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If I use tungsten hot lights for a video in a private residence (specifically a condo unit) in Canada, how concerned should I be with tripping the circuit breaker?

The specific light kit I am considering is the Lowel DP kit (3 lights).

Is there a way to find out how much wattage each circuit can handle without hiring an electrician?

Would it make it safer if I plugged each light into different outlets?

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  • Electrical standards and codes vary from one location to the next. In what country/locality are you interested? – Michael C Apr 9 '19 at 5:43
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    This seems off topic to me. Partly because it's about video (#pedantry), but more to the point, this is a question about household wiring, not so much about photography or videography. Would this be better suited to diy.SE? – Gern Blanston Apr 9 '19 at 13:28
  • @MichaelC I'm in Canada. I think it should be very similar to the US. – juil Apr 10 '19 at 4:10
  • @GernBlanston I guess I was hoping someone with experience using high wattage lights specifically would have some practical experience or advice. – juil Apr 10 '19 at 4:13
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it really has nothing to do with photography. – Blrfl Apr 10 '19 at 12:31
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A typical home circuit has a 15 amp breaker. At 120 volts, that's 1800 watts.

Different outlets may help, but generally outlets in the same room (or even adjacent rooms) are on the same circuit. (And overhead lights and appliances may also be on that same circuit.)

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    That may apply to the US, it certainly doesn't in the UK. We need the OP's location before we can give any answers at all. – Tetsujin Apr 9 '19 at 7:35
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    This is also US-specific, but: if you're in the vicinity of a kitchen, the dishwasher and garbage disposal are typically on a dedicated 20 amp circuit (and those are appliances that can be easily/harmlessly disabled for the duration). – junkyardsparkle Apr 9 '19 at 22:44
  • This is in Canada. I have edited the question. – juil Apr 10 '19 at 4:10
  • If memory serves me correctly, each receptacle on a kitchen outlet are also on separate circuits, so plugging into the top and bottom receptacle on the same outlet will put you on separate circuits. (Note, a separate outlet in the same kitchen will still use the same circuits as the other one). – Robin Apr 16 '19 at 20:19
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You should be concerned because if you trip a breaker, sometimes things like clocks and TV settop boxes are disrupted. The typical household wall outlet allows for a maximum loading of 15 amps however some circuits may accept a 20 amp load. To calculate for the USA, assume a voltage of 117V. Add up the wattage ratting of each lamp to get the total watts. Say your total is 1500 watts. Now divide 1500 by 117 = 12.8. Now you know the amperage draw will be 12.8 amps. Watts divided by voltage = amps.

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Would it make it safer if I plugged each light into different outlets?

If by safer, you mean fire-hazard, life safety, then: assuming the house is wired according to the Canada Electric Code (or fairly equivalently for these purposes, the US National Electric Code), and assuming the lights are not sketchy products (i.e., UL listed, in good condition), then you don't really need to worry about safety in this regard. You might overload a circuit, but you won't actually cause a safety problem.

However, if by safer you mean the broader sense of not wanting to cause any issues at the shoot location, then you are right to be concerned. Alan Marcus's answer is spot on — it's possible you could cause incidental property damage to sensitive electronics.

You could try to plug into different outlets, but that won't matter if the other outlets are also on the same circuit breaker.

In order to determine what outlets are on which circuit breakers, you need a circuit breaker finder, which consists of 2 devices: a plug-in sender unit, and a non-contact sensor unit. You plug the sender unit into a wall outlet, and then at the circuit panel you wave the sensor over the circuit breakers, stopping over the breaker where the sensor squeals loudest. You have just identified what circuit the outlet is on. Go back to the outlet, remove the sender unit, and plug it in to a different outlet. Go back to the breaker panel, wash, rinse, repeat.

I used to set up 4–16 "PAR can" stage lights for a bar band (in addition to sound gear and amps). We used to blow breakers all the time at some bars (their outlet situation was notoriously bad) before I committed to mapping out which outlets went to which circuit breakers using a circuit breaker finder, so I could spread the load. We quickly got a reputation for being the band that knew what they were doing and were responsible and conscientious contractors at the venues. We were professional, and always got callbacks.

Based on my experience, at 3/4 to full power, your light kits will definitely blow a 15A breaker, and probably a 20A at full power. Plan ahead. Also, plan for heavy duty extension cords (25 ft each), and gaffer tape to secure the cords to the floor, so an accidental trip won't knock over a light, damage property, or possibly even start a fire.

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It's unclear from the link whether the 3-light kit draws 1000W per light or 1000W per kit. Let's assume the worst, 1000W per light, 3KW total. This is well within the capability of a domestic power outlet.

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