We have all experienced an overloaded circuit at some point in our lives. Typically, when plugging in heaters or using large appliances at the same time, a circuit breaker in your panel will trip. In some cases, you cannot even use combinations of appliances at the same time. An example would be using a microwave and toaster at the same time. This is because the line is shared when it should be dedicated.
What is a dedicated circuit?
A dedicated circuit is a line coming directly from your panel that feeds one single appliance, piece of equipment, or plug. These pieces of equipment are typically kitchen appliances, kitchen counter receptacles, GFCI exterior receptacles, heaters, and a whole host of other items. It is prohibited by code to have anything other than the appliance or piece of equipment being fed on that same line. These circuits are required to prevent overloads and the inconvenience of tripping breakers.
What is an “overload” and how do I prevent it?
When multiple appliances are powered by a single circuit, there is potential for the combined power consumption to be more than the wire and the breaker are capable of handling. This results in the breaker "tripping" off and causes undue stress on the electrical system. This is also known as an overload. These overload situations are common in older homes that were wired before the electrical code required dedicated circuits. It is also common in renovations where there wasn’t enough care taken to ensure dedicated circuits were run. In older homes, it is common to see one circuit feed multiple appliances, i.e.: the fridge and toaster oven or the microwave and the counter plugs.
Modern kitchens have multiple appliances and these appliances all have their own unique requirements. It is common to have as many as six or more dedicated 20-amp circuits these days—especially since kitchens have become more state-of-the-art and have multiple appliances in them. Kitchens are not the only place you will see dedicated circuits. Most of your mechanical equipment will also require dedicated circuits.
What appliances require dedicated circuits?
Before installing ANY new piece of equipment or plugging in ANY new appliance, you must read the manufacturer’s specifications. The manufacturer will outline if the appliance requires a dedicated circuit. Although the Building Code Authorities and Electrical Safety Authority will have their own specific requirements, below is a list of common appliances in your home that require dedicated circuits:
(plug in heaters, baseboard heaters, electric fireplaces, heat pump, etc.)
Hot Water on Demand
(tankless water heater)
Kitchen Counter Receptacles
All Laundry Appliances
How do I know if I have dedicated circuits?
If you have any circuit breakers that frequently trip after an appliance is turned on, the odds are it is not dedicated or it is undersized. If you lose power to other items when a breaker shuts off, it is not dedicated. Alternatively, check your panel legend. If your panel is labelled correctly, you should ONLY see the name of the appliance next to the circuit number on the legend. If you are missing your panel legend, or if you are experiencing one of the conditions listed above, call us today to schedule an electrician to ensure your electrical system is up to 2019 standards.
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