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In my last few articles, I’ve been talking about the importance of safety, and how best to keep your home safe. But I know you don’t typically call an electrician just to make sure that your home electrical system is safe (although it’s an EXCELLENT reason to do so). Generally, you call an electrician because something’s going wrong with your electrical system. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some of the electrical troubleshooting that my electricians and I do on a daily basis, to help you avoid some of the most common problems we see on the job.
I’ve found throughout my years in this industry that a lot of the most common problems are caused by something that’s easily avoidable with a little planning and forethought, power overloads. A power overload is exactly what it sounds like, when an outlet or wire fails because there are too many devices being used at one time. Think of it like adding more and more weight to the end of a tree branch; there’s only so much weight (load) it can handle before it breaks.
Although ultimately one overloaded circuit is more or less the same as another, overloads have a number of different causes, and can even have different symptoms depending on where in your home they occur. No matter how or where they happen, though, overloads are serious fire hazards. Overloaded wires melt, causing electrical shorts and conducting heat to potentially flammable materials like the wood in your walls. Repairing the damage from these overloads often requires the electrician making the repair to simply pull the wires out and rewire the circuit, which can be expensive. It’s in your best interest to know how to avoid overloading your electrical system in the first place but also be aware that an overload has occurred.
The most common sign of an overload I run across tends to go something like this, half of the room will be getting no power, while the other half is receiving power as normal. Even more out of the ordinary, the breakers that connect the room to the electrical panel haven’t been tripped. So, what’s causing the issue? If this happens in your living or media room, it’s surprisingly easy to diagnose: 60 to 70% of the time, the problem is the outlet behind your entertainment center melting down (in some cases, literally melting down) from being overloaded. When your entertainment center was installed, you might not have even considered that you were in danger of overloading the outlet. The combination of your TV, DVD player, video game systems, stereo system, huge speakers, and cable or satellite receivers can quickly overwhelm any outlet, and they add up quickly. This is why a top Richardson electrician will always suggest that your entertainment center be set up on a dedicated circuit with a separate power source from the rest of the room; it’s the best way to ensure you’re not overloading your circuit.
Other overloads occur because of the changing weather. I’ve seen plenty of people who’ve overloaded a wall outlet just by plugging a window air conditioning unit into it. These window AC units draw a ton of power; in fact, they can typically max out the circuit just by themselves, meaning anything else you have plugged into that circuit is overloading it! Similarly, most space heaters require 1800 watts to operate. This is exactly how much power a typical 15A electrical circuit breaker should allow. Even plugging in something as simple as a light bulb alongside it overloads the circuit. Window air conditioners and space heaters should always be placed on dedicated circuits to avoid this problem.
Another all-too-common overload occurs quite often in older homes. A family getting ready for the day suddenly discovers that they no longer have any power in any of the bathrooms in the house! This is the result of an overload, too, even worse, it’s a hard overload to detect unless you know a bit about how homes used to be wired. You see, years ago when homes were being wired up, they tended to wire all the receptacles in all the bathrooms on the same circuit. This means that they’re all typically running on the same 15A electrical circuit. This leads to one of the most notorious causes of overloads. Remember how I mentioned that a space heater typically needs 1800 watts to run? Well, most hair dryers typically require 1850 watts, meaning that if your wife or daughter are drying their hair at the same time as someone else is using power in the other bathroom, the circuit is overloaded. And if your wife and daughter are BOTH using their hair dryers at the same time, it won’t take long for the whole circuit to fail or shut off. Thankfully, electricians wiring newer homes always put multiple bathrooms on separate circuits to help minimize this problem.
Again, I want to stress that events like these are completely avoidable, as long as you take the time to think about how much you’re plugging into one circuit. With a little thought, and the helping hand of a caring electrician if you’re unsure, you can save yourself a lot of pain in the long run.
For more information and other tips Electric Man to the rescue. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so don’t ever hesitate to give us a call! Visit our website to learn more or connect with our online community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
If you want to be festive this holiday season while avoiding a stress fest, it’s time you learned tips from a certified electrician about holiday lighting. Here are the top six ways to make holiday lighting a smooth, safe experience.
- Know decoration wattage: Before you purchase items for your house or yard, know how many watts the decorations require. Compare that with the wattage you have available in your home; a certified electrician can help you determine what that is. Keep in mind that low-wattage items consume less electricity and cost less to operate.
