How Do You Know if a Circuit is Overloaded?

How Do You Know if a Circuit is Overloaded?

Did you know that overloaded electrical circuits are a primary cause of home fires in the U.S.? According to a recent 2021 report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments responded to an average of 346,800 home fires a year. The NFPA found five major causes of these fires: cooking, heating, intentional fire setting, smoking materials, and electrical distribution and lighting equipment.

So, what causes electrical systems and lighting equipment to malfunction to the point where they cause electrical fires? Often it is an overloading of electrical circuits.

What Does Overloading Mean?

A circuit overload occurs when too many appliances are plugged into an electrical circuit, causing the circuit to shut down. When the demand on an electrical circuit is too much, the circuit breaker shuts the circuit off to avoid dangerous overheating, which can cause electrical fires. While circuit breakers are incredibly reliable, you don't want to make a habit of overloading your circuits.

Signs your circuits may be overloaded include:

  • Circuit breakers that keep tripping
  • Flickering or dimming lights
  • Buzzing or crackling sounds coming from receptacles
  • Warm wall plates
  • Discolored or scorched wall plates

How to Fix and Prevent Circuit Overloads

Circuits are designed to handle only a certain amount of power, and when we try to pull more power than what they are rated for, they become overloaded and shut off. If your circuit breaker has tripped, the first thing you should check for is overloaded circuits. This is the most common cause of tripped breakers. Look to see how many different appliances are currently plugged in, especially if you are using extension cords or outlet extenders.

When circuit overloading is an ongoing issue, it may be a sign that your current electrical system simply doesn't have the capacity to meet your needs. In these cases, it is best to work with an experienced electrician (like our at Lightning Bug Electric) to solve the problem. With the help of a skilled electrician, you can explore all of your options, including upgrading your service panel or installing additional outlets in your home.

Keep reading for a few helpful tips on avoiding circuit overloads in your home.

Electrical Circuit Overload Prevention

A good way to help prevent circuit overloads is to learn the boundaries of and/or map out your circuits. Most often, we overload our circuits because we don't realize that we've placed too much of a burden on one circuit. Knowing where your different circuits are and what parts of your home they power can go a long way in reducing the likelihood of overloading them.

Other ways to prevent circuit overloading include:

  • Avoid using extension cords or outlet extenders.
  • Make sure all major appliances are plugged directly into a wall outlet.
  • Only plug one heat-producing appliance into a single socket at a time.
  • Have your system inspected yearly by a licensed electrician to confirm that your outlets are all working as they should be.

If you find that you are frequently tripping your breakers and/or are relying heavily on power strips and extension cords, it is a sign that your electrical needs in that area of your home are greater than what your electrical system can provide. You should consider having an electrician install additional outlets in these areas to accommodate your needs.

If you are struggling with overloaded circuits but aren't sure how to fix them, contact Lightning Bug Electric. We can review your system and help you resolve your electrical overload issues once and for all.