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Don't Underestimate the Risk of Overloads

It’s a common problem for most of us: relying on a handy dandy extension cord since we have so many devices and not enough outlets to plug them all into. But we at Orange County REMC warn you for safety’s sake, extension cords should only be used short-term.

Why is that a potential problem? Electrical overloads can occur when your home draws more electricity than a circuit can safely handle. When a circuit receives too much electricity, it causes the circuit breaker to trip. That shuts power off to the entire circuit.

Breakers are critical components to the circuit’s safety. If there were no breaker in the circuit, an overload would occur, causing the wires to overheat. That could lead to a fire.

There are several signs which could indicate whether circuits in your home are overloaded. Among them:

  • Flickering, blinking or dimming lights.

  • The outlet switch covers are warm to the touch.

  • Burning odors from outlets or switches.

  • Frequently tripped circuit breakers.

  • Crackling, sizzling or buzzing from receptacles.

  • Mild shock or tingles after touching appliances, receptacles or switches.

  • Power tools, appliances or electronics seem to lack adequate power.

If any of these things are occurring, head to your circuit panel. It’s usually located in the basement or garage. Check to see if any of the switches in the panel have been tripped or partially tripped. Turn them off — then back on again.

Knowing what is on each circuit will help you navigate possible overloads in the future. Orange County REMC suggests consumers grab a notepad and pencil to map their home’s circuits. Do this before potential problems occur. You’ll be glad you took the time to familiarize yourself with the circuit panel ahead of time.


How to reset a tripped breaker

Many of us understand how to operate our personal electronics, but what about your home’s breaker box? Here’s what to do if your breaker is tripped:

  • Unplug or turn off appliances in the room.

  • Find your main breaker panel and open the cover.

  • Locate the tripped breaker or blown fuse. A tripped circuit breaker will be in the “off” position or in a middle position between “on” and “off.”

  • To reset the breaker, switch it to the “off” position and then back to “on.”

If the problem persists, there may be more serious issues. Contact an electrician to identify the problem.


Extension cord safety 101

  • Keep extension cords away from water.

  • Teach older kids how to safely plug in and unplug an extension cord — look out for exposed wiring and never yank on cords.

  • Do not plug too many things into an extension cord. Are your gaming consoles, phone charger and computer all on one extension cord? You might want to consider moving them to other outlets.

  • If your home is displaying signs of having an overloaded circuit, have a qualified electrician do an inspection. A heavy reliance on extension cords could indicate you have too few outlets.

Source: Electrical Safety Authority, Complete Electrical Solutions


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