Signs You Need To Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
When was the last time you thought about your home’s electrical panel? Unless you’ve recently had to reset a tripped breaker, it’s probably been a while. Your electrical panel is the unsung hero of your home. Without it, you’d have no power. Or, perhaps more accurately, you wouldn’t be able to get electricity safely. That’s because your panel plays a crucial role in protecting your home from a wide variety of dangers.
However, just like everything else in your home, nothing lasts forever. Your electrical panel may not appear to be faulty, or even be showing signs of wear-and-tear. But, there’s a chance it’s not keeping up with what your home needs. In this article, we’ll review why electrical panels need to be upgraded, how to know if yours needs to be replaced, and the potential signs of trouble that should prompt you to call our electricians.
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Why do electrical panels need to be upgraded?
As homeowners, our relationship with electricity has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. Today’s homes use far more electricity than ever before. From charging smartphones to running smart home devices, there’s no shortage of demand for electricity. That puts more figurative pressure on each circuit—and can actually start to push past the point the circuit was originally designed to handle.
First, let’s discuss how circuit breakers work. Essentially, the circuit breaker intervenes and “flips” when it senses the circuit is overloaded and getting too hot. This cuts the power to the circuit, allowing it to cool. This is an essential safety feature, as a hot circuit can start to burn or even catch on fire. Before the days of circuit breakers, home fires were a lot more common.
However, circuit breakers are not invincible. If the breaker in the panel malfunctions, you—as the homeowner—may have little warning that you’re overloading the circuit. As a result, you and your home are at risk of a fire.
How do I know if my panel needs to be replace
Let’s start with just the age of the panel. If your home was built between 1950 and 1980, and you’ve never had the panel replaced in that time, you’re probably overdue. Many homes still feature electric panels that were later found to be faulty. This includes panels manufactured by both Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) and Zinsco, which the Consumer Product Safety Commission has now deemed as potentially dangerous to homes. Due to manufacturing issues, these panels and their breakers can experience abrupt or unexpected failures.
So, start by checking your panel. If your panel is old, or is an FPE / Zinsco panel, you should give us a call right away and have our electricians take a closer look at it and determine if it’s providing adequate protection to you and your family.
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Other problems: fuses and split-bus panels
If your home still has a fuse box, you’re well-past the point of upgrading! Once the standard for homes prior to the 1960s, fuse boxes are now incredibly out-of-date, and cannot adequately keep up with your home’s electrical needs. Our electricians often see clear signs of danger when working with fuse boxes, such as incorrect replacement fuses or even jury-rigged methods of getting around the blown fuse—a major fire hazard.
Also check that your home doesn’t have something called a split-bus panel. As its name suggests, this is where the panel is divided into two breakers instead of having one primary breaker. This was sometimes used for duplex homes, but what often ended up happening is that both breakers were insufficient to protect either property. In many cases, they’d actually end up melting due to the electrical overload placed on them!
If your home features either a fuse box or a split-bus panel, you’ll want to give us a call right away. There’s a good chance that your electrical panel is not safe, and replacing it as soon as possible could quite possibly save your home.
What are the signs I need a new panel?
Here are just a few of the signs you might need a new panel installed in your home.
Constantly tripping breakers
If you have to go reset the breaker every time you use the hairdryer, that’s not just an inconvenience. It’s your warning sign that you’re overloading the circuit. If this is happening to you, you’ll need our electricians to upgrade the circuit to accommodate a larger electrical load. This will both stop the issue with the tripped breakers and ensure that the outlet is getting safe, reliable power.
You see dimming lights
Do your lights dim when your air conditioner turns on? If so, you’re getting a critical sign that the circuit is overloaded—and, potentially, a warning sign that the circuit breaker is not functioning as it should. Document which appliances are causing your lights to dim, and then call our electricians so we can help you diagnose the cause and how to fix it.
Inadequate surge protection
Most people associate “power surges” with lightning strikes. But, direct-hit lightning strikes to your home are incredibly rare. Smaller yet still potent power surges are far more common. Here’s what happens: your air conditioner kicks on, sending a small power surge throughout your home to your other appliances, your television, and your computer. Over time, these surges start to damage their internal circuitry, leading to their premature failure.
Our homes just weren’t built with this level of surge protection in mind. There’s a reason for that: it used to be that appliances were pretty well protected against power surges. However, as more delicate computer circuitry has found its way into our dishwashers, dryers, microwaves, ovens, and refrigerators, they’ve become more vulnerable to power surges. Just like your computer or laptop, you’ll need to protect them from surges.
So, what’s the answer? Well, for starters, you should have our electricians install a whole-home surge protector as part of your electrical panel upgrade. This helps protect your home from all kinds of electrical surges. Then, for added protection, you should use localized surge protectors at outlets with your most critical appliances and devices, including your range, refrigerator, and home computer.
You’re installing a hot tub
Hot tubs require a significant amount of electricity to operate. As a result, you’ll typically need one of our electricians to install a subpanel, specifically for the hot tub’s circuit. This allows a powerful circuit with its own breaker to be run out to the hot tub.
Talk to our team
Never try to tackle your own electrical repairs or upgrades. Always work with a licensed, qualified electrician, like the experts on our team. We’re here to help you with all of your electrical projects, including panel replacement.
If you think your panel might be out-of-date, has faulty circuit breakers, or just needs to be upgraded to match your home’s electrical needs, talk to us.
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