When that summer heat hits the fan, there’s nothing more satisfying than cranking up the AC. But Birnie Home Safe says that if you’re using a portable air conditioner (PAC) to stay cool, make sure its plugged into a dedicated circuit or else you’ll really heat things up around the house.
The Mississauga-based licensed electrical contractor is reminding residents about the importance of using dedicated circuits.
What is a dedicated circuit?
A dedicated circuit has its own breaker in the electrical panel. It is intended for a single device only. No other appliances are plugged into or utilize the power from the circuit, making it solely “dedicated” to that single appliance. Large-draw appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, space heaters and washing machines all require a dedicated circuit because they are heavy power users. Dedicated circuits ensure that there is enough power available for the device to operate safely.
Before you decide to invest in or plug in one of these large-draw appliances in your home, make sure you have the proper electrical infrastructure to safely power these devices. The best way to know if you have a dedicated circuit is by contacting a licensed electrical contractor to perform an assessment.
If your control panel has empty breaker spaces with no labeling, then those circuits are likely open for use-you but its best to check with an electrician to see if those circuits are in fact free
Failing to do so can result in overloaded circuits.
What is an overloaded circuit?
An overloaded circuit occurs when there is an excessive electrical load on a particular circuit. In other words, you have too many appliances plugged in at once.
This is a concern because drawing more electricity than your circuit can handle will put a strain on your electrical system and increase your risk of having an electrical fire.
The Electrical Safety Authority, ESA, says you can safely use 80 per cent of a circuit’s ratting. So let’s say your circuits are 15 amps, you can only use 12 amps – within these 12 amps you must account for your light fixtures as well.
Today’s increasing demand on gadgets and gizmos means we’re plugging in more devices than ever before. Now imagine adding a large-draw appliance, like a portable AC, to a circuit that’s already powering several appliances, you will likely exceed the allotted amperage ratting.
On average, a portable air conditioner draws about 10 amps (this may differ between model type, size etc.) We now know that 10 amps is very close to the the amperage safety threshold and this is way an item like a PAC needs its own circuit.
If the air conditioner’s required amperage is over 7 amps then it should be installed on a dedicated circuit. If your portable AC exceeds 15 amps and your circuits are 15 amps, a licensed electrician will have to install a new circuit specific to your PACs electrical requirements. This practice is also applied to any other large-draw appliance.
What is the solution?
John Flanagan, Vice President of Operations at Birnie Electric and Birnie Home Safe, says that the summer months are notorious for overloaded circuits.
“Residents are running their portable air conditioners without realizing that this device needs to be running on a dedicated circuit with its own circuit breaker,” he says.
Flanagan says this ensures there is enough power available for the PAC to operate safely, without overloading the electrical system and without prompting an electrical fire. “If you don’t, the AC can draw more current than the circuit can handle which will result in tripping breakers, blowing fuses, and overheating the wire insulation,” he says.
Flanagan believes that residents must be accountable for their electrical systems, “The education is there, we are there trying to promote this safety message but residents have to listen,” he says.“Consumers should know what sorts of devices need to be plugged into dedicated circuits and how to calculate the appliances amperage.”
What If I don’t have any dedicated circuits?
If you’ve run out of circuit space or outlet space – you have more appliances to power than outlets- you need to hire a licensed electrical contractor to inspect your current system. After a thorough inspection the licensed electrician can perform the necessary repairs.
Flanagan explains that electrical work is not a DIY project. “You need to hire a professional because a licensed electrician has the appropriate certification and level of experience to safely assess components, like the electrical panel, ” he says.
What is a portable air conditioner (PAC)?
A portable air conditioner is an air conditioning system that can move around – they are not permanent. This cooling system typically sits on the floor and is relatively easy to set up. Although they are portable, PACs do need to stand near a window to vent hot air outside via an exhaust hose.
Any final recommendations?
The electrical system is the most important system in your home and it should be maintained and inspected by a certified electrician.
“If you think you are overloading your circuits or suspect your home poses a fire risk contact a licensed electrical contractor like Birnie Home Safe,” says John Flanagan.
As part of Home Safe’s safety service, those who suspect they have an electrical problem can request a free preliminary assessment. This is the best way to know if your home harbors any electrical hazards.