Ever wonder why your appliance might suddenly stop working when you plug in another device?
Usually this means your circuit breaker has automatically shut off power to that appliance to keep your home safe by preventing an electrical overload.
Electrical overloading is one of the major causes of house fires, electric shock, and other accidents that result from electrical issues.
While most appliances and electrical systems these days are designed to safeguard against electrical overloading, it’s still important to understand what an electric current overload is and the dangers of not dealing with it properly.
What is Electrical Overloading?
Electrical overloading happens whenever the amount of electricity running through your circuits to feed power to your devices exceeds the rated capacity of the circuit. When this happens, it causes the circuit breaker to trip and shuts off all power to the overloaded circuit.
Without a circuit breaker to keep the circuit from overloading, the buildup of electric power will end up overheating the circuit wiring. If the wiring heats up too much, it could melt the wire insulation and result in an electrical fire or shock if mishandled.
Signs of Electrical Danger from Current Overloading
The first and most obvious sign that a circuit has been overloaded is when a breaker trips and cuts off all power. However, there are also other signs that may be more subtle, such as:
- Dimming lights
- Outlets or switches making a buzzing sound
- Outlets or switch covers that are warm
- Outlets or switches that smell burnt
- Outlets, switches, or plugs with scorch marks
- Appliances and/or devices that seem to be underpowered
While many of these indicators could also be the result of some other electrical issue, it’s best to have an expert check your electrical system regardless to make sure you stay protected from any electrical dangers. Whatever you do, never attempt to investigate or fix any electrical issue on your own, as this could put you at a high risk of hurting yourself by exposing yourself to high voltage.
How to Prevent Electrical Overloading
While it’s not always easy to anticipate when your circuit might experience a power overload, there are some steps you can take to lower the chance of having an electrical overload happen in your house.
Replace Broken Appliances
If one of your appliances is broken or defective, it could be drawing an irregular amount of power and causing your circuit to overload. In order to prevent an electrical overload from happening and causing an electrical hazard, you should look to repair or replace your appliances right away when you notice they’re starting to malfunction. This not only helps to keep your circuit from overloading but also prevents your other appliances from getting damaged as a result of a current overload.
Fix Damaged/Faulty Wiring
In older homes, the electrical system is likely to be outdated and in need of rewiring. While it may seem costly to get your house rewired, installing new cables and wires for your power system is a good way to ensure your property doesn’t get damaged as a result of electrical overload on old faulty wiring. Without proper wiring, your home is more susceptible to electrical fires and other forms of electrical damage.
Take Note of Circuit Breakers that Keep Tripping
Circuit breakers are meant to trip in order to help prevent electrical overloads. But when you notice that your circuit breaker keeps tripping regularly, it’s time to have an electrician come check your breakers to see if there’s a bigger issue that’s causing them to trip constantly. This will help to avoid any large-scale electrical overloading from happening in the future.
Calculate Your Electric Power Consumption
A good way to preemptively stop your circuit from overloading is to take time to actually calculate how much power your circuit can handle and compare it against how much you’re actually using. This is helpful to determine whether or not your overloading problems are in fact the result of you simply using more power than your electrical system can handle.
You can calculate the wattage capacity of your circuit by multiplying the amperage rating by volts. For example, with a circuit rated to 10-amperes at 230 volts, the maximum wattage allowed is 2,300 watts.
In general, try not to use up more than 80% of your maximum allowed wattage. This provides you with a buffer in the event you do end up using more than 80%. Also, the circuit is more likely to trip if your usage exceeds 80% of its power rating.
Unplug appliances when not in use
Although this may seem tedious, keeping your appliances unplugged when you’re not using them helps to reduce the strain you’re placing on your electrical circuit, while also preventing your appliances from getting damaged if an overload were to occur.
Install safety devices such as GFCI outlets and surge protectors
Using surge protectors, RCDs, and other devices that are intended to prevent electrical overloading from happening adds another level of security to your home’s electrical system. Incorporating these control measures can also help you to isolate electrical issues when they arise, so you can pinpoint problematic areas in your electrical system rather than having to assess the entire system.
Hire an Electrician to Inspect Your Home
The most effective way to prevent an electrical overload from breaking out into a fire or some other hazard is to have an electrician come inspect your home for any potential issues. By having an expert take a look at your electrical system, you’ll have the best chance of detecting any problems that need fixing. This ensures that you and your home remain protected against any electrical dangers.
While your home’s electrical circuits are designed to shut off immediately at the first sign of an electrical overload, there’s things you can do to prevent an overload from happening well before the circuit breaker trips.
The best action to take is to contact your local licensed electricians and have them evaluate your house to identify any issues that you might not be able to detect on your own.