What Are the Warning Signs of an Overloaded Electrical Circuit?

You’ll likely be able to see, smell, and hear the warning signs of an overloaded electrical circuit. Some main signals are a repeatedly tripping breaker, flickering lights, a burnt odor, discolored or scorched outlets, or a buzzing noise coming from your outlets.

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Wait, What is an Overloaded Electrical Circuit?

An overloaded electrical circuit is experiencing too much energy current. When this occurs, the parts of your system heat up and melt, burn, or — in the worst case scenario — shock people or spark a fire.

Origins of the Overload: Why Do Overloads Occur

These overloads can occur for a number of reasons, from too many appliances being used at once to overusing high-power appliances. The reasons for an overload are often the same as those that cause a power surge.

Warning Signs of an Overloaded Electrical Circuit

So, what should you be on the lookout for? Here are the most common signs of an overloaded electrical circuit.

Repeated Tripped Circuits

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping over and over, then you are likely experiencing an overload. Your breaker can’t withstand the overload. It trips to protect the wiring conductors in that circuit from overheating.

Flickering Lights

When your electrical circuit is overloaded, your lights may flicker. If you’re noticing a flicker, don’t assume it’s just a faulty lightbulb; the problem could be more serious than that, so it’s best to investigate further.

Burnt Odor

When an electrical circuit overloads, it gets hot (electrical energy is converted into thermal energy). As a result, the casing around your wires will likely melt, and that can give off an unmistakable burning smell.

Discolored or Scorched Electrical Sockets

When a hot circuit melts casings and burns, it will discolo the socket or outlet.

Buzzing Noise from Outlets or Switches

An overloaded circuit can create a light buzzing noise. Listen closely: you’ll most likely hear this buzzing noise near your outlets or switches.

Now What?

If you suspect an overloaded electrical circuit, cut off the power right away. Electricity isn’t something you want to mess with, and you don’t want to cause further damage to your system. Contact your local electrician to have your electrical system inspected, your problem diagnosed, and your circuit repaired.

End the Overloads

There are a few things you can do regularly to reduce the chance of another electrical circuit overload, like:

  • Only plug one appliance into an electrical outlet at a time

  • Do not use multiple high power electrical appliances at once, or for extended periods of time

  • Avoid the use of extension cords or power strips with high power appliances (or multiple appliances)

  • Regularly inspect the parts of your electrical system to spot the warning signs of an overload

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