How do I fix an overloaded circuit?

Electrical issues in your home can be dangerous or even life-threatening. It is a good idea to have a basic knowledge of how electrics work as this will help you to know what initial steps need to be taken.

Of course, if it’s necessary to touch the electrical supply you need to get the expert help of the Electrical Detectives; ensuring the repair job is done both properly and safely.

Understanding The Circuit

Every socket in your home is connected to the breaker box. There will be a limited number of sockets on each circuit, the exact amount will depend on the rating of the breaker in the box; commonly this will be 15, 20, or 30 amps.

The short version is that you can plug anything into each circuit, but, as soon as the amps drawn go higher than the breaker it will trip. In effect, the circuit has been overloaded.

This is a safety feature. If the circuit is overloaded and the breaker doesn’t trip the wires will get hot and this can result in the plastic coating melting; leaving the system vulnerable to short circuits, electric shocks, and even starting a fire

Fixing The Overloaded Circuit Yourself

The first sign that you’ve overloaded a circuit is when the breaker trips and the power goes out. You’ll need to check the breaker box and find out which switch has turned off; do not turn it back on yet.

Once you know the circuit you can unplug everything that is plugged in on that circuit and turn off any lights.

At that point, you should be able to turn the circuit back on.

The next step will be to start plugging things back off. You may find that one appliance causes the breaker to trip again. This could mean there is a fault with the appliance.

To check this, plug the appliance into a different circuit and see if it makes a different breaker trip.  If it does you have a problem with the appliance and not the circuit. You’ll need to have an electrician either repair it or you’ll need to replace it.

If you’ve managed to plug everything in without the breaker blowing again then you have a potential overload. Don’t forget that just because everything is plugged in it doesn’t mean it is all drawing power at the same time.

You can look at each appliance on the circuit and make a note of the amps it draws when in use. It should then be possible to add these figures up; if they total more than the value of the breaker then you can overload the circuit; when all the appliances are on.

Fortunately, in this instance, the solution is simple. All you have to do is move one or more appliances from the circuit that has tripped and put them onto a different circuit. Just be sure to check you’re not going to overload the alternative circuit in the process!