Photo Credit: Warner Home Video
Poor circuit breakers have the thankless job of preventing house fires caused by overloaded electrical outlets. While we’re cursing them for shutting off our lights and TV as we’re using the blow dryer to get ready for work, circuit beakers are doing what they’re meant to do. They’re keeping us safe. Because whenever a circuit breaker trips, it’s because the electrical wiring on the circuit in your home was getting too hot to the point of danger. It happens when too much electrical demand is being placed on the wire which has limits on the amount of electrical current it can safely deliver. Take some of the stress off your circuit breakers!
A breaker tripping and shutting off all the power is the most obvious sign that a circuit is overloaded. Other signs are less noticeable but worth knowing:
- Dimming lights when you turn on more lights or appliances
- Buzzing outlets or switches.
- Warm outlet or switch covers
- Burning smell from outlets or switches
- Warped and burned plugs or outlets
- Appliances, electronics or power tools that seem to lack enough power.
Tips to Reduce Circuit Overload in Your Home
1. Study your circuit map.
Your circuit map tells you which devices are powered by each circuit. Many homes across Lake Travis have circuit panels that include notes on breakers to let homeowners know which appliances, lights, and power outlets are connected on the same circuit. Take the time to study the breakers and the information provided inside your electrical panel. Then, examine your home’s electrical distribution room by room. A great place to start is the kitchen or the home office, which are typically areas powering a number of electrical functions.
2. Redistribute electrical loads.
Take account of all the electrical devices that are drawing power from the same circuit. If some circuits seem to be supporting a lot of devices, it’s a good idea to redistribute what you can to another circuit. Try moving plug-in appliances to a circuit that is less-used. For example, move your air purifier to a different room.
3. Add or Replace Circuits
In the case of a home office or a workspace in your garage, the equipment you use there might need to stay in the same room and can’t easily be moved. In that case, it might be necessary to install another circuit to support all the high demand devices being used in the room, versus risking tripped breakers and fire hazards. You don’t want to be running power tools or high power computer equipment on the same circuit supplying all the lights and other outlets. A new 20 amp circuit (higher than the traditional 15 amp) with a couple of extra outlets will ensure that your workspace can handle the higher electrical load.
4. Use Electrical Devices Individually
Remember not to turn on too many power devices at once. This is especially important in the winter when your home could power holiday lighting, cooking appliances, extra outlets being used in the guest bathrooms, and other seasonal devices like space heaters. For example, turn off the TV while you vacuum or use your blow dryer (you can’t hear it anyway).
5. “Lighten” your Load with LED
Reduce power needs related to lighting by replacing your fluorescent, incandescent or halogen light bulbs with energy-efficient LED. LED lights pack a lot of brilliance in their capabilities, but require far less energy to operate, making this single change a no-brainer.
It could be time to call StarTech…
If you’re still experiencing problems after you’ve taken these steps to reduce your home’s electrical circuit loads, it’s time to make an appointment with your local electrician. Buzzing sounds, unusually warm devices, and burning smells also can point to other wiring problems, like short circuits or loose connections.