Does this situation sound familiar? You and your family are about to plug in the Christmas tree, and as you have the tree all decorated and you begin to light it up, an appliance or light shuts off simultaneously. This common issue, often known as “blowing a fuse,” happens when a circuit breaker is overloaded.
Though it’s often a quick flick of a circuit breaker switch to get everything back to normal, the safest course of action is to ensure an overload doesn’t keep occurring.
What Exactly is a Circuit Overload?
Unfortunately, your electrical circuits have a limited amount of voltage, especially in an older home. Older electrical systems were not equipped to deal with a large number of electrical devices we now keep in our homes. Think about it: how many rooms in your home have a TV? Now, what about major appliances? When you add all of that up, it’s a lot of electricity going through one home.
So when you are drawing more electricity than that circuit can handle, you encounter an overload. This is why a circuit breaker is so vital in your home.
When devices are running, their electrical uses add to your circuit’s total LOAD. When the load is exceeded, your circuit breaker trips immediately, shutting off the power to the entire circuit. Anything plugged into that circuit will lose power. This happens for safety reasons.. Without the breaker, the wiring would overheat, which can ultimately lead to a house fire.
Not every circuit is created equally. When you know the layout of your home’s circuits, you can efficiently plug in your devices so that your major appliances are not sharing the same circuit. If your fridge, TV, stove, and lights were all on the same circuit, you’d be dealing with an overload daily. This is why most homes have them mapped out by usage — it’s just beneficial to know what is where.
Here’s What to Look For
Beyond the obvious loss of power and a tripped breaker, keep an eye out for:
Warm or discolored wall plates
Flickering or dimming lights
Now It’s Time to Prevent It
To avoid making your electrical outlets work harder than they should, we advise you take the time to learn which device is affiliated with what circuit. Knowing this will allow you to plan your electrical usage accordingly, so you don’t spend your days constantly flipping switches.
Map It Out
Though you might have an idea of what goes where you can always do a simple circuit test.
The first thing to note is the higher the number, the higher the voltage, so you’ll want to test anything stamped 15 or 20. The higher numbers are associated with major appliances, such as your washing machine, and often live off their own circuit.
Next, start by shutting down one of the lower number circuits. Once you do, go around your house and look to see what appliances are now shut off. Write this down and continue until you find what each circuit supports. Do this until you’ve tested each one labeled 15 and 20.
Pro tip: A detailed electrician will often mark the areas these circuits are associated with, making it a quicker process.
Fixing The Issue at Hand
Luckily there are many quick fixes you can do yourself to prevent your circuits from overloading.
To prevent a tripped circuit:
Upgrade your lighting to more energy efficient light bulbs
Be mindful of the number of things you turn on at once
Move a major appliance to a less used circuit
Though these quick fixes should help, sometimes an outdated system will simply need new circuits in order to provide the power your house needs. This is where we come in. RR is here to assess the issue, and get you back to full electrical power.