Welcome back to another edition of the Rkay Electrical Blog and for any first-timers just plain welcome. We're happy to share a little bit of our expertise with anyone who is willing to listen. Hope everyone had a great Easter weekend, even with the Covid restrictions in place.
This week's blog is kind of the overflow of last week's prattling on when I was told that I needed to trim it down, so it got split and this blog is about all the other little fun facts regarding the power demand in your home.
Have you ever noticed your air conditioner causing your lights to flicker slightly when it first initializes on a hot day? Most appliances have two different wattage ratings; one for while it’s running and another for it’s split-second initial draw. Many air conditioners have an initial draw of well over 100amps, which is why they cause your lights to dim slightly for a second. That initial draw is so quick and minor that the breaker isn’t in any danger of tripping or overheating, but it does cause that massive quick draw on your electrical system.
Are you thinking about LED bulbs right now? Because if you are, you’re probably not alone. When I discuss power consumption with anyone, the vast majority of people will bring up LED bulbs; suggesting that with the common practice of installing LED bulbs or integrated-LED fixtures in homes, the wattage consumption of the home will drastically drop. If I’m being honest, I may have thought the same thing at one time, but when you actually factor how much of a home’s consumption is based on their lighting… the difference is pretty negligible. Don’t get me wrong, LED is the absolute way to go in my opinion; there really is no comparison and it will save you some money on your utility bill, not to mention the savings on buying replacement bulbs. However, lowering your lighting wattage won’t clear space in your panel for that Hot Tub.
Last week when I talked about calculating the load of a home... Did you go check out your panel and actually do the math to count the total amperage of your breakers? If you did, I don’t blame you… it’s crazy right? A home I was in the other day had 550 amps worth of breakers, but if yours is more or less it doesn’t really make a difference. Firstly, I’ll explain that the breakers are sized for MAXIMUM use of 80%, so that would bring the actual total amperage of the breakers down to 440amps. Then, you have to consider that a typical Air Conditioner with a recommended 50amp breaker size, is actually probably drawing closer to 24 amps continuously (not considering that initial draw). And then there’s your VERY misleading plug and light circuit breakers. Let’s start with lights first, looking at our typical supplied ½ inch thin pot lights that are very popular and common in new installations; each light is 14 watts, and as per current code (and consideration for future fixture changes) a usual maximum of 12 are allowed on each circuit, which is a total of 168 watts (or 1.4 amps) on each of those 15amp breakers that are labelled as “lighting” in your panel. Almost the same thing goes for plug circuiting, though the math is tougher because it depends on what you are plugging in, what plugs are on which circuits, etc. So, with all that being said, if I go back to my example home with 550 amps of total breakers (440 amps of usable amps) and do my calculations on the home, I can tell you that the total power demand load came out to only 90amps and that... is how we electricians do math.
Come back next week for another edition of the blog, which will be about those pesky Arc Fault Breakers that are littering the panels of any home built since 2015 (although they are also found protecting bedrooms in homes built since 2000). I’ll talk about what they are, why they’re there and why those nuisance trips you may have experienced are actually a good thing (though they may not seem like it.)
If you have any questions, comments, feedback or suggestions for future topics, then definitely send me an email at Blog@rkayelectrical.com! I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, have yourselves a great weekend!