It seems that everything we use these days runs on electricity, which is why most homes have multiple power outlets and/or power boards in every room that are used consistently. However, not using electricity properly can be extremely dangerous, cause circuit overloads and lead to serious issues like fires or a member of your family experiencing an electric shock. Here are a few ways you can avoid the dangers of circuit overload.
How to spot a circuit overload
Every household’s meter box contains a series of overload protection devices, which are designed to cut power to particular circuits when the amperage has been exceeded. Generally, the two main devices are fuses and circuit breakers.
Fuses are ceramic holders containing thin strips of wire that are designed specifically to melt when too much current passes through them. The thickness of the wire determines how much current is required before the circuit will ‘blow’. Circuit breakers are the modern equivalent of fuses and instead of wire they have highly sensitive switches that activate when there is an excess of current. This causes them to ‘trip’ and break the circuit.
Power boards also have built-in overload protection that is usually in the form of a small circuit breaker which trips when more power is drawn than the power board is rated to carry. Power boards usually also have a reset switch to return them to normal use after the circuit breaker has been tripped.
What causes circuit overloads
If a fuse or circuit breaker blows or trips in your meter box, then it usually means there is a problem in the circuit. This can cause electrical overload and can be caused by a few reasons, including:
• Too many appliances – many older homes have only one or two power points per room so there is often a temptation to plug in a double adaptor or power board in order to increase the number of outlets. This is OK, however they do need to be used in moderation. Problems can occur however if you piggyback one double adaptor on top of another or you plug double adaptors into power boards and even power boards into power boards!
• High amp appliances – some appliances draw more amps than others – a charger for example draws very low amps whereas an electrical kettle may draw very high amps. If you use too many high amp appliances at the same time on the one power point, then you could be exceeding its amperage.
• A fault somewhere in the circuit – if high amp appliances or too many appliances aren’t the issue, then circuit overloads could be due to a circuit fault. Warning signs include lights that dim, flicker or blink, a burning odour, crackling, sizzling or buzzing emanating from outlets or switches, or receiving a tingle or mild shock from appliances, outlets or switches.
How to avoid circuit overload with appliances
In terms of using too many appliances, to avoid the dangers of circuit overload, try to only use them one or two at a time, turn them off or unplug them when not in use, or ideally have an electrician install another power point in the room.
In terms of high amp appliances, if you’ve only got one power point in a room you should avoid running multiple power-hungry devices at the same time on that power point. This includes kettles, toasters, mixers and blenders in the kitchen and electric razors, heaters and hair dryers in the bathroom.
How to avoid circuit overload with power boards
In terms of power boards, there’s no doubt these electrical ‘helpers’ are useful, however they can lead to all sorts of circuit overload problems if they aren’t used properly. If you are using power boards in your home …
• Don’t piggyback. This is when you overload a power board by plugging one plug in and then connecting it to another to create a longer cord or use a double adaptor to turn a single outlet into a double outlet.
• Use power boards with overload protection that will automatically stop any electricity should there be potential for overheating.
• Don’t plug high wattage appliances into power boards as many of them aren’t designed to handle it. This includes TVs, kettles, heaters and gas or electric stoves.
• Properly maintain any power boards you use, including making sure all plugs are firmly set into the board and placing them on their side to keep dust from accumulating in unused points. Power boards should also be kept well away from dirt, water and other debris, should have proper air ventilation, and should not be damaged in any way.
How to avoid circuit overload with extension cords
The advice here is pretty basic – extension cords are only really designed to give you temporary access to a power point, so don’t keep them plugged in long term!
Have electrical items tagged and tested
Many companies offer tagging and testing services with technicians who will test your power boards and portable electronic equipment. They will not only look for noticeable damage but will perform electrical tests to look for polarity, earth resistance, leakage current and insulation resistance. They’ll then tag them to confirm their safety.
Consult an electrician
If fuses or circuit breakers are regularly blowing or tripping in your meter box then it usually means there is a problem. This is when you need an electrician to inspect your wiring. If you are running out of outlets and/or using too many power boards, again an electrician can help by installing a few additional electrical outlets in high-use areas. It’s important to consult professionals for help because in terms of electrical safety, if small faults aren’t seen to as soon as possible, they can turn into larger and more dangerous problems later on!
Need a qualified electrician to help you avoid the dangers of circuit overload? Contact the experts at Peak Voltage today for more advice. Call (07) 3272 7325.