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voltometer + help with total noob questions about power output?

voltometer + help with total noob questions about power output?

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  #1  
Old 02-09-11, 09:27 AM
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Question voltometer + help with total noob questions about power output?

ok I am a complete electrical noob and I know NOTHING about electricity, amps and volts watts and joules lumens etc. means nothing to me

So, you wonder why I am on this forum, right? I am here becuase my paranoid dad thinks I am plugging too much into the outlets in our 100 year old house, but he doesn't know any more than I do, when I say he has no clue what he is talking about either, he just gets mad. He thinks the house is going to burn down.

Unless he sees something in plain sight, he doesn't believe it most of the time. I know they sell something called voltometers, which can show the amount of output your appliances are using....

is this hard to measure, or do they sell some beginner voltometer with dummy instructions on how to use it? I don't mean to make myself look like an idiot, as I learn quickly when taught, I just don't want to have a bunch of electrical type people answering my question in terms that I have no clue what they mean.

if anyone could help me out, I would appreciate it, it would knock out at least one subject of what our family argues about from time to time.
 
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  #2  
Old 02-09-11, 09:43 AM
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I am not an electrician but I would think if you look on the appliance plugged in it sgould have an amp rating. If you add them all up you will get what amps your drawing off that circuit/breaker. If you have a 15 amp breaker and you are drawing more amps I would assume the breaker will trip.

The pros will chime in shortly.

Mike NJ

Mike NJ
 
  #3  
Old 02-09-11, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by cduval04 View Post
my paranoid dad thinks I am plugging too much into the outlets in our 100 year old house
Unless your house has had the wiring updated, he is right to at least be concerned about loading up the old electrical system. Do you know if the wiring has been remodeled? Is there a fuse box or breaker panel? Do you regularly trip breakers or blow fuses?

Could you give us an idea of what you have plugged in that causes your dad concern?

do they sell some beginner voltometer with dummy instructions on how to use it?
A voltmeter is not really important in this case, but there is a meter called the Kill-a-Watt that can do what you want. It sells for about $20.
 
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Old 02-09-11, 10:47 AM
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I didn't mean to sound like I was dismissing his concern, but I just don't find any credibility when he says stuff that he doesn't know what he's talking about even if he is right. He thinks leaving my computer on a couch or bed would start a fire...you know how rare that is? I AM an IT major so I do know that much.

yes we have a fuse box, it pretty old though, but we have updated a lot, including our furnace, oil tank and added a generator that sits outside and also has its own breaker box in the basement. That said, yes fuses have blown, but only one that I know of and it has always been that same one and it is only in the summer when the AC's upstairs are running in mine and my parents room (which are right across from each other) both our TV's are on, and then my mom flips an 1875 watt hair dryer on and that puts it over the edge. Since we realized that, she bought a lower watt hair dryer and we don't run all those things at once and we haven't blown it since.

His issue is I use an extension cord with a 3 prong adapter and plug 2 or 3 things into that at one time...but most of the time they are just plugged into the socket and not charging their respective appliances: mini dv camcorder, blackberry phone and asus 1015pem netbook (yes I know that leaving the charger plugged into the outlet even if they are not attached to anything uses a little bit of power also)

we also have an HD tv (energy star efficeint) a VCR, an HD tivo, an ion vinyl to digital record player a nintendo wii and a dvd player and a window candle plugged in to two outlets which each have power strips.
 
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Old 02-09-11, 11:25 AM
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Those types of items do not concern me, except perhaps the window air conditioners. What would concern me a lot would be space heaters. The actual number of items you have plugged in is not an issue, but what you should keep track of is total watts on each circuit. A standard residential 15A circuit can supply 1875W peak and 1440W continuous, so you should be careful not to exceed those limits. Given that the wiring is potentially very old, I would back off those limits even another 10-20%. Remember to add in light bulb wattages if your lights are on the same circuits as the receptacles.

Also make sure that the correct amp fuses are installed; most of them should probably be 15A. Sometimes people replace the fuses with larger size to prevent frequent blowing of the fuse, but that is unsafe as it allows additional stress (heat) on the wiring. The correct action in that case would be to use less power on that circuit or install new circuit(s) to supply the appliances to want to use.

You should also be aware that surge protectors do not work well on two-prong (ungrounded) circuits so your electronics may be more at-risk in an electrical storm.
 
  #6  
Old 02-09-11, 05:36 PM
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yes fuses have blown, but only one that I know of and it has always been that same one and it is only in the summer when the AC's upstairs are running in mine and my parents room (which are right across from each other) both our TV's are on, and then my mom flips an 1875 watt hair dryer on and that puts it over the edge.
Assuming this is an older 15 amp circuit, you are severely overloading the circuit even before the hair dryer gets turned on. I don't think you have confirmed this to be a 15 amp circuit, but I am really curious about the wire size and fuse size. Two air conditioners and two TVs on a single circuit is too much on even a modern 20 amp circuit.
 
  #7  
Old 02-09-11, 08:11 PM
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Look at the wattage rating on the appliances. If your dad is complaining about your IT gear, or pretty much anything that's electronic (besides the TV), he's just wrong. Only the largest chargers or laptop power supplies go over 100 watts, so you could have a dozen of them running on a single circuit without a problem. One hairdryer uses more power than 20 laptops. Even the TV set or a massive desktop computer is unlikely to use 500 watts. You can plug in all the DVD players and Tivos you want into a single outlet, doesn't matter. Oh, and modern power supplies don't actually use any meaningful power when the laptop or whatever isn't in use... they turn themselves off. (Pet peeve of mine, false claims that unplugging everything or even turning it off is a money-saver).

Cooling and heating are by far the biggest consumers of electricity in a normal house. Followed by lighting... 60W bulbs can add up, especially if multiple rooms are on one circuit. Compact fluoros are a good thing.

The only problem with the Kill-A-Watt is that it'll only show you power use for individual items. The issue with old wiring (and a cantankerous parent) is the total draw per circuit. Measuring that quickly means opening the fuse box and putting a clip-on ammeter on individual wires... not a prudent thing given your stated lack of electrician skills.
 
  #8  
Old 02-10-11, 06:31 AM
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Thjx for the advice. Ya heating and cooling won't be an issue...the only way I would own a space heater is when I get my own place or if my dad dies haha......he despises the things.....it took FOREVER just toi talk him into letting me get an electrIc blanket and explain to him that they are safer than they were in 1960.......as far as ac's go we have an 8 room house (excluding bathrooms) and window ac's are in 6 of them no more than 8000 BTU's my room has a 6000 my bros has a 5000 I think only one of the (maybe 2) are 8000

Btw, my dad told me we don't have an old fuse box like the kind you can replace the fuses in-it is the kind with the toggle switches....

Most of the outlets in our house have been replaced, but there are still one or two I know of that do not have the grounding hole....they are just 2 prong....are the wattage limits for those different?

Thanks!
 
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