questionswhy is my house not powerful enough for my…

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Short answer? Because your house was built in 1949.

Long answer (which is $$$). You need to have a new electrical service put in. It sounds like you have a service that offers less than 80 of the magical electric doodads you need, and it needs to be upgraded to a MINIMUM of 100, or perhaps 200. Pay attention to me here. You should hire a PROFESSIONAL. Don't try to do this on your own. You'll need to have a permit pulled, and you want someone who is licensed and professional to handle it.

When I added in a 60 AMP subpanel to an existing service (2006), it was jumpered off the original service (yes, that means I have a total of 260 amps, and don't ask). BTW, jumpered is my term, not the professional one. I want to say it was around 6k, but I had other things done too, including having the garage completely rewired.

I'll say it again. Get a professional.

If you don't own the house, then the owner needs to do this.

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I should mention I am renting! My landlady is super awesome, but there is no way she can afford to put thousands of dollars into updating the electrical. So BOO. But THANKS for the answer!

Can anyone explain why it is that there is enough power when the circuit breaker is tripped?

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See if she can afford to have that breaker replaced. They can get weak over time. I would guess that a person could find an electrician to do that for less than a hundred bucks.

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@bdsmonkey: Can you post what the service is rated for now? Do you know whether the wiring is copper or (shudder) aluminum? Can you see whether the circuits are 15amp or 20amp? If the power works better when one of the breakers is tripped, it should indeed be replaced. This is a fairly simple process, and depending on your level of expertise, you may just be able to do it yourself. I'm sure there's a youtuber out there that will show you how.

If the landlady has a handyman, he should be able to do it. Circuit breakers are a few dollars. Much cheaper than blowing out your fancy coffee machine.

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@shrdlu: So, since you seem to know about this stuff, I will hit you with a similar but different question. My house is 102 years old, and the wiring is quite ancient. When I had my deck and screen room built, I told the contractor, who is a licensed electrician, that I was worried about adding any further burdens to the house wiring (which also cannot run the microwave and the toaster at the same time). He put in a separate "box" for the addition. Does the addition suffer the same limitations as the house? Or will it have a more modern pipeline? It doesn't really matter, I never put that much demand on the power in the screen room, it's the house where we feel the deficit. But this conversation has made me curious.

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Sometimes it is helpful to think of electrical circuits like water flowing in pipes (sorry if that dredges up other horror stories of living in an old house, BTDT :-)

So you have a main pipe that branches into the pipe that feeds your microwave (and, presumably, other things) and the one that feeds your espresso maker. Note that the size of the main feeder pipe dictates the flow and pressure in the branch pipes and since the sum of the branches can't exceed the capacity of the main pipe, the more branches, the less you get at each branch. Now suppose you close the shutoff valve to the branch that serves the microwave (i.e., trip the breaker). The main feeder can now supply better pressure and flow to the branch that serves the espresso maker and voila! rich frothy crema!

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I can't use the microwave and toaster oven at the same time, and my house was built in 1985. Are we all a bunch of fire hazards - disasters waiting to happen?

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@hot72chev: If you have problems in a house that recently built, then I'd like to ask a couple of questions. Go and look at each circuit breaker. Do any of them say 15 amp? I'm betting that they do. Also, you need to know which things are on which circuit. You may have a circuit that is already loaded up, and both the microwave and the toaster oven pull a serious load.

If you're the homeowner, you should have a map of what is connected to each breaker, and that map should be stored near the breakers. Do that today. Don't put it off. There's more, but right now I'm off to answer whatever it was that moondrake was asking...

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@moondrake: Your separate box is perfectly fine. The addition (probably) does not have the limitations of the house. I qualify it only because I'm not there, I didn't supervise the wiring, and I also lack psychic ability. I had to read the other comment to understand what you meant by "pipeline" BTW.

I believe that your contractor pulled in a new electrical line from the main, and then ran it through your meter, and that the service is probably separate completely. Mine is not, but there wasn't anything wrong with the wiring (except for the amateur who wired the garage), I just needed more power. I have a LOT of computers, and I like them to be on their own dedicated circuits. While I was at it, I had the garage added to that subpanel, because I have a lot of power tools, and having a dedicated circuit with GFCI outlets is the bomb.

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Almost forgot this. I'm not an electrician, I just like to remodel. I also had to know a lot about electricity, and power loads, and similar things, while I worked. Look up Hubble Twist Locks for some entertainment.

Don't take my word for anything. Check on everything I said. I know stuff, but i could be wrong. I've been wrong before. I have experience at being wrong.

I also own a lifetime supply of incandescent bulbs. Yes, yes I do. I'm that kind of crazy.

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When we built our house we were coming from an old house with barely adequate wiring and plumbing, so we over spec'ed both on the new one. I had a 400 amp electric service installed -- it feeds two 200 amp main panels that branch out to feed the rest of the (all-electric) house, well pump, effluent pump in the septic tank, 100 amp subpanel in the barn/shop, mondo geothermal heat pump, etc. See that pulsing glow up on the hillside? That's us.

Actually, it's mostly headroom -- our electric bills are quite reasonable.

