Replacing or upgrading your home’s main electrical panel is something you’ll need to do eventually. Upgrading to a new electrical panel will lessen the risk of electrical fires and make your home safer. Newer electrical panels are more energy efficient, which means that replacing the panel in your home is also an easy way to save money on your electrical bills. Today, we’re going to look at some of the signs that can help you know if you need to replace or upgrade the electrical panel in your home and also the benefits that a new panel can provide.
Panel Has Fuses Instead of Circuit Breakers
Circuit breaker panels have been the standard in the electrical industry since the 1960s. If the electrical panel in your home has fuses instead of circuit breakers, it means your electrical system is extremely out of date and you should upgrade to a new circuit breaker panel as soon as possible. There is also a good chance that at least some of the circuits or possibly your entire home will need to be rewired because many of the wires are probably severely degraded.
Both fuses and circuit breakers serve the same purpose and will automatically cut off power to the circuit if there is ever too much power flowing through it. This prevents the circuit from getting overloaded. Overloaded circuits are a major hazard since this issue can easily start an electrical blaze. When too much power flows through the wiring in one circuit, it causes the wires to instantly heat up and potentially catch fire.
Circuit breakers are much more convenient as they can easily be reset any time they trip. If you have fuses and a circuit is ever overloaded, the fuse will burn out and need to be replaced. Nonetheless, the main reason that you should replace a fuse panel is that circuit breakers are much safer and less likely to catch fire. Fuses don’t always work as they should and will sometimes fail so that power keeps flowing through the overloaded circuit, greatly increasing the chances of a conflagration. Circuit breakers can also be tested to ensure they are still working, which isn’t possible with fuses.
Electrical Panel Is More Than 25 Years Old
Most experts recommend replacing your electrical panel every 25 years or so. The National Electric Code was updated in 2008 so that almost all circuits in new homes are required to be controlled by an AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) circuit breaker. An arc fault can occur due to damaged or faulty wiring or loose electrical connections that cause the electricity to “arc” or jump across the wires. When the current discharges across the wires, it generates a huge amount of heat that can melt the insulation on the wiring and easily start a fire. The current can also arc across to your body causing severe electrical shock or even electrocution.
Standard circuit breakers typically can’t detect an arc fault and will fail to trip, whereas an AFCI breaker will always detect if an arc fault occurs and instantly shut off the electrical flow to the circuit to decrease the risk of a major electrical fire. In new homes, AFCI circuit breakers are required for virtually all circuits except those that supply power to a garage, bathroom, or area outside the house. You’re not required to upgrade your electrical system to meet the new code requirements unless you’re renovating your home. Nonetheless, upgrading your electrical panel and installing AFCI circuit breakers is still a good idea as it will make your home much safer.
Electrical Panel Only Provides 60-Amp Service
The electrical needs of a home have greatly increased over time. The electrical panels in homes used to only provide 60-amp service, which was generally more than sufficient to meet all of the house’s electrical needs without overloading the system and tripping the main 60-amp breaker. Modern appliances like air conditioners draw more and would typically overload a 60-amp panel. Upgrading from 60-amp to 100- or 200-amp service is important for ensuring that there is plenty of power to run everything in your home at one time without ever overloading the electrical system and tripping the main breaker.
Lights Often Flicker or Dim
Many people have issues where some of the lights in their home frequently flicker when the air conditioning comes on or any time they run the vacuum or use the microwave. If you notice this issue, it is usually a sign that your electrical panel isn’t sufficient to meet all of your home’s power requirements, and you may need to upgrade to a higher-amp panel. How much available power there is in the home is determined by how many amps the electrical panel can provide. If you have a lower amp panel, a high-power appliance will draw so much current that it temporarily takes power away from other things, often causing the lights to dim or flicker for a short time.
A 100-amp panel is sufficient for some homes, but many homes these days use so much power that they’re better off having 200-amp service. For instance, if you have an electric water heater, electric baseboard heating, central air conditioning, or other appliance that uses lots of electricity, you’re always better to have 200-amp service. Upgrading to a 200-amp panel is also typically necessary if you want to install a hot tub, an EV charging station, or solar panels.
Electrical Panel Feels Hot
It’s always a good idea to regularly inspect the condition of your home’s electrical panel. If the panel feels hot, you should immediately shut off the main breaker and then call to have an electrician inspect the panel. This is usually a sign that the panel is faulty, so we would always recommend replacing it in this situation.
Rust, Smoke, or Burn Marks on the Panel
You’ll also want to regularly check your electrical panels to see if any of the circuit breakers are rusty, and make sure you don’t see any smoke or burn marks. Rust can prevent the circuit breakers from tripping as they should, and any rusty breakers should be replaced as soon as possible. When replacing the breaker, an electrician will always inspect the panel to determine if it needs to be replaced as well. Smoke or burn marks are a sure sign that the panel needs to be changed out. They indicate that it gets too hot at times, which means there is a major risk of it catching fire.
Circuit Breakers Trip Frequently
If the circuit breakers in your electrical panel trip often, it’s usually a sign that the existing panel isn’t powerful enough and your electrical system is frequently overloaded. In this case, you’ll definitely want to upgrade to a higher-amp panel to ensure that there is always sufficient service to power whatever you need without overloading your electrical system.
At Childers Air Plumbing & Electric, we specialize in electrical panel upgrades and a full range of electrical services, including rewiring, surge protection, and all types of electrical repairs and installations. We have been providing exceptional electrical services to customers in the Beckley area since 1951, and we also offer reliable plumbing, heating, and air conditioning services. If you need to have your electrical panel inspected or replaced, give us a call today, and we’ll be happy to help.