Electrical Panel Upgrades
Your electrical panel regulates the electricity coursing through your home. If too much electricity is demanded on a circuit, a circuit breaker is tripped in the electrical panel to stop the electricity from overloading the wiring. An overload can cause a fire, so it’s the job of the electrical panel to break the circuit and regulate the electricity in the system to keep your home and family safe.
Unfortunately, as your home gets older, the electrical panel could have a hard time keeping up with the increased electrical demands on the system. Your appliances, televisions, computers, HVAC systems, lights and other electrical gadgets are increasingly energy efficient, but the average modern household uses more gadgets than ever before. If your home is more than 10 years old, your electrical system may not be able to keep up with your electrical demand. How do you know for sure?
How an Electrical Panel Works
The main power line from your electric company connects directly to a power meter on the outside of your home. Then the line goes directly to the electrical panel. You can usually find your home’s electrical panel in a garage, utility room, closet or basement. It’s usually painted gray.
When you look inside the electrical panel, you will see rows of switches. These are the circuit breakers that distribute the main power line into smaller branch lines. Some of the switches are doubled or tripled together because they power appliances that require large electricity loads, such as air conditioners and electric dryers. Inside the electrical panel door there should be a label that maps out the locations of the outlets and appliances according to the numbers on the switches. The switches also have numbers on them that tell you how many amps the branch line can carry before the breaker switch is tripped. The electrical panel also has a main power breaker that can turn off power to the whole system.
Symptoms of Sick Electrical Panels
Old electrical panels can malfunction, but most of the time the problem stems from overloaded circuits. At first you might notice flickering lights or you might have to turn off an appliance in order to use another plugged into the same circuit. But if the panel is malfunctioning or defective, the breakers will trip often, or they will fail to trip and someone might be shocked. In the worst case, a breaker that fails to trip may cause fire, smoke and melted wires from overheating.
Checking Your Electrical Panel
Your electrical panel needs a checkup, especially if it’s more than 25 years old. Here are the signs to look for to see if you might need a new electrical panel:
- You hear crackling sounds from the electrical panel.
- You see corrosion and rust on the circuit breakers.
- The interior of the electrical panel feels warm.
- Appliances are running at less than full power.
- Outlets near water sources – such as sinks, tubs, dishwashers and clothes washers – are not GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters). These outlets stop the electricity if an appliance comes into contact with water, preventing electrocution.
- You’re always using extension cords.
- Your home has a 60-amp electrical service.
- Your home has 100-amp electrical service, but it still can’t operate some appliances.
- Your older home has a fuse block panel or split-bus panel, which do not have a main breaker.
Watch Out for These Specific Bad Electrical Panels
Your home’s electrical panel might have a serious defect if it’s more than 25 years old, because there are some electrical panels from that era that have known safety issues due to poor design. Electrical panels installed after 1990 are generally well designed and safe.
Contact Mr. Electric right away to replace the following types of defective panels:
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Electrical Panel
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission classified this panel as a safety defect warranting a new electrical panel. These panels, installed in homes between 1950 and 1980, have design and manufacturing defects that can cause fires and electric shocks.
Zinsco Electrical Panel
Thankfully, Zinsco panels were taken off the market in the mid-1970s. They have a defective design that allows power to flow even when the breakers are switched off. Breaker switches also melt, which basically renders them useless. Zinsco electrical panels pose fire and shock hazards. Replace them with a new electrical panel immediately.
Pushmatic Electrical Panel
Pushmatic panels have weak breaker switches that get harder to reset over time. They also do not have a main breaker switch to stop all power from flowing into the panel. Mr. Electric recommends that Pushmatic panels be replaced with better functioning panels.
The oldest type of electrical panel is actually called a fuse box. Today’s homes require up to 200 amps of power or more. Fuse boxes can only handle 30-60 amps. Back in the day, every time a glass fuse broke, it had to be replaced. You can’t even get fuses for many fuse boxes anymore. That’s because these outdated systems are a huge fire and electrocution risk. Immediately contact Mr. Electric to replace your fuse box with a modern electrical panel. We can also assess whether the wiring in the home is sufficient and up to modern electrical codes. Chances are, it’s not – but we can help fix that too.
A Word About Renovations
If you’re thinking about making a major improvement to your home, don’t forget to assess the additional power that you will need. Room additions, kitchen remodels and major appliances such as heating and air conditioning systems, hot tubs, double ovens, garage door openers and outdoor lights all may require an expanded electrical panel. You may have to add outlets to a wall or special 240-volt circuits or a sub-panel for a generator.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace an Electrical Panel?
Electrical panel upgrade projects are priced individually because the price depends on three major factors:
- Location – Each Mr. Electric is independently owned, and each owner sets their own rates.
- Scope of the project – The cost of your electrical panel replacement will vary based on what you need done. The price to replace an old fuse box with a modern electrical panel will be far greater than installing a small secondary electrical panel for a generator.
- Site conditions – If the existing wiring, conduits or installation site need work before a safe panel replacement can be completed, the price of the electrical panel upgrade will increase.
Should I Upgrade or Repair My Electrical Panel?
In some cases, we’re able to repair your existing electrical panel rather than upgrade to a new system. Our electricians will determine whether your panel is a candidate for repair after they’ve had a chance to assess the current system and your household energy demands. Some key factors to determining electrical panel repair vs. replacement include the age of the electrical panel, reliability and safety.
- Circuit breaker replacement
- Circuit breaker installation and upgrades
- Rewiring the electrical panel
- Bus bar replacement
- Relocating electrical panel due to moisture or other concerns
Your Home’s New Lease on Life
Call Mr. Electric at (844) 866-1367 today for a home electrical inspection. We’ll measure how much power is being used on the circuits, and we’ll thoroughly check the electrical panel to make sure it’s safe. If it’s not working properly or it needs to be expanded, our professional electricians can install a new panel that will exceed your state and local regulations. Keep your home’s power system in great shape and keep your family and property safe with a healthy electrical panel.