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Don't take your power needs for granted, or you may starve your tools

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Save your tools, know your required amperage

Save your tools, know your required amperage

Shop wiring requirements can vary widely, depending on the type of projects you tackle. If your hobby is building radio-controlled airplanes, you may need a single convenience outlet for a soldering iron. But if you're into woodworking, you'll need some serious amperage to simultaneously run a tablesaw and dust-collection system. And if cars are your passion, you may have a large air compressor and welding rig that demand wiring on nearly an industrial scale.

But no matter your requirements, one thing's for certain: You can't starve a power tool and expect it to last. When you don't provide a motor with enough power, it runs inefficiently, tempting you to push it harder to get the job done. That further overheats the motor, and you're quickly way beyond the tool's designed operating range.

At that point, several things can happen, and none of them are good. If you blow a circuit breaker, that's a dead giveaway that the circuit is trying to deliver more amperage than it can handle. By resetting the breaker, you continue torturing the tool for a while, but it doesn't solve the problem. In severe overheating conditions, you may burn the insulation off the motor's windings or fry another component. Either way, you'll have a dead tool. If things really go wrong, you could start a fire.

Continued on page 2:  Determine your power requirements


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