At one time or another, everyone has been in the middle of using some electrical device when, all of a sudden, everything stops! What just happened? Well, you probably tripped a circuit breaker, or, as we usually refer to it, blew a circuit.
Many events can cause this to occur. The most common is running too many electrical items on the same circuit at the same time.
The Worst Offenders
Typical items that frequently blow circuits are hair dryers, microwave ovens, toasters, coffee makers and electric space heaters. These items draw a lot of current, so when they are all going at the same time, a tripped breaker is almost certain. Breakers (the on-off switches in your electrical service panel) are rated by the number of “amps” they support. Most homes will have 15-amp breakers, with a few higher-rated breakers in the 20-30-amp range to handle more current.
How Much is Too Much?
Let’s say you are using your toaster and your coffee maker, and you need to pop something into the microwave. You will probably blow a breaker. If you have a window-mounted air conditioner, and you decide to use a vacuum cleaner that is plugged into the same circuit, you will probably trip that breaker. Without these circuit breakers, both of these situations would probably cause an electrical fire.
Several Outlets Per Circuit
Keep in mind that a single circuit may have several outlets connected to it. The vacuum in the family room may be plugged into the same circuit as the toaster in the kitchen. All of these circuits are located in your circuit breaker box, otherwise known as your breaker panel.
If you are experiencing problems like these, you can operate fewer items on a single circuit, or you can have an electrical professional evaluate and upgrade your breaker panel to accommodate your needs.