Home Improvement

Overloaded Circuit Warning Signs to Look Out For

July 20, 2020

An overloaded circuit can cause fires. In fact, 40% of house fires are caused by electrical issues, which means you need to be aware of the signs of overloading and reallocate some appliances if necessary.

It’s not uncommon, no matter how well planned a house is there never seems to be enough sockets in one area. The result is adaptors and extensions, allowing additional items to be plugged in. But, there is a safe limit.

If you notice any of the following signs it’s advisable to get hold of a level 2 electrician and have the problems resolved straight away. The best response to overloading is to fit an additional circuit.

Flickering lights

If your lights constantly flicker then you’re experiencing power fluctuations. This may be because of a problem with the grid. However, if they are happening all the time it’s more likely you have an overloaded circuit. In short, there are too many lights on the circuit requesting power at the same time.

Circuit Breakers Tripping

Circuit breakers are designed to trio instantly if there is a fault on the circuit. This can range from bad wiring to faulty appliances plugged in, and even to overloaded circuits.

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping you need to unplug everything and turn it back on. Then, gradually plug everything back in to see what makes the breaker trip. Repeat the process and plug the appliances into the sockets in a different order.

If the same appliance trips the breaker its an issue with the appliance. But, if it simply trips the circuit is probably overloaded, you need to plug some things into a different circuit.


If you notice a socket is discolored, usually a brown color, then it has got too hot which is a side effect of overloading. Overheating due to overloading can cause the cable covers to meet, allowing wires to touch, shorting your circuits, and potentially starting fires.

You may also notice that the socket feels warm to touch, this is another sign that it is overloaded. It can be hot without discoloration but both are symptoms of overloading.

Electric Shocks

If you feel a small electric shock when you plug something in, unplug it, or when you turn the light switch on or off, then your circuit is probably overloaded.

Although this can mean you have a wiring issue, the circuit breaker would usually trip. Assuming the circuit breaker is working properly and hasn’t tripped then the small shock is more likely to be an overload that needs to be sorted before it gets worse.

Burning Smell

This is perhaps the most obvious sign that your circuit is overloaded and a fire may even be starting. An electrical burning smell is distinctive and should alert you to an issue. You’ll need to identify the source of the aroma and take prompt action to eliminate the issue.

It’s worth evaluating your current socket usage and adding additional circuits to make sure you have sockets where you need them, this will prevent overloading.

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