Electricity plays a critical role in powering our modern-day way of life. Today we use electric power for more things than ever before in history. This includes things like indoor and outdoor lighting as well as cooking, powering our multimedia appliances, charging our wireless devices, heating water, and even important things like operating security systems. You would be hard-pressed to find something that doesn’t rely on electricity in some way.

Yet the nuts and bolts details of how electricity gets from the power lines to the appliances in your home or office can be incredibly complex. Most of the time, the electric current is diverted to a breaker box or some other type of fuse assembly, which connects to or completes a circuit.

If the electric draw of that circuit exceeds the breaker or fuse, it “Blows” or “Trips” which breaks the circuit. While this might be inconvenient at the moment when it happens, it’s actually an important safety feature that prevents things like short circuits and even a potential electrical fire!

If you look at your home’s breaker box panel you will see a variety of switches. Many of them have things like 15 Amp or 20 Amp stamped or printed on them in some way. This tells you the amperage that the circuit can handle, which directly translates into the number of Watts it can deliver to the appliances that are connected to the circuit.

A 15 Amp breaker can handle up to 1,800 Watts. A 20 Amp breaker can handle up to 2,400 Watts. Many of the breakers you see in the panel run entire rooms. This includes things like standard outlets and built-in lighting systems. Though there are some breakers that are set up to handle one single appliance.

What Is A Dedicated Circuit?

A dedicated circuit is essentially set up to power one single appliance or device that draws a large amount of power. They tend to be very important things that you want to keep in constant operation without having to worry about their breaker exceeding the rated wattage and tripping to turn it off.

This includes things like:

  • A data server
  • Heating and air conditioning systems
  • A water heater
  • An electric range
  • A refrigerator
  • Integrated security system
  • Electric locks
  • And even things like garage door openers

What Are The Benefits Of Keeping Important Appliances On A Dedicated Circuit?

Many important appliances with a dedicated circuit rely on a large, and often constant draw of electricity. When that flow of current is interrupted it can do more than simply deprive you of their convenience. Some of these appliances have moving parts that don’t do well when they are stopped suddenly or re-started suddenly.

A power interruption caused by a blown fuse or tripped breaker could damage what is a very costly appliance to repair or replace. By giving these critical appliances their own dedicated circuit you are ensuring that they get the necessary current they need to operate as intended.

What Happens If I Plug Other Devices Into A Dedicated Circuit?

Many dedicated circuits operate near the maximum wattage draw of the circuit. If you add additional items to that circuit or connect it to another outlet, you are essentially adding a variable to what is intended to be an otherwise stable system.

This can cause things like:

  • Flickering lights
  • Power loss from a tripped breaker or fuse
  • Short-circuits
  • Burned out wires
  • Electric fires
  • Damaged appliances
  • Possible electric shocks to pets and people
  • Dedicated Circuits Help Prevent Overloads

Most modern homes and office buildings have circuits that are designed to handle the average amount of draw that most common appliances use. If an outlet is in a place where it might be contacted by water or even exposed to high humidity, it might also have a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, which is otherwise known as a GFCI. These miniature fuses typically have two buttons on the face of the outlet and are commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms.

Yet in some older homes, the breaker panel or fuse box might have been built for the lesser electrical loads of older appliances. The National Electrical Code at that time simply couldn’t anticipate such a large number of electrical appliances that are now seen as part of modern life.

This includes things like:

  • Large flat-screen TVs
  • Garbage disposals
  • Toaster ovens
  • Air fryers
  • Convection ovens
  • Electrical grills
  • Electric fireplaces
  • Large Space Heater
  • Just to name a few.

If you’ve noticed things like flickering lights when an appliance like your refrigerator’s compressor kicks on, or the HVAC system activates, or you have been frustrated by fuses blowing when you run something like a toaster oven, you might want to take a closer look at your breaker panel. If you see a lot of switches with 15 Amp stamped on them, your breaker box might be outdated.

It might also mean that you have large appliances on standard circuits with outlets and lights connected to them. These appliances may need to be given their own dedicated circuit, or you may need to upgrade the breakers in your panel from 15 Amp to 20 Amp.

Can I Upgrade My Breakers And Install Dedicated Circuits Myself?

If you are particularly handy, and you know your way around a hardware store’s electrical department, you might be tempted to install dedicated circuit breakers yourself. Though this is rarely a good idea.

Beyond the fact that you are dealing with a potentially dangerous amount of electricity, there are also fire and electrical codes that need to be maintained. Even if you manage to install it without incident, an electric fire could still happen a few weeks or even months later on down the line. If the fire inspector finds wiring and breakers that aren’t installed up to modern-day codes, it could void certain clauses in your homeowner’s insurance.

Fortunately, installing dedicated circuits and upgrading breaker boxes is relatively inexpensive. Professional installation also ensures that everything is up to code and your home or office electric system is safe and up to date.