How Can I Tell If A Circuit Is Overloaded?

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In today’s world, electricity is one of the most used forms of energy for everyday uses, so what happens if a circuit is overloaded? Without electricity, one cannot use their laptop, blow dryer, charge their phone, watch TV, or anything else that requires an electrical plug-in.

Luckily, there are signs that a circuit is being overloaded before the circuit is completely overloaded, and an overloaded circuit can be fixed.

What Is A Circuit?

First off, what even is a circuit? One needs to know what a circuit is before one can worry about an overloaded circuit.

A circuit consists of the wiring, the circuit breaker, and all the devices that are connected to the breaker. The circuit breaker is an electrical switch that protects electrical circuits from overloading.

Each device connected to the breaker uses a certain amount of electricity which adds to the total load of the circuit. The circuit has a maximum load that it can handle smoothly with all the devices added together.

What Is A Circuit Overload?

When the amount of electricity that is attempting to be used exceeds the circuit’s maximum load it can handle, then a circuit overload ensues.

When an overload occurs, a circuit breaker will trip and open up the electrical circuit, which causes the power to stop flowing through the wiring. If the circuit breaker does not trip, then the overload could damage the wiring.

With the power continuing to flow through damaged wiring, an electrical fire could occur. If the system is older, then the circuit overload could cause a fuse to be blown rather than a circuit breaker being tripped open.

It is not uncommon to overload a circuit, and anyone can do it.

Signs That A Circuit Is Overloaded

There are signs that a circuit is being overloaded, which you should watch for.

The most obvious sign that a circuit is overloaded is when the power is shut off to that circuit because the circuit breaker was tripped. If the circuit breaker is not tripped, then it is very important to notice other signs of an overload so that you can prevent an electrical fire.

If you are wanting to ensure that you have a good working circuit breaker that will trip when dangerous electric arcs ensue, look into an AFCI Breaker.

Other signs of a circuit overload include:

  • Lights that are dimmer than usual or not consistently staying at one brightness level
  • Buzzing outlets or switches
  • Warm outlets or switches
  • A burning smell
  • If appliances are not running at their expected pace, for example if they are slower or even faster than usual

How To Fix An Overloaded Circuit

If you know that your circuit is overloaded, if you are able to, immediately shift the devices that were plugged into the overloaded circuit to a different general-purpose circuit.

To move a device to a different circuit, try not to use an extension cord as they are for short-term use.

Once the overloaded circuit has no devices connected to it, flip the circuit breaker back on or replace the fuse and turn everything back on.

This could be all that was needed for the circuit to be fixed, but it may not be a long-term solution.

Mapping Circuits

You will need to locate the outlets on another general-purpose circuit and find a convenient way to reach them.

General-purpose circuits are connected all throughout the household, so you will need to trace a circuit and map out the circuits yourself.

First, begin with the labels on the main panel. They are likely too vague to help you pinpoint general-purpose outlets, but they should give you some idea of where the circuits run.

Turn off the breaker at the main panel, or unscrew the fuse if it’s an older system, and go through your house testing outlets, flipping light switches, and plugging in a test light to open receptacles.

Once the circuit is mapped up, add up the existing electrical loads on them. If the total load exceeds the circuit’s rate, then there is an overload.

Afraid Your Circuit Is Overloaded But Still Not Sure?

If you are in the Overland Park or Kansas City Metro area and need help with repairing, replacing, upgrading, or installing anything electrical in your home, Kansas City Fusion Electric is happy to help you.

We are passionate about helping those in electrical need, especially those whose circuit is overloaded since it can be dangerous; contact Kansas City Fusion Electric now!

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Jeff LeSuer




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