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@shrdlu: I have a closet full of incandescent light bulbs. I consider them one of my best investments. Whenever I come across any packs, I buy them. (Yes, there still are some out there, but I guess you probably know that.) I hate the way we were railroaded into buying the "energy efficient" bulbs. Sorry, for going off topic, @bdsmonkey.

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Im interested in hearing your argument for something that only gives you 5% of your energy put into it. Im sure you know less than 5% of that energy your pumping (and paying) to put into that bulb is being used for lighting purposes.

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@aj58078: Ahh, but it keeps me warm on cold nights.

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I have never done this, and what I say could be totally bogus and burn down houses, but wouldn't there be some way to rejoin separate circuits to handle larger loads? For example, if your rented apartment has two outlets on two separate circuits each rated 1500W couldn't you rig up something to rejoin the two circuits past the outlets (basically just spliced extension cords to become a Y adapter) to power a device which draws 2500W without tripping the circuit breakers, since the load would be distributed presumably evenly at 1250W per circuit? Or wouldn't this work, because of slight phase differences or whatnot?

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@ben4682: No. NO NO NO! Bad idea. WIring is rated for 15 or 20 amps in residential buildings, and it must not exceed that. There's other reasons too, but I'm hoping that no one will attempt to do what you suggested.

It's why I pointed out that the wiring might be aluminum (which I think doesn't accommodate 20 amps, only 15 amps). Copper wiring, copper pipes. It's the only way to build a house. I've had holes punched in walls to replace aluminum wiring. Nothing like seeing singe marks where the join is for a light fixture to get your heart racing.

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@shrdlu: I'm happy to concede it's a bad idea and no one should do it, but out of curiosity, if every circuit has fuses to prevent short circuits and overloading, then why wouldn't what I said be theoretically safe? (I'd delete my mention of the idea if I could, but no delete option.)

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to everyone who has responded . . . even the hijackers . . . THANKS! to those who asked questions that require a reply, I will check tomorrow and reply.

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@ben4682: I'll try and answer this tomorrow. It's spring, and I'm pretty tired, and need the sleep.

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Wiring & insulation standards (because of materials in use) have changed significantly.

I found this, which made me shudder:
http://www.doityourself.com/forum/electrical-ac-dc/178955-running-new-wire-old-house.html#b

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@shrdlu: "If you're the homeowner, you should have a map of what is connected to each breaker, and that map should be stored near the breakers."
Great advice, I did this to my house the first year I bought it. My "map" is a spreadsheet and list every light and outlet next to the outlet/light is the breaker number. I have 2 versions, one is by room the other by breaker. Now before I throw, I know. Before I throw (a breaker), I know (what is powering off).

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Check your neighbors' houses to see if they have any power outlets on the outside of their houses. Also check the power meters and lamp posts outside to see if they have any. Next, get yourself a long, heavy-duty extension cord and run that sucker from your neighbor's house through your window. Boom. Free energy to make delicious espresso.

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@shrdlu: It's funny, my house is so old it skipped all the intermediate stuff. Copper pipes and wiring throughout, installed as near as we can guess sometime in the 30's. Sadly, they also poured concrete in the chimney as heating one's home with a wood fire had become declasse.

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@moondrake: I did my house with copper wire and pipes, but if I had to do it today I would plumb with individual PEX home runs to each fixture. Easier to install, easier to make repairs but most of all, less water volume to move for remote fixtures. My house is plumbed with 3/4" CU main branches with 1/2" CU taps to the fixtures. Sure, we can flush the toilet while someone takes a shower without a pressure drop, but it takes 3-4 minutes to get hot water at the kitchen sink (the longest run from the water heater).

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My husband is her handyman, so I’ll see if he thinks he can handle the breaker change. It does not look too complicated, so this is probably what I’ll try.

To answer @shrdlu ‘s questions, and THANK YOU!:
Neither my husband not I know what type of wiring we have.
It would appear that this particular breaker is rated “20”. See pics! The kitchen is on breaker #1, labeled 20. The main/overall breaker is labeled “100”.

To @turbinator42 . THANK YOU for this explanation!

Below are the pics I took, The first is the breaker box/breakers, the second is the paper guide and breaker “map”, which is kind of hilarious. I did not know a good site to share, and was hoping to share the pics larger, but I don’t know a good site. If someone can recommend a better site to share, I will re-upload if people want better pics. I used tinypic.

Box:

Instructions:

Thanks again for everyone’s help!

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@hot72chev: I would bet you have a 15amp breaker for that outlet. The wiring in your house (built 1985) should have no problems with a 20amp breaker. REMEMBER this is coming from someone that isn't looking at your wires so you need to get a professional to verify so you don't overheat the wires in the wall and start a fire in the wall.

I do a lot of handyman work but I refuse to touch the electrical box I always will call a pro to do just about all things that deals with electric.

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@bdsmonkey: I would pop out that 20amp breaker take it to home depot and get a new one to slap in and see if that helps. That box looks old and rusty and those breakers might be bad.

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@bdsmonkey: I think that @zapp brannigan speaks for me. Looking at that breaker and the panel, I'd say that it's modern enough, and you should just replace the breaker, and you'll be fine.

