How To prevent Circuit Overload: these 04 proven methods

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prevent circuit overload

What to understand by overloading?

Circuits and wires are designed to carry a specific value of  current. If for any reason the current passing through these cables  is greater than what they can handle , there is a risk of  OVERLOAD. The cables get heated up , melt and  can potentially get fire. An overload is therefore a direct consequence of a high value of current not voltage!  Many protective devices have been listed to limit the damages caused by this situation . Though reliable in most cases, knowing the installations which can save your family’s life and yours is still important. So let’s get started!

WHICH INSTALLATIONS?                                                                                                   

Below are some of the most important installations that lead to  overload .

  1. Plugging several power-hungry items or tools on the same circuit. When many appliances are running at the same time , on the same circuit,  there is a risk of  overload. It is not just any type of appliances, but those with a considerable amount of power. Note that a circuit  cannot handle more than 80 percent of the maximum  load.  for a 15-amps circuit, the safe margin at a given moment will be 1,440 watts: 120 v x 15 A= 1,800; 80 percent of 1,800=1,440 watts. It means that if the total load at a given period is greater that 1,440 watts for a 15-amps circuit, there is an overload.  Similar calculations are applicable for a 20-amps circuit and  give 1,920 watts. Such  appliances should have their own dedicated circuit ( air conditioner, electric dryer, dishwasher etc). If not, they can melt  wires and even burn them.                                  Appliances that need their own dedicated circuits                                              These appliances are called power-hungry appliances  because they use too much power in a small amount of  time. when such situation occurs an “over-current protective device” installed at the main panel will trip. It can be a circuit breaker or a fuse.
  2. The use of extension cords as permanent wiring. Extensions cords are very useful as temporary solutions   .  They are not designed to carry the power running by  the appliances they are connected with. This is the reason why  they should never be permanent. An extension cord is like an intermediate branch that you create on your own. But  in this case , since it has not be set and sized by your electrician, it’s not safe and can become a serious issue. There are many parameters  you didn’t take into account like  the cross sectional area of the extension cord or the current needed by the appliance you are going to use.
  3. Outdated installations/wiring: Knob-and-tube wiring is not  effective as it was few decades ago.  This installation is not grounded and does not offer a proper protection to an  equipment.  It’s crucial to Check the wiring  installed at  home and if it’s an old one, then consider replacing it by a safe and more appropriate wiring. Skilled Electricians are trained for that and are aware of the norms and rules applicable in your communities.   So it’s better to reach them out. Aluminium wiring also, has been prohibited  many decades ago. Although cheaper than  copper it was dissipating too much heat and was not efficient over time.
  4.  Non conventional sizing:  When  cables are wrongly sized for circuit breakers  they are useless.  The size of the wire is critical; Different wire gages are meant for different amperages. The current that a cable can handle must be as the same as the circuit breaker.   Let’s take an example: If you have A #12 wire gauge which carries 20-amps then It will be  safely protected by a circuit breaker of 20-amps too.  However, if that wire is connected to a 15-amp circuit breaker then a significant amount of current can go through it. both wires and circuit breaker will start heating up. And this is a wasted energy that can increase your electrical bills.
  5. Mismatch circuit breakers:  It’s not recommended to replace a circuit breaker  inside a control panel without the approval of the manufacturer or  inspector.  The breakers installed in the panels should be the ones set by the manufacturer.  A circuit breaker can perfectly fit a control panel but it may be incorrect if not checked by an inspector.
  6. Faulty connections:    A faulty connection is not something to take lightly. It may not appear on the cables, but rather on the terminal of  devices. As an electrician, it is Always recommended to check the connections before reconnecting the power supply, or leaving the workplace. But if you are not an expert do not attempt to fix it on your own.


How to prevent circuit overload:

  • Install an appropriate and well-designed circuit breaker. Identify which equipment requires its own designated or dedicated circuit . Install a new branch of circuit  were needed.  If you run  many hungry items at the same time,  consider having different circuits. You can use different circuits for lights and outlets( which is recommended) 15 and 20-amps for example. This is one of the most important and recommended solutions to prevent circuit overload.
  • Install more outlets To limit the use extensions cords. You can also use power surges  were small appliances are connected to. By adding new outlets,  you keep the  branches of circuits safe and free from fire .   You can either install a new outlet in an existing branch, or run a new one. It all depends on   your skills or the clearance of the main panel. If you can  map  circuits on your own, and identify which of them  create overload, then  go ahead. what  you will need to do is  find a branch that still have enough capacity to add an outlet. If you are not comfortable with the idea on doing the installation on your own, then call an electrician.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs or energy efficient leds. they will drop your electrical bills.
  • Call for an inspector or skilled electrician to check the installation made. Especially if it is an old one. An inspector  is here to help, check if everything is correct and ensure that proper safety guidelines are followed with respect to the rules set by its state.             old home rewiring

An overloading circuit results from extra  and inappropriate connections made  by users,young professionals or hobbyists . Outdated or damaged wiring can also lead to such situation.  But in each case, they  invite  electrical fire .  So better Have your electrical system  properly installed.  Always call for electricians or inspectors for works you are not confident with.

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