Home Electrical Myths

People need to be more aware of whether they are overloading circuits.
If you never want a breaker to trip, you might be able to watch your usage carefully enough to prevent that. But normal people, who inadvertently trip breakers (whether weekly or once in five years), are not doing a no-no. The very tripping of breakers is what keeps everyone from ever truly overloading any circuits. So you don’t have to wonder or worry. I think this myth arose from a warning not to overload extension cords, but even these will get too hot more from damage or poor connections than from their watt-rating being exceeded.

A ground-fault interrupter (GFCI) is only supposed to trip when a person is getting shocked.
Well, their purpose is to prevent or stop electrocutions of people. But they are too stupid to know the difference between a person getting shocked and a wire or clot of dirt getting “shocked.” Their design only tells them to trip for ground-faults of any kind (within a certain milliamp range).

A GFCI receptacle will trip off if you overload it (run too many watts).
This is not true at all. Only the circuit breaker in your electrical panel cares about the amount of load things are using. A GFCI is not at all sensitive to that, but it is very sensitive to electrical leaks away from the path that loads (running things) use.

Old wires can go bad in the wall. So can new wires if they are damaged.
Wires in walls do not deteriorate much over time. Damage from rodents is quite rare compared to the problems that easily happen at the accessible electrical boxes that hold your receptacles, switches, lights, and connections.

After a wirenut is twisted onto wires, the wirenut and wires need to be wrapped with electrical tape.
Wrapping with electrical tape was needed back when connections were soldered and then needed insulation. Tape over a wirenut would make sense if you didn’t do the wirenut right. For instance, if copper wire were left visible. I have heard it said that tape on a wirenut is because the normal vibrations in a house (doors slamming) will loosen a wirenut over time. I doubt anyone has documented this. Everything in my experience says that the wirenut connections that give out were poorly done from the start. Then some oxidation and heat over time put the contact of that barely-touching wire in the wirenut over the edge.

Flipping a breaker off and on will reset it if it was tripped.
Well, maybe. Of course, it won’t reset if there is a short circuit going on. But even if the tripping was a one-time thing, flipping may not be effective. The word “flip” is too flippant. There needs to be a firmness, pressing the circuit breaker handle strongly to OFF first, then strongly ON.

A breaker that will not reset is a bad breaker.
Is a watchdog that barks suddenly in the night a bad dog? Remember, the procedure for resetting is not just pushing the handle ON (see the myth we just finished). If the breaker trips within five seconds of being properly reset, it is almost always responding, as it should, to an electrical condition, almost never tripping from a mechanical defect. Also see whether an Outage was even caused by a tripped breaker.

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