I was recently called out of town on an emergency call to reset a
circuit breaker. The home owner was unable to get the circuit going
after plugging in 3 new window air conditioners.
Circuit Overloads Can Cause Fires
was recently called out of town on an emergency call to reset a circuit
breaker. The home owner was unable to get the circuit going after
plugging in 3 new window air conditioners.
What I found is so typical in most older homes today. There were a
minimal amount of available receptacles in any of the bedrooms, and the
customer had improvised a solution that included no less than 6
extension cords of varying sizes and plug strips all daisy chained
together from the kitchen to the second floor. The circuit couldn't
handle all the load and actually a portion of the overall circuit
involved shorted and tripped the breaker. The cords were both 3 prong
and 2 prong and modified 3 prong to fit 2 prong receptacles. I believe
circuit breaker prevented the house from burning.
In these hot summer days it is extremely important to be mindful of
what is being plugged in to what circuit, and in almost all
circumstances an extension cord should be the last resort and used with
caution. Cords come with wire sizes marked on them and what they are
rated for a load. In general, extension cords are temporary in use power
cords. Such as electric tools that are put away and cords wound up and
stored when tools aren't needed. To plug in overnight or an extended
period of time is considered constant use and thats where the limits of
an average extension cord are over reached. In a constant use situation
the condition of the cord is most likely unnoticed until there is a
The solution for the emergency tripped breaker was to remove the
failed portion of the original circuit, check the cabling where it was
available, as in other receptacles for heat damage, and run 2 new 20 amp
circuits for the air conditioners. The long range plan is to rewire the
older home to current code and provide the needed service capacity to
Again, be mindful when considering the use of an extension cord or power strip. If you need assistance, I am here to guide you.
Wendell Peterson, Electrician
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