Learn why electrical upgrades are not a do-it-yourself project. Find out why you should never install a circuit breaker with higher amps than what you already have.
LESLIE: Heavy (sp) in New York has a heating issue. What’s happening? Tell us about it.
HEAVY (sp): What I wanted to know is my breaker switch keeps cutting off  periodically. And I was wondering – it’s a 20-watt breaker.
TOM: Twenty amp, mm-hmm.
HEAVY (sp): And can I change it up to a 30? Will that stop it from breaking all the time?
TOM: It will but you might burn your house down in the process, Heavy (sp). (laughing)
HEAVY (sp): You’re kidding.
TOM: No, it’s doing its job. If you have a 20-amp breaker – you said 20 watt. I know that you mean 20 amp. If you had a 20 amp breaker, the breaker is designed to turn the electrical circuit off before the wire heats up and causes a fire . So if you have a number 12 wired circuit, number 12 copper wiring is rated at 20 amps. So if you pull more than 20 amps the breaker trips because it’s saying to you, “Heavy (sp), you’re putting too much current on the circuit. You need to move some appliances around, turn off whatever you’re using because I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to trip and save your house.”
Now, for you to take that out and put a 30 amp breaker in there would let that wire heat up and potentially cause a fire. So the solution here is to try to figure out why it’s pulling more than 20 amps. And if you have a …
LESLIE: Yeah, did you just put in a new appliance? Have you changed something within the electrical system  of your house?
HEAVY (sp): Yeah, I did. I did. The lighting. I had fluorescent lights and then we put in these halogen tract lighting all the way through. And that even – they burn so hot it’s like it add heats. (chuckling)
TOM: Twenty amps is a heck of a lot of amps to pull out of a lighting circuit. I suspect that something else might be wrong here.
What you’re going to want to do is have an electrician  come in, put an amp probe on the circuit. They can do that from the panel. It basically hooks around the wire and it reads what – how much current’s going through it. And then turn all the lights on in the circuit. Everything you’ve got on that circuit turn it on all the way. See how much power you’re pulling. It’s also possible that there’s a short here somewhere that’s causing this to trip. But this is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. The solution is clearly not putting a bigger breaker in. That would just very dangerous.
HEAVY (sp): I was about to do something very stupid. (Tom and Leslie laugh) Thank you. (laughing)
TOM: Happy to help you, Heavy (sp). Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.