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I recently found out that several rooms in my house are apparently connected to one circuit breaker.

Setup: My wife was in the bathroom drying her hair and I decided it was time to nuke lunch in the microwave. Took only a few seconds and a good portion of the upper floor went dark. After fumbling with a few breakers I discovered that the entire kitchen, bathroom and most of my living room are all on one circuit. This concerned me since several devices (microwave, oven, fridge, dishwasher, TV, hairdryer, curling iron, a few light fixtures and other misc items) are all on one circuit.

Question: So my question is ... how difficult is it to trace back and split the circuit into two breakers. Is this something that typically requires an electrician? and how do I go about identifying the main trunk from the upper floor that leads down to the breaker box. I'm familiar enough with electrical work to install new outlets, devices, wire up switches and lighting fixtures. Is this type of fix out of the "average DIY" league?

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Difficulty is going to depend on access. If it's a single level home with an unfinished basement, it may not be that difficult. If it's multi-level home with a finished basement, it could require lots of holes and much more work. Wiring is not typically done in a trunk and branch configuration (like plumbing), You'll have a line go from one outlet to the next. So you'll have a receptacle, that feeds the next receptacle, that feeds a receptacle, that feeds a receptacle, etc, etc. –  Tester101 Jan 16 '12 at 14:10
    
User @Tester101 is pretty much right - in most cases the cheapest way it to just run an extra wire connected to a dedicated breaker. –  sharptooth Jan 16 '12 at 15:02
    
Are you saying you have a single 15A circuit feeds your entire kitchen + bathroom? –  Jay Bazuzi Jan 16 '12 at 18:41
    
@Jay ... yep ... the people that did work on this house were .... less than professional ... didn't realize it was wired this way until it happened ... there was quite a bit of vulgarity when I discovered it. –  Scott Vercuski Jan 17 '12 at 9:32
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If you tear things apart, look at adding conduit, perhaps from the breaker panel to the attic? One conduit for power, one for data. You can also run conduit outside the house. –  Jay Bazuzi Jan 17 '12 at 16:07
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3 Answers 3

If you have room in your panel to add a small braker then like a 10 or 15 amp you can do that Or pending what size braker u already have you maybe able to go up in amps to switch out the braker you don't want to over load your box though.

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This seems to be relatively common especially with older homes.

If your basement is not finished then this might not be that large of a job. If the basement is finished it makes this a lot harder and you will definitely be making holes in walls/ceilings.

The first thing you need to figure out is what exactly you are going to split. Most locations requires dedicated 20amp circuits to each recepticle in the kitchen, so instead of trying to break up a number of other circuits, it'd probably be easiest just to run new dedicated circuits for the kitchen. You do need to be aware that it is not always permissible to have multiple circuits running in the same electrical box, so you could probably make it even easier by running brand new outlets instead of trying to change existing ones.

Installing a new breaker and outlet is not that difficult, but safety always comes to mind with electrical, so if you are not sure you could opt to have an electrician do the whole thing, or if you just want peice of mind, you could get them to inspect your work upon completion.

As always, make sure to turn the power off when working in your electrical panel. I know a lot of people will pop in breakers with the power on, but I prefer to have my hands nowhere near live electricity.

Good luck!

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Agreed ... I'd shut off the power for the whole box at that point ... looks like it's what I might have to do ... unfortunately the basement is newly finished so I'll have to be delicate about it ... don't want to mess up the ceiling too much. Thank you ! –  Scott Vercuski Jan 17 '12 at 9:35
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In theory this is extremely straightforward. The problem is, especially in older houses, theory and practice are somewhat different. You really just have to trace it. I recommend using a non-contact voltage tester, turning off every breaker except for the circuit you're interested in, and then following it as best you can. Yes, it will take a long time, and yes, it will be hard, but there's no other real way to do it. You also might want to note (for mapping's sake) which outlets are end of run (just one black and one white) and which are not (2 blacks and 2 whites).

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