Plugging multiple devices into the same outlet can lead to an overloaded outlet, which in turn could cause multiple issues. Such as a dead outlet, short circuit, fire, etc.
So, how many things can I plug into one outlet? What are the things to keep in check?
The answer varies depending on the amperage and voltage rating of your outlet. But the rule of thumb indicates that you should not plug more than two devices into one outlet. But there are other factors to take into consideration.
In this article, I will talk about how to be safe and responsible while using outlets. I will also talk about some of the things to avoid while using any outlet.
What is an Overloaded Outlet and How to Identify it?
A single circuit can have a limit on the amount of electricity or current it can handle. If anything more than the limit passes through that circuit or outlet, it gets overloaded. Overloading is a major cause of fires. So it’s crucial to avoid overloading outlets at all costs. There are a few telltale signs of an overloaded outlet that you should look out for.
Signs of an Overloaded Outlet
- The breaker supplying power to the outlet will continuously keep tripping.
- If the appliances plugged in have a light bulb or if there are other bulbs on the same circuit, they will flicker often. Or turn dim.
- Your outlet is slowly getting discolored.
- A buzzing sound from the outlet or the switch.
- If your circuits use fuses, the fuses will blow pretty frequently.
- Burn marks on the face of the outlet. In some cases, you can also see signs of melting plastic (Fig 1).
- The outlet is warm to the touch.
- A faint burning scent will be emitted from the outlet.
- The devices or appliances connected to the outlet have no power.
- A mild sensation of electrical shock if you touch the appliances.
These are some of the most common signs of an overloaded outlet. If you see any of these signs, quickly turn the outlet off, and remove any devices connected to it before further troubleshooting.
However, if you find an overloaded outlet in your house, here are the steps which you should follow.
- Turn off the outlet as soon as possible.
- If a device with a high power demand is running on the same outlet, turn it off. This will remove a huge strain from the outlet.
- You might go to your main panel and manually trip the breaker supplying power to the outlet.
- Remove all devices connected to the outlet.
- If you see signs of burning or melted plastic, you need to replace the outlet.
- You can replace it yourself, or call a professional if needed.
- Make sure the devices which were plugged into the outlet are not damaged.
How to Use an Outlet Properly and Avoid Overloading?
Outlets are often taken for granted. Get them installed and forget about them. But there are some exact etiquettes to follow for using an outlet. Such as how many devices should you plug in, the use of extension cords, keeping the ratings in check, etc.
Especially in many older homes, the circuits are not properly equipped to deal with the high power demand of the latest appliances. And adding excess power demand by plugging a new device into an outlet can lead it to overload and cause serious damage. Including the possibility of a house fire.
It also relies on the voltage level of your household. Too much current on one single circuit can also cause shortages and electrical fires, hence high wattage is not suggested to be plugged in on one circuit. Especially over no more than 1500 watts.
Depending on the volts rating, you can compute the maximum number of devices you can plug-in using the Ohms law formula. Where current equals power divided by voltage (I = W/V).
Most homes have 120 volts of power. If your appliance is rated for 500 watts, the device at 120 volts will produce around 4.1 amps of current.
Here are some tips to prevent an outlet from being overloaded.
How to Avoid Overloading an Outlet
- How many things can I plug into one outlet? Never plug in more than two devices in a single outlet.
- Avoid plugging too many appliances in a single outlet. Especially, if they demand too much power. Such as refrigerators and ovens.
- Use extension cords responsibly, and make sure to never exceed the rating for your outlet.
- Create separate circuits and in turn separate outlets, if you have too many devices.
- Be cautiously aware of the exact amperage rating of your breakers and fuses.
These are some of the steps you should follow to keep your outlets from overloading.
If you were wondering, how many things can I plug into one outlet, I believe this article answers your question.
Also keep in mind, that overloading an outlet is strictly advised against. As it could lead to not only a damaged outlet and device but also can cause a fire. Which is a serious safety concern.