Tips for Preventing Circuit Overload in a Home

by Megan WildMarch 13, 2017

Spring is almost here! The days are staying lighter longer. The birds are chirping in the morning. Have you seen your first robin yet? Depending on where you live, these are signs of spring. Naturally, we begin to think about spring cleaning and projects we have been putting off.

What you probably aren’t thinking about is your electrical wiring and the demands you and your appliances put on it. Overloading your electrical circuits can damage your appliances, cause power outages or even a fire. Here are a few things to consider to prevent overloading your circuits.

What Is an Overload?

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An overload is when you have too many things running on one circuit. More specifically, it is when the electrical demand on the circuit is more than it is designed to provide. In your kitchen, this may only occur when you have guests over. You might be plugging in multiple appliances such as crock pots, roasters, coffee makers, deep fryers and the like.

If there are not enough outlets in the desired spaces, you may be tempted to use power strips, extension cords or multi-tap outlets. The demand for electricity may become greater than what the circuit was designed to carry, and you may lose power. This is a safety feature that prevents the electrical overload from causing a fire.

Now let’s talk about those tips for avoiding circuit overload.

Inspect Your Wiring

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Check the cords of anything plugged in to electrical outlets. We often call the cords “wires.” The outside is called the insulator, and the copper inside is the actual wire. Make sure there are no cracks in the insulator and that no wire is exposed. Extension cords and multi-tap outlets should only be used temporarily, and they should never be used with major appliances such as refrigerators.

Do you have enough outlets to meet your needs? Newer homes have a required amount of outlets, but older homes may not comply with today’s code. If necessary, have an electrician inspect your home and make any needed changes.

Know Your Wattage

Have you ever noticed your lights dimming when you run the microwave or the vacuum cleaner? You don’t need to be an electrician to understand those items use a lot of power. However, it’s a good to have a general idea of how much power each appliance uses.

Refer to your appliance manuals for exact specifications. A general awareness of how much power your appliances use can help you from overloading your circuits.

Avoid Clutter

Does your kitchen counter look like an appliance store? Are your coffee pot, blender, cappuccino maker and toaster all next to each other? There may be times when this is necessary. However, it is important to be conscious of the electrical demands of each appliance.

Space out your appliances if possible so they aren’t all running off of one outlet. If you need to leave them all together, unplug them when they are not in use. De-cluttering your kitchen has other benefits as well. Your kitchen will also be more attractive and more organized.

Know Your Circuit Breaker

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A circuit breaker is a panel of switches, usually in your basement or utility room, that shut off power when the electrical current is too high. Multiple switches allow for one circuit to be shut off while the others remain on. Shutting off the power when there is an overload prevents the wires and appliances from catching on fire.

Each switch will identify how much power it can handle. You don’t really need to know the exact specifications of each circuit, but you should know which circuit operates which part of your home. This should be labeled as well. If it isn’t, it would be a good idea to learn about and label each switch.

Some older homes have a fuse box instead of circuit breakers. Fuse boxes accomplish the same thing as circuit breakers but in a different way. Fuse boxes are older technology and are no longer installed in new homes.

Happy spring cleaning! Go ahead and vacuum your home. Plug in the weed whacker, the edger, or the hedge trimmers. If you are like my mother, you might even have an electric lawn mower. Hopefully, some basic electrical knowledge will keep you informed as well as safe. Share this information with your family and friends.


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About The Author
Megan Wild
Megan Wild enjoys finding easy and low-stress ways to improve your home. In her downtime, she enjoys flipping flea market finds, hanging out with her dog, and writing on her home-themed blog, Your Wild Home. She's passionate about sustainability and environmentalism, and you can find her tweeting about both @Megan_Wild.

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