It’s that time of year when the whole neighborhood showcases its light displays. Unfortunately, at some point, someone’s lights will unexpectedly go out. This is pretty common when you’re trying to make the most of holiday lights and household appliances all at once. Too many items competing for power at the same time will overload your circuit breaker. And when a device exceeds the capacity of the circuit it’s on, it will cause other devices to fail or shut down. So in order to improve energy efficiency and prevent fires, it is important to know when your electrical capacity is maxed out.
As a protective measure, a circuit breaker will “trip” in order to prevent electrical fires. A properly installed electrical system will have an “overcurrent protective device” at the main panel that automatically shuts off the power before damage occurs. In older systems, a fuse will “blow,” or burn out.
Sometimes when the air conditioning turns on, the lights will dim. Voltage will drop if too much electrical power is drawn out of a circuit. You will notice the exchange of voltage between appliances, since there is not enough power for all the appliances connected to that circuit. This is a clear sign that your electrical circuit is over capacity.
Check appliances for the amount of electricity or amperage they use. Small items like a clock will use only about half an amp, but larger appliances like a dishwasher or microwave will use considerably more.
Do not exceed the amperage rating of a circuit, outlet or power strip. This is not based on the number of devices that are plugged in, but rather the total amount of electricity they draw. That means that two large appliances can overload a circuit that could otherwise handle five small appliances.
If you find that you are overloading your circuits regularly, you need to redistribute your appliances across different circuits. Otherwise, contact a professional to increase your home’s electrical capacity.