Avoiding Electrical Overload

Nothing puts a damper on a party or even a nice quiet evening at home like the power going out. If a storm or power line being down isn't the problem, then your circuits may have overloaded and shut your system down to keep you safe. To avoid this problem, you can take several preventative actions.

Basic Precautions

Over half of American homes are over 30 years old, so their electrical systems are not all up to date. No matter the age of your home, you can take the following precautions to prevent overloading your circuits.

  • Do not plug more than two appliances into the same outlet or add additional appliances into an outlet by using an extension cord. You will simply be putting too great a strain on the outlet. In general, an outlet should not handle more than 1500 watts. 
  • Know your amperage. Each circuit breaker should only be "loaded" to 80% of its capability. A 15 amp circuit should never carry more than a 12 amp load. Determine the rating of each breaker and what room or rooms the breaker controls. Then add up the numbers. Most devices will have their amperage listed on a sticker or tag. Stop plugging things in when you hit the 80% limit.

Update Your Electrical Panel

If you live in an older home, your electrical system may not be able to handle the increasing demands new technology puts on electrical usage. If your system keeps "tripping" off when you plug in the hairdryer or use the toaster, you have a problem. You may be able to add breakers to your existing system, or you may need your wiring revamped. A qualified electrician can evaluate your home and advise you on what is needed. Do not try and "get around" the problem with extension cords and prayer. Each year, there are 28,600 electrical fires that cause 310 deaths and over a billion dollars in damage. 

Never mess around with your electrical system. If you are constantly tripping the breakers, you need to consult an electrician. He can evaluate your system and suggest upgrades. If you are having an occasional problem, try figuring out the amperage you are using on each breaker. You can take simple steps to lower strain on a particular circuit. Electrical fires are still common occurrences, so do not ignore any problem with your system. Check things over and then ask for professional help if necessary.