Play it Safe with Holiday Lighting


Play it Safe with Holiday Lighting

Play it Safe with Holiday Lighting

With the holidays coming up, it might be tempting to load up you electrical outlets with too much stuff – lights, inflatables, electric trains and who knows what else.  When you do this, you run the risk of overloading a circuit – causing everything to shut down.


Plus, overloaded outlets can (and do!) cause fires — an estimated 5,300 annually in American households [source: CPSC]. Almost 2,000 of those occur during the holidays [source: ESFI].


According to an article on How Stuff Works, at any given moment, the average American house has 120 volts of electricity flowing through it. Somewhere in your house, you’ll find a wall-mounted box, containing either circuit breakers or fuses (found in older homes).


Circuit breakers and fuses act as fail-safes against electrical overload. They regulate the amount of current — the volume of electrons moving through a conductor, such as an electrical cord — which can be drawn from a circuit. This current is expressed in amperes, or amps. Most circuit breakers and fuses regulate at either 15 or 20 amps.


If you load up a circuit with too much current, the circuit breaker trips or the fuse blows, breaking the circuit to prevent an overload. But circuit breakers and fuses aren’t always reliable. Another potential hazard occurs when more than one outlet is wired to a single circuit. If you study your circuit breakers or fuse box, you may see a single circuit labeled “Dining Room” or “A/C unit and Washer/Dryer.” You may find that all of the outlets in an entire room are connected to a single circuit. This means that you don’t necessarily have to overload a single outlet to cause a fire.


It’s pretty easy to determine how much electricity you’re using with all of those holiday decorations, says How Stuff Works.  You just need to do a little math. The formula looks like this:


p/e=i (wattage divided by volts equals amps).


If you’re using 2,000 watts of power with your holiday lights and other decorations, divide that number by the volts in your house (usually 120) and you come up with 16.6 amps of current that you’re using. With a 20 amp electrical outlet, you’re using around 80 percent of the available current, which is the most you should be using per circuit.


How Stuff Works notes that there are other things you can do to prevent your home holiday season fires. Things like faulty wiring, winter weather and bad product choices can all act as contributing factors in a holiday fire.


Every year, thousands of counterfeit electrical products end up on the shelves of legitimate stores across the United States. And a lot of these products simply aren’t built to withstandthe demands of the extra holiday decorations. The Consumer Product Safety Commission tests products and finds that many counterfeit products can’t stand up to even the most basic safety testing. When they discover a counterfeit or faulty product, the CPSC issues recalls of these products.


If you’re planning an elaborate holiday display or you’ve had issues in the past with overloaded circuits, it might be time to call the Charlotte NC electricians at Father & Son Electric.  You can get an electrician’s free quote for any projects that are on your drawing board and 24 hour electrical service if a problem arises.  Check out Father & Son Electric today.


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