How to Avoid an Electrical Overload

The typical home has many power-hungry appliances, including refrigerators, hair dryers, electric heaters, air conditioners, TVs, and not to mention lights that can easily put a circuit over the limit. Add on holiday lights and decorations and everything can suddenly go out.

If your electrical system is properly installed, an overload shouldnโ€™t cause much damage. Circuit breakers in the main panel automatically cut the power during an overload. In older homes, fuses will burn out to protect the system.

Know the Circuits in Your Home

All circuits in your home are connected to the main panel. Circuit breakers limit how much power enters your wiring system, and automatically cut the power if the voltage exceeds a circuitโ€™s limits.

Identify your dedicated circuits, which serve larger appliances. A single dedicated circuit may connect to your furnace, microwave, or laundry equipment. General purpose circuits serve multiple outlets including standard receptacles and lighting. By knowing what each circuit is connected to, you can estimate its load by adding up the power draw of each connected appliance.

Here are a few examples:

  • Electric range: 5,000 watts
  • Dishwasher: 1,400 watts
  • Clothes washer: 1,150 watts
  • Microwave: 700 to 1,400 watts
  • Refrigerator: 700 watts
  • Toaster oven: 1,400 watts
  • Hair dryer: 300 to 1,200 watts

Avoid Connecting Too Many Devices to One Circuit

An overload is often not evident until a circuit breaker trips or fuse blows. If this happens, remove some devices from the overloaded circuit and plug them into another. Then flip the circuit breaker back on or replace the fuse. You can try to avoid a problem in the first place by reading each circuitโ€™s label, and tracing where it runs.

Tracing general purpose circuits can be challenging. The best way is to turn off one breaker at a time and test the outlets throughout your home. You can try turning on devices and light switches; for duplex receptacles, test the upper and lower parts as they may be connected to different circuits. This process will help you map out your circuits; you can also calculate existing electrical loads by adding up what each plugged-in device requires (based on its listed wattage).

Identify an Overload Before It Happens

A 15-amp circuit can support up to 1,800 watts. If the outlets connected to the circuit exceed that, it is overloaded. A 20-amp circuit has a load limit of 2,400 watts. When multiple outlets are connected to a circuit, identify any electrical devices rated at more than half the circuitโ€™s rating, or 900 watts (for a 15-amp circuit), and make adjustments as necessary. Your best bet is to not load circuits to the maximum wattage; that way, plugging in a vacuum cleaner or other temporary device wonโ€™t cause an overload.

Add New Outlets

When itโ€™s difficult to redistribute loads, you can add new circuits. To do this, youโ€™ll want to install a new outlet. Any additional outlets must be connected to a circuit with enough available capacity. Making the connection requires finding a junction box in the basement or attic. However, the junction box may be wired to several circuits, which means each wire must be tested to ensure the power is off.

Contact Express Electrical Services

Wiring new outlets, and adjusting your electrical system to avoid an overload, can be complicated. A Los Angeles electrician can help as theyโ€™re trained in dealing with the process. At Express Electrical Services, we specialize in wiring and re-wiring. Call 805-250-5807 today for 24/7 service and a 60-90-minute response time. Or, feel free to request service online.

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