Underpowered outlets. Please help.


Old 06-19-17, 09:45 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: United States
Posts: 14
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Question Underpowered outlets. Please help.

Hello all,

We live in the 2nd floor apartment of a 2 story home. It's actually a 4 family home, with each apartment having it's own breaker box in the basement. Lately the weather has been rather hot here in NY state, upper 80's and 90's has been regular for a couple weeks. The house is pretty old (built in 1932) and I don't think it's had any major renovations or upgrades in a long time. I think the electrical system is underpowered because anytime we try to run an air conditioner, it blows the breaker, even if it is the only thing running. This happens with multiple outlets in different areas of the apartment. Even if we manage to get one AC running and keep it going, definitely getting 2 going is out of the question. This is a 5 bedroom apartment, so we need to be able to run more than one AC.

I think the main issue is that there are only about 3 or 4 circuits for the entire apartment, with none of them being dedicated AC outlets. I know I cannot do anything myself since it is not my home. Getting the landlord to agree to do anything about it, especially if money is involved will be difficult. I'm just wanting to get some advice on the best way to go about fixing the issues. Could the breakers be replaced with more powerful breakers? Should we try to convince the landlord to install a couple dedicated outlets for AC's? I'm even willing to offer to pay for half the cost of doing whatever needs to be done. I just need to be able to run some A/C's when it's 90 degrees with 79% humidity like it is today. I'd like to be able to propose it to the landlord in the cheapest way possible so that he will be more likely to be willing to hire an electrician to do it.

Greatly appreciate any opinions or options you can give me! I'll give you some details on the breaker box incase any of it is important. Also posted pictures below. All of the circuits say either 15 or 20 on the switch, except the dryer which is 30.

Name:  4.jpg
Views: 143
Size:  35.8 KBName:  3.jpg
Views: 125
Size:  19.7 KBName:  2.jpg
Views: 143
Size:  35.4 KBName:  1.jpg
Views: 124
Size:  28.8 KB
Old 06-19-17, 10:01 AM
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: WI/MN
Posts: 19,609
Received 97 Votes on 85 Posts
Could the breakers be replaced with more powerful breakers?
Absolutely not except in the highly unlikely event the wire/cable is rated for more amperage than the breakers.

Answers may be dependent on how much service the building has as there may not be enough to expand to more circuits in the first place.
Old 06-19-17, 06:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 4,291
Received 109 Votes on 101 Posts
There are some 20 ampere breakers in your panel which should be able to support a "small" 120 volt air conditioner.

A 15 amp circuit should be able to handle a 1500 watt AC unit. A 20 amp circuit should be able to handle a 1900 watt AC unit. Meanwhile it would be a good idea to measure the voltage in the other half of the duplex receptacle you plugged the AC into. A loose connection somewhere along the line could drop the voltage and in your case increase the amperes drawn so as to trip the breaker.

If the main breaker (the breaker on top) trips often then your apartment is exceeding the total power draw allowed.
Old 06-19-17, 06:32 PM
Norm201's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 9,474
Received 291 Votes on 261 Posts
Your only recourse is to use fans at opposite ends of the apartment if possible. You could petition the landlord and insist its a health hazard or go to the house authority and see if they can get him to upgrade the electrical system, again saying its an unsafe situation with or without A/C.

Editorialize....Not meant to be directed at the OP.

Please I'm not looking to have an argument (you know who I mean.)

A/C nowadays seems be a right that should be expected rather than a luxury. For over 40 years my wife and I lived, first in a 6 unit apartment building, upper flat with two babies for two years. No A/C. It was not expected and we did not feel slighted or deprived. When we finally bought our own home, A/C was not in the expense account and was not considered. At that point we had 4 kids, three bedrooms. Lived there for about 5 years, No A/C. Our current home since the mid-'80s (and 5 kids at that point) also had no A/C until about 3 years ago. Kids are gone and it's just my wife and one daughter living there. We still consider our A/C very much a luxury. And count our blessings that we can just nearly afford it.
Old 06-19-17, 07:55 PM
Tolyn Ironhand's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 13,802
Received 252 Votes on 220 Posts
Looking at your panel you have 10 120 volt circuits. 2 are likely for the kitchen small appliance circuits and maybe one for the bathrooms and one for the washer, that brings you to 6 general purpose circuits.

Figuring each general circuit is a 15 amp circuit you should really load it to no more then 50% of the circuits capacity, that only gives you a 900 watt A/C unit. A dedicated circuit can be loaded up to 80% continuously so that will get you 1440 watts or 12 amps.

The least expensive way to get you through the hot spell is to get some heavy duty extension cords and try to split up the A/C's as much as you can. By heavy duty I mean #12/3 gauge cords. If you try to use a lighter gauge cord you risk overheating the cord and starting a fire.

The best option is to have dedicated 20 amp circuits installed at the locations of the A/C units.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: