Many older homes are not equipped with enough outlets or may have plugs in inconvenient places. This can lead to a pile of plugs overloading a single outlet, tangles of extension cords, bulky power strips and frustration if there’s not an available plug for your device or appliance. Remember the iconic scene from A Christmas Story where the dad plugs the Christmas tree into a dangerously overloaded outlet causing sparks to fly? That’s not a scenario you want in your home. Check out these tips on how to avoid overloading outlets, and why adding outlets is a smarter approach.
Overloaded outlets cause fires
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, overloaded circuits and outlets cause more than 5,000 residential fires each year. Overloaded outlets are especially common during the holidays when people tend to use more electricity than other times of the year. Circuit breakers should trip and shut down an outlet if there’s an overload, but if more than one outlet leads to one circuit or the wiring goes bad, sparks can fly.
Do the math on an overload
Figuring out the overload point requires a little algebra. Your home should have 120 volts of power running through it. You divide the number of watts of power you’re using by the volts to calculate amperage. A circuit breaker can handle 15 or 20 amps (check the labels in your breaker box) or 1800-2400 watts max, but it’s recommended not to exceed 1440-1920 watts.
Know if there are multiple outlets on a breaker
There may be more than one outlet on a breaker. It’s important to map your home’s outlets to breakers to know how much you’re tapping at once. If you have a guest bathroom downstairs on the same outlet as your Christmas tree or kitchen appliances, turning on a hair dryer might max out a circuit. Once you have the map, you can ensure that you’re not overtaxing circuits and fuses.
Constant power draw versus occasional
Another safety concern is whether you’re maxing out an outlet constantly or occasionally. For instance, a hair dryer draws a lot of power but you don’t run it all day. Similarly, microwaves are a big draw. Having a microwave and hair dryer going on the same outlet at the same time can be a hazard. The safest approach is not piling up higher wattage appliances all on the same plug.
Add more outlets
A smart approach to avoid overtaxing your home’s electrical system is to add outlets, but making sure not overloading a circuit is critical. That’s why you should always use a licensed professional electrician. A professional can test your system to know how to best route new outlets to existing circuits so that you can have more plug and power options without creating a safety hazard in your home.
To find out more about adding convenient new outlets and avoiding electrical overload, contact Clover Electric today.
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