Circuit Breakers: An Introduction

July 6, 2020

Circuit breakers have many useful purposes and should never be taken for granted. For instance, imagine a scenario where you are at home, watching television, and then suddenly all of the lights in your home go out. More often than not, a total home blackout is not the cause of a burglar, but an overloaded circuit that’s protected by an electrical circuit breaker that has been tripped.

Normally, when a circuit is working as intended, its electrical circuit breaker, and its associated wires, will effortlessly transfer the required amperage needed by your electronic devices. Here, we will delve into circuit breakers and explore what they are and what causes them to overload.

What are circuit breakers?

Whenever electricity enters your property, it will travel through a circuit breaker box in your home. However, if you currently reside in an older residence, your home may use a fuse box to get the job done. In any event, the electricity will travel from your breaker or fuse box to multiple different circuits. Moreover, each circuit will be properly protected by either a fuse or a breaker.

At this point, we must discuss amp circuits, as different devices will have different amp circuit requirements. For instance, your dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms will generally be served by 20-amp circuits, as they are rooms that will likely involve heavy-duty items hairdryers, irons, and toaster ovens.

Conversely, smaller rooms that only run smaller electrical items, such as alarm clocks and conventional lights, will usually involve the use of lighter-duty circuits, such as 15-amp circuits.

It is also possible to have dedicated circuits, which may be the case if you own monolithic electrical ranges that require 10,000 watts, or electric water heaters that demand 5,000 watts. In such a scenario, you will likely require a 30 to a 50-amp circuit that is dedicated to the power-heavy appliance in question.

What is a circuit overload?

Your circuit breaker, and its associated wires and wire insulation, are all designed to work together as a cohesive system. However, this system has certain limits that you should be aware of.

For instance, if you overload the system, inadvertently or not, by pumping more current through it than what it is normally designed to handle, many things can go awry.

For example, the excess current may cause the wires to heat up. When this happens, the insulation that sheaths the wires may melt or degrade due to the intense heat. Subsequently, the current will no longer be confined within the wire itself, and, in some cases, a fire may ensue as a result.

Fortunately, circuit breakers are designed to help prevent fires from destroying homes, as they are designed to sense excess current. They will “trip” so that the power flow will cease before a fire damages your property.

Thus, it is advisable to avoid overloading your home by running many devices at once, particularly power-hungry devices, such as space heaters and electrical ranges.

How to Calculate Watts, Volts, and Amps with Relative Ease

To begin tackling the issue, we must first be aware of a simple formula, which will help us determine if all electrical items on a given circuit are overloading it. Moreover, this particular formula will also help us define some common terms and how they relate to one another.

In other words, the household electrical system in your home is measured in volts, while your home’s circuit breaker and tools are measured in amps. In addition, your handy space heater and your light bulbs are labelled in watts, so you must comprehend how they all fit together.

Fortunately, the formula is quite simple to understand; namely, that watts divided by voltage equates to amps.

To further illustrate, voltage here refers to the pressure under which electricity moves. Also, please note that electricity in this equation serves as a chain of neurons that is set in motion. We should also note that the majority of current households are pushed at 120 volts.

However, current for much larger appliances can be pushed to higher voltage yields, such as 240 volts. As for amps, which are sometimes referred to as amperes, they are defined as the measurement of the number of electrons that the voltage pushes past a certain point in a given second.

In regards to watts, they are merely a unit of measurement that is used to measure electrical power. In other words, watts indicate the number of electrons that were pushed through an electronic unit to activate it. As such, when you receive your electricity bill in the mail every month, you are actually being billed for the number of watts that your household consumed.

How to Prevent Circuit Tripping on a Temporary Basis

A quick and simple way to prevent your circuit breaker from tripping is to plug, say, your space heater into an outlet on a circuit that is designed for excess capacity. If you are uncertain about the existing load on your circuit, you can determine it by clicking your breaker off.

After that, activate your test outlets and turn on your light switches to assess which ones no longer work. Finally, calculate the total watt load throughput of gadgets on that particular circuit.

In sum, once you have mapped out a circuit (and have added electrical loads), you will be able to easily ascertain whether or not you can affix more electrical items into a given circuit without causing it to overload.

Circuits Central

If you would like to learn more about circuit breakers in Toronto or require state-of-the-art electronic circuit design and manufacturing services, then please visit Circuits Central at our website. You can also give us a call at 888-821-7746 if you would like to discuss your circuit design and manufacturing needs over the phone.

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