Every festive season, people like to celebrate with an elaborate visual display. Candles, electric lights and firecrackers light up both the sky and the ground, mesmerising all those who happen to glance at them. During this time though, there are several reported cases of light displays suddenly going out. This can even be experienced occasionally in homes with something as simple as plugging in an electric heater, switching on a hair dryer, or dropping a snack into the toaster. All these are perfect examples of an overloaded circuit. The power needed to use a certain number of devices that are connected to the same circuit simultaneously may be far greater than the electrical wiring capacity, resulting in an electrical overload. One can be assured that an electrical overload in properly fitted electrical systems is highly unlikely to burn the house down. A so-called ‘overcurrent protective device’ automatically shuts off power at the main panel before any sort of lasting damage occurs. Typically, the device is a circuit breaker that trips. In legacy systems, the fuse could even ‘blow’ out.
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Electrical Overloads Market: Circuit logic
The main panel can be considered the nerve centre of any electrical system. The main panel is a small grey metal box that is placed in an obscure location in a basement, garage or utility room. Three large wires power the main panel and while these may be visible outside if they are overhead, the wires are usually encased in conduit inside for providing an additional layer of safety, as they contain nearly limitless electrical power. Circuit breakers limit the power in the main panel to acceptable levels that can be safely handled and funnelled by wiring systems through branch circuits to various corners of the house. If the power demand on a single circuit exceeds the circuit breaker limit, the circuit breaker pops open and powers down the whole circuit, with a warning served to the occupant that there is an electrical overload or some other issue in the system.
There are mainly two types of circuits within the main panel – general purpose and dedicated circuits. Dedicated circuits include those helping single appliances drawing massive power such as built-in microwaves, furnaces and garbage disposers. Other dedicated circuits powering laundry equipment and small kitchen appliances are also included. Most dedicated circuits should ideally be labelled at the main panel, yet few actually are. Dedicated circuits are even found occasionally in remodelled, older homes. General purpose circuits serve several outlets such as most receptacles and lighting within the home. Usually, any one of these circuits can be tapped for that extra dose of power or if another outlet needs to be added. If a receptacle is added to a high purpose use device such as an electrical heater or air conditioner though, an entirely new circuit may have to be put into place.
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Electrical Overloads Market: Electrical overload solution
The solution to an electrical overload is quite simple in theory. A few plug-in devices connected to the overloaded circuit should be shifted to another circuit. The circuit breaker can then be flipped back on or even the entire fuse can be replaced before resuming all electrical activity. This isn’t as easy in practice though. First, electrical outlets on a different general-purpose circuit need to be located. The second step is ensuring that they can be reached conveniently. One should not resort to the quick fix solution of an extension cord as they are primarily designed for short-term use and not suited to a permanent wiring role. In the case of standard duplex receptacles, both the upper and lower receptacles must be tested, as they can sometimes be wired to different circuits. The receptacles must be powered on before any testing. This can be repeated for all circuits to know what’s what. It is not unusual to even find general-purpose outlets within dedicated circuits.
Electrical Overloads Market: Adding a new outlet
To add a new electrical outlet to avoid electrical overload, a circuit with adequate capacity that has a convenient junction box has to be found. Lights or switch boxes can sometimes be quickly accessed in unfinished basements. Even the attic is a good place to look. Junction boxes near the access hole can be the first place to start searching, or even above ceiling light fixtures. The power must necessarily come directly to the light box. Any existing box has to be large enough to accommodate any additional cable as wires packed too densely within small boxes can easily overheat. It is typically faster and easier to create an entirely new circuit from the main panel, as opposed to finding and using existing circuits.
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Electrical Overloads Market: Companies
A few companies in the electrical overloads market are Endo Kogyo, Akira Controls, Omson Hyrdo Solutions and Caflon Marketing Systems.
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