What to Know About Overloaded Outlets

Overloaded Power OutletThere’s real danger in overloaded electrical outlets. While cooking and heating applications are still the main causes of structural fires, electrical malfunctions come in at third. That’s according to official statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration. About 6.1% of all recorded structural fires were due to electrical faults, with about 4.5% being caused by appliances alone.

The presence of this risk is the reason industry experts such as AMPRO continuously advocate safe electrical component usage indoors. Understanding the danger, however, doesn’t end in merely being told to not plug too many things on your outlets.

How Much Load Can They Safely Hold?

It helps to understand the basic workings of electricity itself. The equation p/e=i helps (“p” refers to the wattage, “e” is the voltage, and “i” refers to amps). It’s easy to know if a circuit is overloaded when this equation is used. Here’s an example. About 2,000 watts of power is typically used in one go. That number is divided by the building’s voltage (average is 120 volts), and the answer is 16.6 amps. Say, an outlet can only hold a maximum of 20 amps—that’s dangerously close from an overload.

This is a fire hazard because too much current triggers fuses in the circuit box. These components blow up to break the circuit and prevent further damage. But, if the fuses are situated near something highly flammable, that’s where the fire hazard begins.

General Rules

Now that the dangers have been described, it’s time to set some ground rules. First off, never plug two appliances into an outlet an once. Also, never use an extension cord with an outlet that can only handle a limited number of plugs.

For added safety, try to determine the exact amount of power you’re placing on an outlet or the building’s entire circuit. Experts say that your power usage should not be more than 1,500 watts to be safe, unless specific business power requirements state otherwise. Lastly, plug major machineries into their own wall outlets, so they can have all the electricity to themselves and not stress the building’s power grid too much.