug a temporary appliance (such as a vacuum cleaner) into the same circuit and cause an overload. Always work with about 80% of a circuit's limit.

Spread Appliances to Different Circuits

You can also lower your risk of an electrical overload if you spread your electrical appliances into different circuits. Don't have the TV, computer, and a welding machine all in the same circuit. Use different circuits if possible and lower the risk of overload.

Use Major Appliances on Dedicated Outlets       

Major appliances that draw in a lot of energy should have their dedicated outlets. Fridges, water heaters, and cooking ranges are some of the major appliances that typically have their own outlets. Such major appliances draw in so much power that you risk an overload if you combine any of them with another appliance on the same circuit.

The above tips will help you deal with circuit overloads temporarily. For a more permanent solution, however, contact Motor Shop Electrical Construction Co to assess your electrical system and determine whether you need an upgrade. You may have to upgrade your electrical panel, install additional outlets, or do both of those things as a permanent solution.