Electrical Overload: How to Detect and Prevent it

We’ve become accustomed to using as many digital devices as we want at home or work. It’s easy to forget that a circuit breaker must facilitate all this electricity.

An electrical overload occurs when the demand for electricity on a given circuit is too much for it to handle. Having too many appliances plugged in at once can cause this.

In most cases, the result of an overload is a loss of power. However, an overload can also cause a fire. This is how many home and business fires start.

To help you stay safe, we’re going over some ways to detect and prevent overload.

Symptoms of a Potential Overload

The electrical system in your home is very complex. Unless you have an understanding of this system, it can be hard to diagnose and fix problems.

However, there are several common signs of an overload that don’t require you to be an expert. You just need to be vigilant.

Lights are usually the first appliances to show signs of overload. They’ll start to flicker without any other noticeable cause.

Another common symptom is if a particular breaker on your circuit keeps tripping. There may be too much power running to that breaker.  

You may also notice a buzzing sound coming from a socket. This is an indication of either an overload or another issue with the circuit.

Finally, if you notice the smell of an electrical burn, you may have an overload. When wires burn, they have a distinct plastic smell. If you notice this, turn everything off and call a professional.

Checking for an Overload at Home

If you suspect you have an electrical overload, there are some ways you can troubleshoot the issue. Remember, if you feel like you’re in over your head, call an electrician.

First, turn off all wall switches and appliances. Unplug lamps and anything else that’s running to the main circuit.

After that, check your circuit board for any tripped breakers. If one has tripped, try to turn it back on.

If you can’t, you may have a short in one of your wall switches or appliances. To confirm this, turn on each switch and plug in each appliance until it trips again.

Keep in mind that a tripped breaker could mean there’s an issue with a power cord for one of your appliances. If this is the case, you’ll need to discontinue the use of the appliance until you get a new cord.

However, if you plug everything back in and the breaker doesn’t trip again, an overload may have caused the initial trip.

Preventative Steps

To avoid having to deal with electrical overloading, there are some preventative measures you can take. Some of this involves educating yourself on how your circuit breaker and amps work.

If you and your family get into certain habits, you’ll never have an overload in your home. With so many devices and appliances in use today, this is very important.

Have an Inspection Performed

The most important preventative measure is to have regular inspections performed. This is crucial if you experience issues like breakers tripping or fuses blowing out.

A professional electrician will examine all the wiring in your system along with all electrical connections. They’ll look for outdated wires, loose connections, faulty sockets, and problems with the circuit breaker.

If there’s an issue, they’ll either repair it on the spot or go over a plan for the work you need. It’s important you follow the electrician’s recommendations.

Having an inspection ensures there’s no risk of fire or electrocution. An electrician will also ensure your home’s electrical system is up to code. There are certain standards you must adhere to.

Understand Your Amps and Breaker

The next step in preventing overload is to get to know your circuit breaker. You’ll also need to learn how to calculate amps to determine if you have too much power running to a circuit.

First, have a look at your circuit panel. Figure out with breakers control each room. There should be a diagram on the inside of the panel.

The diagram should also have an amp rating. The total amps used by appliances in that room cannot exceed the rating. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 80% of the amp rating for each room.

Once you’ve determined the amp rating for each room, it’s time to check the appliances. Most appliances and pieces of electrical equipment have a label that shows how many amps it uses.

Ensuring you don’t have too many amps running to a single breaker will help prevent overload. If you require many appliances in one room, do some research and learn more about using converters.

Cut Down on Appliance Clutter

One of the easiest ways to prevent an electronic overload is to cut down on appliance clutter. Make this a rule in your home.

Kitchens and entertainment areas are prone to appliance clutter. If these rooms have too much power running to the breaker, overload is inevitable.

Try to space out the placement of appliances and electronics. If you have several in one room, unplug some of them when you’re not using them.

It’s also important to use surge protectors when you have several plugs running to an outlet. These devices regulate the amount of power running to a breaker.

Ditch the Extension Cords

Some people trying to bypass one circuit by running an extension cord to another room. This is a mistake.  

If you use an extension cord for appliances in your home, you risk the chance of overload. You should only plug appliances directly into a socket or surge protector.

Only use an extension cord temporarily if you must use one. They’re not designed for permanent use.

Avoid an Electrical Overload in Your Home

An electrical overload can trip breakers, cause a loss of power, and even lead to fires. Make sure you do everything you can to prevent this from happening.

Use the tips discussed above for detecting and preventing overload and stay safe at home.

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