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Burlington house in fall

My house in Burlington is now 115 years old, but I installed a new 200 amp circuit box several years ago, and the panel of circuit breakers was impressive—23 circuits with room for 28. Only one circuit kept blowing, and when it blew just about everything went with it. The television, the dishwasher, the electric heater, lights and outlets all over the place—all went out. Since something was amiss, I put on my electrician’s sleuthing hat.

The air conditioner, refrigerator, freezer, furnace, clothes dryer, electric range, hot tub, and the clothes washing machine each had its own own circuit. They were dedicated circuits serving major appliances and ones that had enough of a load to justify their single purpose and that was appropriate. They kept doing their own jobs even when the other circuit blew. That totaled eight dedicated workhouse circuits—four of which were double or 220 circuits, so those and the one that blew accounted for thirteen spaces in the box. What about the other ten?

One took care of the outlets and lights in three rooms upstairs. We didn’t use them a lot, but there were times when the whole family came to visit, and then they got put to use. They were there, ready to serve, even when the rest of the house shut down. Then there was one circuit serving one outlet in the half-bath downstairs, and one serving an outlet in the kitchen corner, and another serving another outlet behind the antique Hoosier in the kitchen, and another serving one outlet in a corner of the basement. They seldom served any purpose, so it was plain that they were far from being overloaded. They were seriously underloaded. There was one serving a small fluorescent light fixture above the kitchen sink, which explained why it continued to shine when everything else went dark, but in spite of its perpetual and faithful shining, it was definitely an underused circuit. There were two circuits available for the garage, which took a few years to put into service. Then there was one that went upstairs to the master bedroom where a window air conditioner used to sit. Every one of these circuits was added when someone wanted to add one more light or outlet or appliance to the house. The tenth one served the lights, ventilating fan, and outlets in a new addition that was added several years ago.

Yes, something was amiss when over half of the available circuits were completely idle most of the time, and when one—obviously the original house circuit—was trying to carry too much of the load. I had to spread the load around so that the underused circuits could carry their share, before the breakdown of the one circuit led to more disastrous results.

It made me wonder how much of the power distribution in the organizations and churches in which I have taken part resembled my old house. Perhaps some load redistribution has been in order in other places too?

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