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I live in a 2 bedroom 2 bath duplex, where we have issues with the lights flickering, often causing mini power surges and at times kicking a breaker.

One 20 ampere circuit supplies

  • 3 receptacles in the living room.
  • 3 receptacles in the dining room.
  • The lights and the ventilation fan in the kitchen.
  • 1 receptacle in the hall.
  • 3 receptacles in one bedroom.
  • 2 receptacles in another bedroom
  • 2 receptacles in the garage.
  • Front porch light.
  • Driveway light.

That's 14 receptacles, a few lights, and a ventilation fan.

Is this too much on one 20 ampere breaker?

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    Sounds like a lot to me. How many of the outlets are "reguarly" used / always used (fridge etc)? What kind of lighting is the kitchen? I guess your not UK based? – Jonny Wright Oct 13 '14 at 23:26
  • What are the dimensions of the kitchen, or how many lights are there in the kitchen? – Tester101 Oct 14 '14 at 13:07
  • How much power is being drawn to those receptacles? What kind of lights? (You could run several LEDs for the same amount of power as a single incandescent bulb). – WBT Sep 8 '15 at 20:17
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Whether or not that's too much depends on what is plugged into the outlets, how often each item is used, and how many items are used together.

That seems like far too many things on one breaker to me. If I was wiring that, I would not have done it that way. Now that it's already like that, fixing it is most likely a big chore. If, and that's a big, unlikely if, you're lucky, you may have more than one wire run coming into the electrical panel to that breaker. In that case, one or more of the runs could be moved to a new breaker (assuming there's room in the panel, and I find it hard to believe there isn't). Working in an electrical panel is dangerous and must be done by an individual that understands what they're doing, be it you or an electrician. Please be careful.

If you're not lucky, there will be one main run coming off of the breaker, and it's split somewhere in an electrical box in your home. If you're so motivated, you can chase this down and find the splits. Then you could fish new wire runs from a new breaker to one of the splits.

Good luck with whichever method you chose.

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If the breaker is tripping then either the breaker is faulty or the load is higher than the rated load of the breaker. The safe assumption is that the safety system is working correctly and the load really is too high.

To do more research I would consider getting a load monitor -- Kill-A-Watt, for example -- and use it to see how much current each of those loads is actually drawing. Also, if you know the wattage of an appliance or light or whatever, remember that amps is equal to watts divided by volts. If you have 120 V service then a 60 W light bulb draws half an amp.

I would in particular pay attention to motor loads like fans. Induction motors can sometimes draw a large current when they are just starting up; that transient current draw might be what is tripping your breaker.

Once you know what the loads really are you then have data you can use to make decisions about where to run new circuits or how to redistribute the load to other circuits.

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That's certainly not to code. If its an older building then it was most likely fine at the time it was built. If it's a newer building...say 1980's or newer then it was not done to code. Even if the Electrical Service was redone or a remodel it would have been made to be brought up to code. If you are the homeowner you're pretty much on your own...if you have a land lord he may ultimately be responsible for a building that is not up to par. In either case what "rjbergen" had to say seems like sound advice. Look for wires doubled or trippled up on one breaker and try to separate them if there is enough space.

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    "Even if the Electrical Service was redone or a remodel it would have been made to be brought up to code.".......Sorry, but this is so not true. Not unless there is some written local amendment, which I highly doubt. It is only true if the areas in question were extensively renovated. – Speedy Petey Oct 14 '14 at 23:24
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    Can you cite any code sections that have been violated? – Tester101 Oct 15 '14 at 11:53
  • In Article 210 (210.11 A & B) it states that loads must be evenly proportioned. with something as spread out as the above I don't see how its possibly balanced out. I did re-read the above...being that there are no specific purpose recepts listed there are fewer issues that i initially thought. Again if this is an older building...that's how they did things. I had a home that was built in 1923...new service in the 80s. when i bought it there were 2 branch circuits for all lights and recepts in the home. I redid it all when i gutted it. – Kevin Oct 15 '14 at 18:51
  • That's fine. We are just looking for the code that requires circuits be brought up to code when a service upgrade is done. – Speedy Petey Oct 15 '14 at 20:06
  • @Kevin, I am also curious as to how you would "balance out" a 120V circuit. I can't find any codes that require this either. – Speedy Petey Jan 8 '17 at 13:54
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Make sure the breaker does fire at 20A. Then, if it never fires on that circuit, there is no loading problem. If there are multiple connections at the breaker then there is a problem. If the rating of the various wires going to the various outlets is wrong then there is a problem. But don't fix it if it ain't broke. You could open a huge can of worms.

  • How would one make sure the breaker "fires" at 20A??? You have a very incorrect view on how breakers work. – Speedy Petey Jan 8 '17 at 13:56
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Lights flicker when the voltage drops. When voltage drops, current goes up.

Hopefully the lights, only flicker when you turn something on.

The rule of thumb for calculating loads is 1.5 'unit' for a receptacle, 1 for a light, and rated load for anything that is hard wired, you want to units to be less than 80% of the breaker current rating. So you want a 20 amp breaker to have a load of less than 16 units. I get about 26 for you setup.

Plugging in anything with high power demands, a vacuum, toaster or microwave come to mind, and all bets are off.

If this has just started, I would start by opening up the junction boxes in the wet locations first, looking for signs of corrosion or heat damage.

How 'easy' is it to turn the breaker off, compare it to some other one of the same current rating. If it is too easy, the breaker needs to be replaced.

The vent fan is another place to look, if there is anything binding up the motor, that would increase current draw. Perhaps it has caught some grease.

Breaking up the circuits is not a bad thing, and less wires under any wire nut or screw terminal is helpful too.

Other good ideas here.

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