Boston electricians explain best practices for appliance usage
My microwave and toaster are plugged into different sockets, so why can't I run them at the same time without tripping the breaker box?
— Angie's List member Patricia Spadafora
The problem is caused by too many high-powered appliances on the same electrical circuit, says Bob Mahoney of highly rated Bob Mahoney Electric in Boston. "This is a common issue," Mahoney says, adding that the electrical systems in older homes typically aren't designed to handle modern electronics. "The breaker is a safety device, so it's tripping because it's being overloaded."
Nicholas McCourt, president of highly rated Northern Lights Electric Inc. in North Attleboro, Ma., says the National Electric Code didn't require kitchens to have two circuits until after 1988. "Even though the breaker is designed to trip, it can eventually burn itself out due to overheating," McCourt says. "If that happens, it could cause a fire down the road."
To avoid a potentially dangerous situation, both Mahoney and McCourt suggest hiring a licensed electrician to obtain a permit and install an additional circuit in the kitchen. McCourt estimates you can expect to pay between $300 and $600, but says most electricians will offer a free estimate. "The price to add another circuit ultimately depends on many variables and it's all relative to your house," he says. "It won't take longer than an hour and a half to finish if you have an unfinished basement, but if your basement is finished or you have a tile backsplash, it will take a lot longer.