When Circuit Breakers Reach Their Breaking Point: Overloading Electrical Circuits

29 June 2017
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You may reach your breaking point just as one of your circuit breakers reaches their own and shuts off power to one of the electrical circuits in your home. This circuit line may control the flow of power to a single room or even an entire section of your home, and when too much demand is placed upon the line, it shuts off the power to the line.

However, while this may be a major inconvenience, it can actually save your home, and possibly your life and the lives of your family members.

Why do circuit breakers suddenly begin to shut off after years of use?

If a circuit breaker has begun to shut off power to a circuit, it is usually because of the addition of either one power hungry appliance or several lower level gadgets. Air conditioners are a common source of overloads, because they require a quick surge of power when the compressor is activated, which may occur several times with each use.

Hair dryers are also an issue. Many blow dryers can consume up to 1500 watts of power, which is the limit of a 15 amp circuit. Most residential circuits for normal use are either 15 or 20 amp lines, so a blow dryer can easily trip a circuit breaker when used at its highest setting, especially if it shares the circuit with multiple outlets.

Power strips are also an issue when circuit breakers start to shut off spontaneously. Some power strips allow up to 10 appliances to be plugged into a single strip, which multiplies the normal capacity for a receptacle tenfold. 

Some families engage in the dangerous practice of plugging a power strip into another power strip to further extend its capacity. This has the potential of rapid warming of electrical wiring and possibility of fire. 

How can you avoid tripping of circuit breakers?

If you have the capability of carefully monitoring your power consumption, breakers shutoffs can usually be avoided. For example, you can turn off other appliances while using a blow dryer.

You can also purchase a higher efficiency air conditioner that requires less power to start the compressor. Amp ratings for general use and compressors can be found on the stickers that are placed prominently on new air conditioners.

If you simply have too many new appliances and gadgets that are overwhelming your existing lines, you can hire a residential electrician to either upgrade some of your 15 amp lines to 20 amps, or add additional lines from your breaker box to handle the additional load.

Commercial electricians will need to perform these services at a place of business. They are familiar with the different building codes for electrical work performed outside the home. Click here for more info about your electrical concerns.