Overloaded Circuits

Who knows how electricity works?

You plug something in to an outlet and it makes stuff work.”

Oh…and if you stick a fork into the outlet, you get shocked and all the lights go out.

Most of us have a significantly limited understanding of how electricity works. Most of us also are very dependent on electricity working, though we are less aware of this dependency until our supply is cut.

I read an article recently that gave a summary explanation of why there are limitations of how much power can flow through any given circuit and how our abuse of these circuits can be dangerous. We plug-in too much stuff that collectively draws more power than the wires in our houses can safely produce. Well, maybe you don’t, but I sometimes do. In those instances, the circuit breaker trips and power is cut off until we flip the switch back on.

I’ve heard that some people fix the problem of a frequently tripping breaker switch by installing a bigger fuse that will let more power flow through the wires. Bad idea.

Dangerous idea, actually.

So, why my apparently sudden interest in electricity?  Don’t worry (those of you who do), I’m not about to electrocute myself with a home improvement project. Not this time.

I’m not really thinking about electricity at all–just letting the physical principles of electricity help me understand the concept of capacity and overload. I’ve been ruminating about capacity and wondering about the various ways we work to increase capacity.

Most people I know–when they overload an outlet like these photos illustrate–hide their bad electricity habits behind furniture. God created us with circuit breakers, but I’m not sure we heed their warning as well as we might. Or as well as we should.

Unlike the panels in our basements and garages, our intellectual and emotional circuit breakers are often more external than our electrical ones. They are family and friends who see the wires heating up and understand the threat of fire and all the damage it can cause. So, do we listen to their warnings?  Or do we install work-arounds? Do we keep stringing extension cords and power strips, ignoring our limitations as if doing so will change things?

And when we see others overloading their own circuits, are we willing to wave the flag of warning?

I’m all for increased capacity. But really, didn’t we watch enough episodes of Home Improvement to know that there is a difference between increasing capacity and increasing stupidity?