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Dangers of Overloading a Circuit and How to Prevent a Circuit Trip

by B.Annie on October 22, 2018

We demand a lot from our electricity; technology keeps moving forward and so must we! Upgrading your home means adding on devices and appliances, from light fixtures to a laundry room. If you don’t inform yourself, you could be asking too much of your current electrical system. Be aware of the dangers of overloading a circuit and how to prevent a circuit trip.

What is a circuit?

When talking about electronics, a circuit is the path between at least two points where an electrical current can be carried. Circuits are made up of wiring, a breaker (or a fuse in older homes) and anything hooked up to outlets requiring electricity (such as lighting fixtures, devices , lamps, coffee machine, etc.) and appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc.). Electricity usage of each device adds to the total load on the circuit.

What is overloading?

Electrical circuits are designed to handle a limited amount of electricity. Different circuits can handle different amounts of electricity but all are prone to overloading. Overloading occurs when you draw more electricity than a circuit can safely handle. Exceeding the total load on the circuit wiring causes the circuit breaker to trip (or the fuse box to blow) shutting off power to the entire circuit.

How do you know a maximum circuit load?

To safely calculate the maximum circuit load, you need to know the amount of current in your home. Then, you multiply the current by the amount of power required to conduct the current; typically it takes 120 volts.

Are there signs before a circuit trips?

There are several signs that show you may be putting too much strain on a circuit. First, you may see dimming or flickering lights; especially when turning on appliances. You may also have buzzing outlets or switches. In addition, outlets can be warm to the touch or give off a burning smell. Finally, you may notice appliances and devices seem to lack sufficient power.  Be sure to avoid things such as plugging several devices into the same socket using multi-socket extension. You should also avoid plugging several items of equipment into different sockets connected to the same electrical line. While you may now know how to calculate the maximum circuit load, it does not mean you should try to reach it. In fact, it would be best if a circuit does not exceed 80 percent of the maximum load.

Preventing a circuit overload

There are several ways to remain conscious of your energy use and preventative measure to take to minimize the risk of an overload.

  • Mapping out your homes circuits is a knowledgeable way to move forward in circuit overload prevention. Once a basic circuit layout has been mapped, calculations can be made as to the safe load rating of each circuit in order to get a sense of how many things can be operated on that circuit.
  • Once identified, lesser-used circuits can be fully utilized. Plug in devices can be moved from overworked circuits to circuits better equipped to handle them.
  • Remember to turn off the lights and devices when not in use! In addition to saving energy, you are relieving your circuit of the strain from the demand.
  • Practice preventative maintenance. Blown fuses need replacement and tripped breakers should always be looked at. Get the professionals at Winstar involved early on to ensure safety measures.

If there were no breaker on the circuit, an overload would cause the circuit wiring to overheat. Breakers and fuses are the ultimate preventative measure, shutting off power once an electrical abnormality is sensed. Make sure your home is safe from the risk of an overload. Mapping out your circuits and checking on your circuit breaker are two important steps.

Take a further step in getting a professional electrician from Winstar involved to inspect your home and help you take measures in preventing circuit overloads.