Problem: Excess demand on electrical system, which shows up as blown fuses, tripped circuit breakers, dim or flickering lights, or appliances that operate at only partial capacity.
Background: Electrical requirements for the average home have- almost tripled since 1955. In 1940, for example, the average home used 30 electrical appliances while today’s home uses about 80. The electrical systems of about 90% of homes in the United States are not designed to accommodate the number of appliances currently avail able. Many homes over 20 years old require complete rewiring, and even a number of newer homes need either rewiring or expanded wiring systems (including new circuits) to handle major appliances.
What to do: If your home’s wiring system has any of the symptoms listed below, the individual circuits may be overloaded or the wiring of these circuits may be inadequate.
Blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers: When fuses blow and circuit breakers trip frequently, it indicates an overloaded circuit, or that the power drain from appliances is greater than the circuit can handle. Short circuiting in appliances or wiring could also be the problem.
Lights dim or flicker: This problem can be caused by having too many appliances on one circuit, or by putting too large of a power drain on the circuit when specific appliances are turned on. (It may also be caused by electrical storms or by voltage drops at the power plant.)
Appliances with heating coils warm up slowly: Inadequate wiring may be indicated by electric space heaters and hot plates that are slow to warm up, and by similar appliances that re quire high power and seem to be operating on decreased power.
Television picture shrinks: If the image on your TV is smaller than the picture tube area, the circuit could be overloaded with too many appliances or extension cords. If it occurs only occasionally, it is probably caused by the heavy current drain of appliances that are started up on the same circuit.
Air conditioners work at less than full capacity: The heavy power needs of air-conditioner compressors can require more line voltage than circuits provide. With large air-conditioning units, separate circuits may be needed.
Special advice: When in doubt about any electrical wiring problem, consult an electrician. Always use caution when working with electricity. Before proceeding with any electrical work, make sure the main disconnect on the service entrance panel is in the “off” position, or pull the main fuses if the panel is the cartridge fuse type. When working on individual receptacles or light switches, also turn off the circuit breaker for the circuit you will be working on, and test the receptacle with a test light before handling bare wires.
Helpful hint: Never stand on a wet or damp floor when working at the service panel. Wear rubber gloves and stand on a rubber mat for added safety.