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Tips To Avoid Tripping Your Circuit Breaker During the Holidays

Tips To Avoid Tripping Your Circuit Breaker During the Holidays

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For anyone hosting Christmas for the entire extended family or striving to have the house that causes neighbors to write “ditto” in Christmas lights next door, tripping breakers and blowing fuses is a real concern. Overloaded circuits or an inaccurately placed wreath could put your Christmas dinner in the dark. Our holiday lighting experts are here to help you keep the lights on all season long. Read on to see how you can make Christmas magic while avoiding a holiday meltdown.

What causes your breaker to trip?

There are three primary reasons for your breaker tripping: overloaded circuit, short in the wiring, and an old breaker. Breaker failure can happen at any time if your breaker is nearing the end of its life, but overloaded circuits and shorts in the wiring can increase during the holiday season. Here are some things you can do to keep from tripping your breaker:

  1. Look for the studs when hanging wreaths or pictures. Your wreath may be light enough that you don’t think you need to nail it to a stud. While the weight may not be an issue, there can be wiring right behind the drywall. If your nail goes through the wires, it can cause a short in the circuit, trip your breaker, and become a potential fire hazard.
  2. Check the wiring on appliances before plugging them in. The cold weather may have you digging in the basement for a space heater or electric blanket. Before you plug it in, check the cord for any chew marks, cuts, exposed wires, or other damage that may have happened while the heating unit was stored.

But what about those pesky overloaded circuits? You can’t just replace your breaker with a breaker rated for higher amps unless you also upgrade all of your electrical wiring. The breaker is designed to cut electricity when the circuit is overloading and overheating. If the breaker has a higher threshold than the wiring, you risk the wiring overheating and starting an electrical fire unchecked. Instead, follow these tips to keep from overloading your circuits:

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  1. Unplug electrical appliances that are not in use. Electrical current still runs to the appliance when not turned on. It reduces the draw on the circuit to unplug the coffee maker, game systems, etc.
  2. Spread out heated styling tools. Hair dryers, flat irons, and curling irons, each draw more power than you might think in order to generate heat. Having too many devices in use at the same time can overload the circuit. If you have multiple guests getting ready for an event, let some people use the master bathroom to spread everyone out.
  3. Only use extension cords for added length. If a room has limited sockets, it may be tempting to use an extension cord to increase the number of electronics you can plug in. While you can do this safely in some cases, such as setting up the TV and game systems, do it sparingly and know how many amps each device draws so that you don’t overload the circuit. The breaker is only designed to handle 80% of the max rating for an extended period of time.
  4. Use LED Christmas lights. Incandescent string lights can use twice as much electricity, and you may only be able to connect up to two strings when using C9 sting lights. If you want to decorate the entire yard, roof, and face of your house, those amps can add up. Using LED Christmas lights will lighten the load substantially.
  5. Use multiple outdoor circuits. It’s possible that two outdoor outlets are on the same circuit, so check before plugging in too many lights. Even if you can reach across the entire yard from one side of the house, spacing the load out across multiple outlets will help reduce the stress on a single circuit.
  6. Know your amp usage. If a room has more than one outlet on a different circuit, you can avoid breaker trips by vacuuming or using a space heater on the lower load circuit. You can calculate the number of Amps something draws by dividing Watts by the line voltage (Amps = Watts / Volts).

Lighting Tip: The standard number of amps per circuit in American households is 15 or 20. The switches in your main breaker panel will have the number “15” or “20” on them which tells you how many amps that circuit is rated for.

Amp Usage That Might Surprise You

It’s not just the refrigerator or microwave sucking up power. Running your vacuum on a circuit at capacity is a common reason breakers trip in older homes. Here’s a list of electrical devices and amp ratings though individual devices will vary.

Laundry Room

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Clothes Dryer 39-42
Washing Machine 4-19
Iron 9-12

Kitchen

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Dishwasher 10-19
Refrigerator 2.5-7
Garbage disposal 3.5-8
Oven 33-68
Blender 2-3.5
Coffee Maker 100
Food Processor 1.5-2
Microwave 11-13
Mixer 0.5-0.7
Toaster 9-11
Toaster Oven 9-17
Two Burner Hot Plate 13-14
Crock Pot 1-2
Electric Skillet 6-12

Living Room

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Furnace 0.4-0.8
Space Heater 8-13
Stereo 100
Television 1-5
Desktop Computer 2-6
Desktop Computer Monitor 0.8-1.5
Laptop 0.5-1
Printer 0.4
DVD player <0.5
Gaming Console 1.2-2.4

Bedroom

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Clock Radio 0.6
Heating Blanket 1.5-2

Bathroom

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Hair Dryer 5-19
Flat Iron 2-4
Curling Iron 2-4

Christmas Lights

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Incandescent Mini String Lights 0.51
LED Mini String Lights 0.02
Incandescent C7 String Lights 1.05
LED C7 String Lights 0.02
Incandescent C9 String Lights 1.46
LED C9 String Lights 0.02
Warm White Neon Flex Tree 0.36
RGB Neon Flex Tree 0.47

Other

Device Amps (for 120 Volt applications)
Water Heater 15-43
Vacuum 6-12

For more tips on holiday lighting, read our Ultimate Christmas Lighting Guide. To find LED Christmas lights, outdoor decorations, prelit garlands, wreaths and trees to make your holiday setup even easier, visit 1000Bulbs.com.

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