Ever heard the saying, if you play with fire, you might get burned?

Well, the same can be true of electricity!

Other dangers include power loss, burned out wires, damaged appliances and even electric shocks. However, if you have a breaker installed on your circuit, you just might be in luck.

A breaker will automatically shut off power when there’s an overload. It’s designed to work as a safety device. Not having a breaker on your circuit can result in electrical hazards. 20-amp breakers must only handle up to 80% of their amperage rating. An amp rating means the most amount of current the circuit can safely handle. Thus, the only way to make sure a 20 amp breaker is to have ‘breaking’ less than 80% of it’s capacity.

Circuit breaker
A breaker will act as your safety device, but it shouldn’t be a tester for whether you’re overloaded or not

Are you ready to understand how that works? This guide will cover what you need to know on how to balance your electrical load. That way, you never have to worry about an overload ever again.

Planning Electrical Circuit Capacity

An average household has at least ten appliances. Water heaters, electric stoves, TVs, and even phones rely on electricity to function. Electrical outlets supply current to devices by connecting them to the electrical grid.

These appliances have a specific amount of current they consume. Some, like dishwashers, clothes washers, and refrigerators consume higher amounts. Then, thers like hair straighteners, fans, and bulbs consume less.

You must identify the number of amps all the lights and outlets included will draw from your circuit. The electrical circuit comprises wiring, a breaker, and other electrical devices. So, if you have a 20-amp circuit installed in your home, the most amount of current the circuit can carry is 20amps. Anything more means there’s an overload that will cause an electrical accident.

A general rule to keep in mind when planning capacity is that each device on a circuit needs about 1.5amps.

The total draw on the circuit should not exceed 16 amps to curtail overloading for safety. Using the same formula, a simple 16/1.5 will tell you that a 20 amp circuit can comfortably carry ten devices.

Electrical overloads happen when appliances draw more power than a circuit can handle. Thus, installing circuit breakers as safety devices is the most recommended strategy. When overloaded, the circuit breaker trips off and shuts down power for the circuit.

The best and safest strategy to prevent overload is to total up each outlet’s expected load. You must make sure it doesn’t exceed the rating of your circuit breaker. Generally, professionals advise that a breaker shouldn’t handle more than 80% of the electrical load.

Thus, for a 20 amps breaker, if the sum of all the outlet amps is less than 20, then you’re fine. Ideally, opt to only use appliances consuming 15-16amps on a circuit. Avoid anything more than that.

How do you know when your circuit overloads?

When dealing with electricity, you must question everything. As soon as you notice signs such as buzzing sounds, burning smells or flickering lights, be on high alert. If you plug high voltage devices like an iron or air fryer into an outlet and notice that your lights are dimming, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. These symptoms signify that the circuit cannot carry the load you’re giving to it.

Should these occur, you need to identify which appliances trigger these symptoms. This would help you know how to redistribute the power. Then, reduce the number of outlets that will handle a power-hungry device.

Also, using extension cords to accommodate appliances in outlets might lead to damages. Extension cords do not change the amount of power the outlet receives. Using more devices than required on an outlet will trigger the breaker and cause the power to shut down.

overloaded extension cord
Using extension cords can lead to damages

Now it’s easy to see why the use of dedicated circuits for some devices that need over 1000 watts might be a good option. These kinds of circuits concentrate on feeding one single appliance electricity. Such appliances include ACs, hot tubs, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.

In cases of electrical emergencies, breakers will stop the flow of power. Remember to seek the opinion of a certified electrician if you feel something is wrong.

Can you put lights and outlets on the same circuits?

If you want to put your lights and outlets on the same circuit, the most crucial factor is the circuit’s capacity. Only put lights and outlets on the same circuits if their rated load does not overload that circuit. First, think of what appliances you are likely to plug into those outlets. Light bulbs consume less power than most household appliances. With proper planning and distribution of power, lights and outlets can use the same breaker.

Still, there are situations when putting them on the same circuit might not be a good idea. If you’re using large appliances that consistently draw too much power, lights and outlets should have separate circuits. So if your circuit blows because of an overload caused by plugging in an appliance, you won’t be in darkness.

The key is to know how much your circuit can handle and decide based on that. Besides, you need to follow electrical codes to plug and install outlets and switches.

Safety when working with electricity?

Working with electricity calls for high caution because it can cause so much damage. Even the littlest mistake or carelessness can cost you your life. You must take several safety precautions while working with electricity. No matter the situation, do not compromise your safety. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind when working with electricity.

  • Avoid moisture first: Remember that water and electricity should not come into contact with each other. Touching sockets and electrical devices with water can lead to electrocution or death. For your safety, stay away from electrical appliances if your hands or feet are on a wet surface. If you need to change a bulb or plug something into a socket, make sure that your hands are dry and protect yourself. Also, keep electrical equipment away from sinks, showers and spaces close to water.
  • Always turn off the master switch: This is to allow you to work without the risk of current passing through. Putting a sign on the control to stop others from accidentally turning on the main is a good idea.
  • Know the capacity of your circuits: Electrical fires mostly occur when outlets overload. It usually happens when there are too many electrical devices plugged into a circuit. You should know how much current can safely flow through your circuit. If you give your circuit more appliances than it can carry, it can lead to a disaster. You need to use a breaker to control your circuit. Hence, you must avoid electrical overload, so you don’t set your house on fire.
  • Periodic electrical inspections: Hiring a trained professional to check your electrical system is a must. An expert will know how to distribute your lights and outlets so that you do not overload your circuit. They will also recognize issues such as faulty sockets or damaged circuit breakers. Most of all, you need them to ensure efficient operations.
technician checking the breaker
Hire an electrician to check your electrical system regularly

Now it’s clear enough that dealing with electricity isn’t so complicated. With this guide, you have all the details to protect your breaker from overload. You can make sure your house is not at risk of losing power by calculating the number of outlets in a circuit like a pro. In short, don’t overload your outlets so you won’t overload the breaker.

Finally, let me take the time to go over some of the major points again.

  1. Electrical outlets connected to circuits supply power to your homes.
  2. Breakers installed on circuits act as safety devices and prevent circuit overload.
  3. Lights and outlets can only be on the same breaker if they do not overload it.
  4. You must always follow the 80% rule when adding outlets to the breaker to not trip off your power.
  5. You need to inspect your breaker closely if it continues to trip off.
  6. Always be cautious when dealing with electricity.

Thank you for reading. That’s all on overloads till we bring you another guide.