I would do some basic math, though. Find out what's on that breaker, and then add up the max pull for it. You may just have that particular circuit overloaded. I never thought I'd say that a service for 100amp seemed small, but in a modern house (assuming forced air) it is. My house is all electric (I miss terribly cooking on a gas range), and the 200 amp service that came with the house as built in the seventies would have been fine for someone with less computers. I see that that there are two circuits (breakers) for the big stuff (looks like just the dryer is big stuff) in your house. I also see two that say 15 amp. What's on them?

Back MUCH later, maybe.

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This is the breaker guide!
1. kitchen 2. garage plugs
3. plugs 4. 220 dryer
5. lights 6. 220 dryer
7. lights
9. garage lights

This is the thing I thought was kind of hilarious! Not so specific, and I don't know how to find out more specifically than that. But apparently my whole kitchen is running on the breaker I am having issues with, if I am to believe the "guide". I do NOT have central air/heat, and I DO have some gas appliances (stove/oven, wall heater, water heater). My microwave is 1250w, and the toaster oven is 1400. We have 2 full size refrigerator/freezers, 1 in kitchen and 1 in garage. As far as I can tell, I should have 2400-4800w available, but with the "guide", it is really hard to tell what is really powered from which breaker! I don't usually have a whole lot running when I make my coffee, but clearly something is wrong! I am not sure that the people who build this house did a fantastic job in all cases; (to be continued)

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For example, the bathroom has 1/2" & 3/4" pipes running to it, but they connected the 3/4" to the sink and the 1/2" to the shower. You can guess what kind of stellar water pressure i get in that shower!

Anyway, I a going to take the consensus of advice recommended and change out that breaker; will update!

THANKS!

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@bdsmonkey: Here's what I do when I am trying to find a breaker. I get a radio and turn it full blast and plug it into the outlet I am trying to find. Plug it in and find a channel, go to the basement and start throwing breakers until it turns off. Since you don't have very many breakers it will be very easy to find out if the two refrig are on the same line.

kitchen's should have 2 breakers, there so much draw with microwaves, dishwashers, refrigs, small appliances, etc. that you will pop breakers

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We recently had a similar situation. Our fuse for the oven/stove would trip once in a while. We convinced the landlord (townhouse rental) that the oven was bad and got a new one. We then were having the same issue with the new oven so looked into the wiring. We took out the fuse in the panel and one of the cables on the back of the fuse slipped right out. It was not attached very tightly. We secured the wire, put the fuse back in and are still waiting for the issue to happen again. maybe this is also happening to you?

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Replacing a 15A breaker with a 20A? NO!
15A breakers require only 14g wiring, which can handle the 15A load on a circuit.
A 20A circuit requires 12g wiring (thicker wire that can handle a higher amp load).
NEVER replace with a higher amp breaker.
When checking a tripped breaker, is it warm or hot?
Does it trip a lot?
Breakers are not designed to trip frequently, and if they do, or if warm, they should be replaced.
When the panel cover is off, is the center bus bar copper, or aluminum?
If aluminum, check for burnt or corroded areas.
Spread a little 'deoxidizer' on the breaker before popping it into place (under supervision of a qualified person}.
You are running a home on 100A. Very expensive to change that, so you'll have to do what you can with what you have. Balance your loads (things that draw power) between different circuits.
And... Someone above mentioned jumping power with an extension.
AHHHH!!!!
Don't try Mickey-Mouse ideas from ANYBODY!

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So I sent my landlady an email stating we were going to change the breaker, but she was all like NOOOOOOOOOOO! YOU'LL ELECTROCUTE YOURSELF!! and sent a guy out. He was here yesterday, and replaced all the breakers on the left side of the panel (the odd #d ones) because they were all corroded and rusted. The 3 on the the right, the "evens" must have been replaced at some point because they looked nice. So will have to wait and see because since the power was "reset" my espresso maker should work properly for at LEAST 3 days. Hopefully it continues to behave! I still don't know if my wires are copper or aluminum. Next is to see if there is an economical way to change what plugs are routed to what breakers. I figured out that in addition to my entire kitchen being on breaker 1, my entertainment center is on there as well! Not sure if this was standard in '49 of if they people who built the house just didn't care, or worse, didn't know what they were doing!

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Yes, your wiring is typical for the era. The power requirements in the late 40's/ early 50's were much less than now. Coffee pots went on the stove, you had a radio, maybe... a TV, lamps and a few small electrical devices. You stretched extension cords and wires everywhere.
As circuits are in series (one connects to the next one), rewiring outlets to change circuit feeds is not easy or recommended. Things could go wrong if done improperly.
It would be easier, probably, to add another circuit (if the panel has room for expansion) and stretch that circuit to your kitchen. You can get a 'tandem breaker' if there's no expansion room in the panel.
Aluminum wiring was used a lot in the 60's and 70's. That's when copper prices jumped. Although there are some 40's-50's houses with aluminum, it is kinda rare for your late 40's house to have it.
I'm glad to see you had your old breakers replaced, and hope that fixes your problem.