Breaker Keeps Tripping

I just moved into a brand new apartment, we are the first tenants to live here. In my bedroom I have a 47 inch TV, Xbox, surround sound system, alarm clock, cable box, laptop, desktop computer, and monitor (for the desktop), a total of 8 things plugged in.


My 20 amp breaker would pop all the time, so I unplugged everything except my Xbox, cable box, TV, and my surround sound. It still tripped the breaker. So I thought it might be the surge protector I have so I got another one and it still tripped. Now I have used two surge protectors and two separate outlets and it still trips all the time.

I currently have only three things plugged into two different surge protectors on two different outlets and it pops a lot less often, but I shouldn't have to do this. The breaker should easily be able to handle everything. I had an electrician come and check it out and they said everything was fine and it was probably something I had plugged in, but with my Xbox, TV, and surround it doesn't trip. If I add anything else no matter what, alarm clock, laptop charger, anything it trips. It's really getting old. Any suggestions? The breaker only runs the outlets, nothing else, no lights or anything.


By Tyler H.

May 21, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

In order to decide how big of an electrical service is needed in your home, one has to do a little math homework. Calculating how much power both you and your electrical appliances use is necessary to calculate this number. I'm often asked how to figure this load. It really is pretty simple if you know what to look for and how to add up the loads.


The first thing to know is that circuits should only be loaded at 80% of the total circuit load. To help you understand the concept, if you have a 15-amp circuit, the safe operating amperage would be no greater than 12 amps. The total wattage would be 1,800 watts, meaning the safe wattage usage would be 1,440 watts.

If you have a 20-amp circuit, the safe operating amperage would be no greater than 16 amps. The total wattage would be 2,400 watts, meaning the safe wattage usage would be 1,920 watts.

On a 30-amp circuit, the safe operating amperage would be no greater than 24 amps. The total wattage would be 3,600 watts, meaning the safe wattage usage would be 2,880 watts.

To determine the wattage, you take the voltage times the amperage. Check the tags on all of your appliances for the required amperage rating. Add all of the lighting load by adding the total wattage of the light bulbs in your home. Look at the light bulbs and read the wattage that is printed on them.

Your home will likely also have 240-volt appliances like water heaters, air conditioners, electric dryers and electric ranges. These too will have an amperage rating label and the wattage can be calculated. The voltage, 240 volts, times the amperage, say 30 amps, will equal the wattage requirements.

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May 19, 20110 found this helpful

I think there is more to the story. The 20 amp breaker should handle that load, with no prob. I am guessing that you may have undersized wire 14 gauge vs 12 gauge, or possible a nail or drywall screw has damaged the wire.

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May 19, 20110 found this helpful

If you have a fuze box you can take a look and see how the power in the box is divided. Do some rooms or appliances get more allowance than others. Maybe you could move charging devices to another room in the house. Other than that, I can only think that they limited the amount of electric per apartment to make it energy star compliant.

Is the 20 amp breaker just for your room or how many outlets or switches does that particular unit handle. That is the most simple approach other than having your own electrician take a look at the problem. Also check plug receptacles for wear, or any scorch marks. Check plugs near the wall outlet to see if anything is getting warm while in use.

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May 19, 20110 found this helpful

That is a good point also that cereza is making. Being its a brand new building, there may be a boo boo some place and its not apparent. I once had an apartment that had some "updating" on it and one of the electric outlets to the next apartment was on my line. We turned off everything, unplugged and the meter was still going. Eventually it was found. If you don't know what fuses are connected to which areas, you might want to map that out. Its worth the time. a 20 amp breaker should be able to handle up to 2200watts. (Ampsx110v=Watts) Write down what each item draws, and also the rating draw of the power strips too.

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May 19, 20110 found this helpful

All of these suggestions are good. I have another one, I hope you have 2 smoke detectors in your apartment. One near the bd room and one near the kitchen. And I do not recommend using the perfumey plug ins either, b/c apparently they are not safe to leave in all of the time either. Stay safe.

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May 20, 20110 found this helpful

Get an electrician to change the breaker to a "slow-blow" or delayed type. You are probably just getting spikes when equipment is first turned on. They just plug in and are easy to change and can be purchased at most big-box home improvement centers so you can reduce cost by buying the part ahead of time. Also, sometimes the breakers are just too sensitive and the electrician can trade the offending breaker with another one in the panel that is the same amperage and less used.

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May 23, 20110 found this helpful

If you live in an apartment and are renting it you cannot by law, have anything done to it. Any electrical work must be commissioned and approved by your landlord. You could end up on the wrong side of a law suit.

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Anonymous Flag
May 23, 20110 found this helpful

That's an awful lot of things to power through a 20 amp breaker and in most bedrooms in apartments 20 amp is standard for a bedroom. Have you asked your landlord if they would mind upping the breaker to higher amps? If he/she says no then consider placing that equipment in the living room instead. Don't even think to change the breaker yourself without the landlords permission because it's their property and if a fire ensues because of a change you made you will legally be held responsible for all damage.

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