- Install a circuit: If you plug all your holiday lights into a single circuit and then use your appliances like normal, you might end up blowing a circuit. The best way to handle a whole bunch of Christmas lights is to have a Dallas electrician install a dedicated circuit.
- Use a timer on the dedicated circuit: This makes it so you don’t have to turn the circuit on and off manually. A timer adds security and makes sure the lights turn off in the middle of the night.
- Check the lights: Inspect the strings before putting them up to make sure no bulbs are broken or missing, no wires are bare or frayed, and no connections are loose. Certified electricians also recommend inspecting the area where you plan to install the lights; ensure the gutters are clear and tree branches are stable.
- Take care of extension cords: If you position any extension cords outside, wrap them up in a plastic enclosure, such as a grocery sack, to protect them from water damage. Never put more than three strings of lights together. If you need too, start a new string of lights using a different plug.
- Be safe: Keep children and pets away from cords. Use LED lights that emit much less heat than old light strands to ensure combustibles don’t catch on fire. Speak with a certified electrician for safety tips regarding outdoor lighting if you have any concerns.
For more information about holiday lighting, please contact a certified electrician at ElectricMan today. ElectricMan is your trusted, local Dallas electrician with 27 years of experience. Visit the Electricman website, and don’t forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Tripped circuit breaker: many of us have experienced them at some point in our homes, yet instead of asking ourselves, “Why Do Breakers Trip?”, we reset the breaker without much thought. Before flipping the switch back over to the “ON” position, however, it’s important to understand why the breaker tripped in the first place, and what can be done to keep it from happening again.
As a Top Dallas Electrician, ElectricMan Inc. understands the danger of ignoring the warning signs of a tripped circuit breaker. But first, you need to know what a breaker does and how it works.
The Job of the Circuit Breaker
Simply put, a home or business circuit breaker is a safety device that monitors the amount of electrical current going through the electrical wires in your home and shuts off the circuit if too much electricity is being pulled through it, or if there is any disturbance in the current that could result in a fire.
Whereas a fuse performs the same task but can only be used once, a circuit breaker can perform over and over with the use of a switch that trips to indicate when it has effectively cut off current to a particular area.
What Makes a Breaker Trip?
So, Why Do Breakers Trip and what kind of things could cause a circuit breaker to trip? Some of the most common causes of a tripped breaker include:
- Overloaded circuits: Often times, when there are too many appliances plugged into an electrical circuit, the wiring reaches unsafe heat levels due to pulling more electricity through the circuit than it is designed to accommodate, and puts your home at a risk for a fire. That’s when the circuit breaker trips, shutting off everything that is plugged in to that circuit, preventing overheating, reducing the risk of fire. This happens often in older homes, where the wiring was not designed to withstand the power of modern appliances.
For example, in some homes, running a microwave, a toaster oven and a refrigerator all on the same circuit may cause your wires to overheat, tripping the breaker. In this instance, making the load a little lighter, or splitting the circuit, may do the trick in keeping it from tripping the breaker.
- Electrical shorts: Other times, a tripped breaker can happen as a result of an electrical short, due to old and worn out appliances, with damaged wiring in your home. Common causes of electrical shorts in the home include faulty wiring, rodents or other animals chewing through your wires or aging wiring in older homes. Because of the large range of possible culprits, diagnosing an electrical short can be more difficult and therefore should not be ignored. Determining whether a short is in an appliance may be as simple as disconnecting your appliance and resetting the breaker, if it continues to trip, definitely call a Top Dallas Electrician. Often times, it’s when an appliance is not being used and the electrical short is happening, that it is much more complex and requires professional help.
Ignoring a Tripped Breaker is Not a Good Idea
Because of the many reasons why your circuit breaker could be tripping, and because of the purpose of the circuit breaker, you should never take a tripped breaker lightly. It’s important to understand that the circuit breaker is a safety device; simply switching the circuit back on without investigating the culprit can become costly in the long run and, in many cases, extremely dangerous.
If your breaker trips consistently, chances are there is a potentially dangerous electrical issue that needs to be looked at. ElectricMan Inc. is a Top Dallas Electrician with over 27 years of residential and commercial experience in the electrical field. Call ElectricMan Inc. at 972-792-7270 to make sure that your home is safe and free from the risk of a short or a fire.