A customer came in last week and was having a little electrical problem. He said that all of the sudden the circuit breaker that was connected to his living room outlets kept tripping. The first thing I asked him was if there was something new he was plugging into an outlet. “Just a little electric heater” was his response.

This time of year we get quite a few questions like this. A lot of people don’t understand that there are limits to the number of things you can plug into an outlet. If you add up all the electric items that you are using in your living room; light bulbs, big screen TV, lap top, playstation, etc., they will add up to maybe only 500 – 600 watts. If you bring in an electric heater, up to 1500 watts more can be added!

Now take a look in your circuit breaker box. You will see individual circuit breakers listed from 15, to 20, to 30 amps. That number represents the amount of electricity that can go through that circuit breaker, through the electrical wiring, and to the outlet. Living rooms will usually be on a 15 amp circuit. Kitchens and sometimes bathrooms will generally have a 20 amp breaker in place. 1 amp is equal to about 110 watts. So that living room full of stuff, without the heater, falls well within the limits. But add that heater and its 13 amps and off goes the circuit breaker!

Homes of old just weren’t wired for today’s needs. Microwave ovens, mongo coffee pots, 4-slice toasters, curling irons, hair dryers, and large Christmas light displays are all items that may just be a little too much for your old house.

If any of these problems sound like your home, here are a few things you can do. First, it’s always safest to call a professional. A good electrician will be able to run heavier wiring and put the corresponding higher amperage circuit breaker in place. And if there is unused space in your circuit breaker box, they could also just put more proper outlets throughout your house. Could you do it yourself? Sure, with the right knowledge, help from your local hardware store, or a friend that knows his way around electricity. How about YouTube you say……well….not. Electricity knowledge is not something that can be properly learned by watching a video. So if done properly, like a lot of things around your house, you can make some good improvements to your home that will make life a little easier.

So what did we end up doing for the guy with the cold living room? Well it ends up that he was just trying to add a little heat for his visiting mother. He ended up with a heavy duty, 14 gauge extension cord, and got temporary power to the heater from his adjoining kitchen. Mom got warm, circuit breakers didn’t flip, and our customer, and his mom, are happy!

From myself, my family, and the entire team here at Umber’s Do It Best Hardware, we hope your Christmas holiday is filled with family, friends, laughter, good food, and the giving to others. And not forgetting the true meaning of this blessed day, celebrating Jesus’ birth.


Dave is the owner of Umber’s Do it Best, which has been a family owned and operated since 1944. Whatever your project needs are, we can help. Stop in today at 2413 Lwr. Huntington Rd. Ft. Wayne, In 46809. Call (260) 747-3866.