An electrical circuit overload happens when too much current passes through the electrical wires. This can happen if you have too many appliances on the same circuit or when there’s a power surge. Are lights in your home dimming? Are the outlets buzzing? You may have an overloaded circuit.
Have you ever cranked up the space heater on a cold Minnesota night only to have the lights and heater shut off? Well, at that moment, you created a circuit overload. Overloads happen when you demand more electricity from a circuit than that particular circuit could handle. For the most part, circuit breakers do a good job of preventing house fires, even during an overload… but the safest option is doing your best to prevent overloads from happening in the first place.
What is an electrical circuit overload?
An electric overload happens when too much current passes through electric wires. When there’s an overload in your home, not only will the appliance you were attempting to use stop working , but it could knock out anything else on that circuit as well… this can be a huge nuisance!
Along with being frustrating, overloads can be dangerous. Overloads can heat up wires until they melt, which can lead to a fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 50,000 home fires in the U.S. are caused by electrical malfunctions each year. These fires result in property damage, injury, and even death. That is why it’s crucial you learn the signs of an overloaded circuit.
What are the signs of an overloaded circuit?
Warning signs of an overloaded circuit include:
- Dimming lights. Flickering, blinking, and dimming lights are all signs of an overloaded circuit.
- Frequently tripped circuit breakers. Or blown fuses in older homes.
- Warm or discolored wall plates. Wall plates and cords that are warm to the touch are a sign of an overloaded circuit.
- Cracking receptacles. Listen for sizzling, buzzing, or cracking receptacles.
- Burning odor. Receptacles or wall stitches would have a burning smell.
- Mild shock from appliances. If you have overloaded circuits, you may get a mild shock or tingle from appliances, receptacles, or switches.
How do I fix an electrical overload?
If you want to try to fix an electrical overload on your own, start with checking the breaker box to see which switch turned off. Unplug everything plugged into that circuit, turn off the lights, and then turn the circuit switch back on.
Next, you should start plugging things back in. This way, you can find if there’s one particular appliance that’s tripping the breaker. If that’s the case, there may be an issue with the appliance and not the circuit. Try plugging that appliance into a different circuit to see if it trips that circuit, too. If it does, you’ll need a professional electrician to repair the faulty appliance or you’ll need to replace it altogether.
If you’ve plugged everything back in without the breaker blowing, however, then you have a potential circuit overload. But remember, just because everything is plugged in doesn’t mean it’s all drawing power at the same time. Check how many amps each appliance draws when it’s in use, add all the numbers up, and see if the total is more than the value of the breaker.
If the total is more than the value of the breaker, then lucky you! This particular solution is simple. All you need to do is move an appliance or two from the overloaded circuit onto another circuit that can handle it. If that’s not the case, then it’s time to get in touch with a certified electrician. We commend your DIY attitude, but you don’t want to risk damaging your circuit any further.
How do I prevent my circuits from overloading?
Skip the repair costs and stress by preventing a circuit from overloading in the first place. To prevent an overload, you should:
- Plug appliances directly into an outlet. Don’t use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances. Plug all major appliances directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Remember: power strips only add additional outlets; they do not change the amount of power being received from that outlet.
- Only plug one heat-producing appliance in a receptacle.
- Have an electrician in your home. If you have a heavy appliance on extension cords, then you probably don’t have enough outlets. Have an electrician add more outlets in your home.
- Check the “wires.” Check the cords of whatever you have plugged into an electrical outlet. The copper on the very inside is the actual wire, whereas the outside is called the insulator. Ensure there are no cracks in the insulator and that no wire is exposed.
- Declutter. Do you have a coffee pot, microwave, toaster, and espresso machine on one outlet in your kitchen? Rearrange your kitchen appliances so they’re not running off of one outlet. If you really need to leave them next to each other, unplug them when they’re not in use.
Unsure if your circuits are overloaded? Need help with repairing an overloaded circuit? Get in touch with the trusted team at EarlyBird! We’re confident we can solve your toughest repair challenges. We’re available for all of your electrical needs, 24/7!