An electrical circuit overload occurs when more electricity runs through a circuit than it can handle. Circuit breakers trip the circuit, cutting power to prevent the wiring from overheating. Signs of an overload include flickering/dimming lights, hot outlets, smoke from outlets, burning smells, and humming or buzzing sounds. Appliances and electronics may seem to lack power as well.

Electrical circuit overloads can be prevented by taking the following steps.

Check Your Electrical Wiring

The cords used to plug appliances into outlets consist of an insulating shell, which protects the copper wire inside. Damage to the insulator, such as cracks or breaks, can cause the exposed wiring to overheat. This can cause an electrical fire. Be careful with your wiring configurations too. Extension cords and multi-outlet converters should be used sparingly, and never for appliances.

Know the Wattage of Your Appliances

Appliance wattage can be found in user manuals. If you know how much power each one draws, then you can be mindful of how many things are plugged into each individual circuit. For example, refrigerators typically use 400 to 800 watts and furnace blowers may use up to 600. Televisions use 200 to 500 watts, while a central air conditioner may use as much as 5,000 watts.

Be Familiar with Your Circuit Breaker Panel

Usually in the basement or a utility room, the breaker panel doesn’t require an electrician’s expertise to understand. The switches correspond to individual circuits. These are typically labeled so you can identify what switch controls the power for specific rooms or appliances. Make sure your electrical panel is up to date. If you have a fuse box, split bus panel, or other system, it’s time to call an electrician for an upgrade.

Dedicate Circuits to Certain Devices

Multiple small appliances, lights, and outlets can be linked on a single circuit. Higher power devices should have a dedicated circuit to prevent overloads. Examples include anything that requires over 1,000 watts, such as electric dryers, ranges, space heaters, air conditioners, dishwashers, washer/dryers, or hot tubs. This means you can run a dryer or AC and use other devices without having to worry about tripping the circuit.

Spread Out Your Appliances

A cluttered kitchen counter increases the risk of having several devices plugged into a single outlet. The microwave, toaster, and blender should be spaced apart and plugged into separate outlets, which avoids an overwhelming electrical load.

Map Out Your Electrical Circuits

If your breaker panel isn’t already labeled, mapping it out is a simple process. Just open the door to the service panel and look for breakers numbered 15 or 20 (higher numbers are for high voltage circuits supplying devices such as water heaters and ranges). Turn off one breaker at a time and write down where it is; next, try different lights, appliances, and devices in your home, test outlets, and note the area or room that circuit serves based on what doesn’t work. When the full area has been tested, turn on the first breaker and repeat for the next breaker, and so on.

Contact Express Electrical Services

Our Los Angeles electricians provide electrical panel upgrades, re-wiring, repairs, and GFCI installation for customers throughout Southern California. We are also available 24/7 for emergencies in case there are signs of an overload or electrical failure. With our fix it now and pay later program, paying for our services is made easier. We’re committed to addressing your electrical issues and ensuring your home is safe, while taking all necessary precautions against COVID-19. Call us at 323-727-7799 to request service.