general question before calling an electrician


Old 12-06-04, 04:15 PM
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general question before calling an electrician


i have an aquarium in my living room that is consuming a lot of energy, its consumes about 2100 watts and 1/2 of that is always on. every outlet i plug into shuts off when we turn on the microwave or such. anyway, i know we'll have to put in a new line from the outside, but before we call an electrician out, is there any other option? i would just hate to have a round metal bar come down my living room. we have no crawl space in the attic as it is filled with the ac insullation. my home is 1965, the breakers in back are the old push button ones. i believe the house is either on a 20 or 30 amp breaker except for the ac unit which is on a 50 or 60 i believe. someone told me that the only thing i can do is run a separate new breaker from the main box into the house, but i would have the exposed cable or metal pipe running into the living room. is that really my only option??? thanks in advance.
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Old 12-06-04, 05:21 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
There are always options. A good electrician can get a wire just about anywhere. There will, however, most likely be damage to the walls in one or more locations. However, this damage is usually fairly easy to repair.
Old 12-06-04, 05:24 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
Posts: 22
Red face

It's hard to say, without actually being able to look at the house, How you can get a dedicated circuit to this location.
I know this, there are ways to get the job done without running conduit exposed in the house. A good electrician will undoubtably be able to figure out how to do this for you.
Some things just have to be done by a qualified electrician.

Good luck.
Old 12-06-04, 05:28 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: CA
Posts: 2,041
2100 watts means on a nominal 115 volt circuit you are drawing 18 amps. SO even if your circuits are 20 amp rated, the minute you turn on even a light bulb, you are apt to trip the breaker. In older houses, there were fewer circuits. How many general receptacle breakers do you have? The only thing you can do right now is try to have the aquarium on a receptacle that is not on the same breaker as the kitchen. However, if that involves using an extension cord, then a 20 amp rated cord will be very large and attractive draped across the couch!

I don't know where you live, but in San Diego that aquarium would cost about 34 cents an hour, or about $240 per month to heat. Have you considered gerbils?
Old 12-06-04, 05:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: welland ontario
Posts: 5,676
It might be easier to run a new circuit for the microwave although the fish tank uses up an entire circuit by itself. Maybe you should run 2 circuits while you are at it.
The most expensive part of this job might be the breaker required for your old panel. You might get the recommendation to replace the whole panel.
Old 12-06-04, 05:46 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
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I'm more curious to know 1. what makes you think it's pulling that much power and 2. what is it that's doing it?

Even with pumps, lights and heaters I can't see 2100 watts..
Old 12-07-04, 12:07 AM
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i am currently able to get by, by running a heavy duty extension cord (the old one was orange and was very hot when the lights turned on) across to the other side of the living room. it currently looks like a mess but at least its not drawing any other power from that outlet.

as far as how do i know its pulling that much power, i've basically added up all the equipment (3 - 250 watt metal halide bulbs, 4 - 96 watt, pump @ 322 watts on 24/7, etc) and watts that it requires to run each of those units, multiplied it by hours during the day. is that the correct way of calculating wattage? i then took watts multipled by hours per day and then divided it by 1000 to get kwh, and then multiplied it by how ever much southern california edison charges, which is a ridiculous rate since they have several baselines.

someone told me even if i got a new panel it wouldn't matter because the wiring inside my house is old, they said i could install new breakers but it wouldn't matter because the breakers would never trip, however the wires inside the walls might catch on fire. it made sense to me. does this mean i have to rewire the whole entire insides of the house if i went with a new panel?
Old 12-07-04, 05:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
To determine your power requirements, add up the loads. In your case this yields 1456 watts , figured from (3 x 250 ) + ( 4 * 96 ) + 322.

1456 watts is 1.456 kilowatts. To determine kilowatt-hours, multiply this by the number of hours. So for 24 hours (a full day) you would use 1.456 * 24 = 34.94 kilowatt hours.

You do not have to replace your wiring to get a new panel. Replacing the breakers properly won't change anything, unless the breakers are bad. If you are overloading the circuit then you are overloading the circuit.

Your load, 1456 watts, draws about 12 amps. What you need to do is to use a circuit with no other loads on it (except perhaps a light bulb or two), or to have a new circuit run for the aquarium.

Do not continue to use that orange extension cord. Doing so is a fire hazard. What you need to find is an extension cord that has at least 14 gauge wire. They are available, but they are expensive. However, using an extension cord is only a temporary solution. Have a new circuit run.

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