Electrical Panel Upgrades
As homes get older, their electrical panels have difficulty handling the increased power demands on the system. Individual circuit needs are not so much the issue, because our appliances, televisions, computers, HVAC systems, lights and other electrical gadgets are more energy efficient. However, we now have so many more devices that require power at the same time than ever before. How do you know if your home can keep pace with today’s electrical demands?
The electrical system is like your body’s circulatory system. The electrical panel is the heart, circulating the electricity through your home similar to circulating blood. To prevent a “heart attack” when there is too much electricity is demanded on a circuit, the electrical panel has “breaker” switches to stop electricity from overloading a circuit. When wiring gets overloaded, the electricity can set off a fire or smoke damage. To keep your home and family safe, the electrical panel is essential to governing the electricity in the system.
How Electrical Panels Work
There should be a meter box on the outside of your home. This is where the main power line from the electric provider company links to your home’s electrical system. The main power line runs directly to the “breaker box”, which is usually painted gray and located in a garage, utility room or basement. Inside the breaker box, the electrical panel looks like rows of switches. These switches distribute power to smaller branch lines. Some of the switches are doubled or tripled together because they are on larger circuits to power appliances such as HVAC systems and stoves that require more electricity. The breaker switches should be labeled with the locations of the outlets and the appliances connected. That label map should correspond to the numbers on the breaker switches. On each switch, there is a number for how many amps the branch circuit can carry until the breaker is tripped to turn off power to the line. In addition, there is a main power breaker that in extreme cases, such as a lightning strike, turns off power to the entire electrical system.
Electrical Panel Issues
The first signs of electrical panel issues are flickering lights or outlets that cannot handle more than one appliance without tripping a breaker switch. Older electrical panels might malfunction, but most electrical panels get overloaded circuits. Defective or malfunctioning electrical panels will trip breakers quite often, or they may fail to trip a breaker switch, which can cause fire, smoke and melted wires. That can be a dangerous safety hazard that should immediately be fixed by a licensed, general electrician.
Checking Your Electrical Panel
If your electrical panel is in a home that’s more than 25 years old, it should be properly inspected. Even a newer home in the 10-year-old range should have its entire electrical system inspected. These are some warning signs that your home might need a new electrical panel installed:
- The breaker switches have rust and corrosion.
- Crackling sounds come from the breaker box.
- It feels warm inside the breaker box.
- Appliances run slow, less than full power.
- Your home has old two-pronged outlets, not three-pronged grounded outlets.
- Frequent power surges.
- You often use extension cords, even inside the home.
- It is a home 25 years or older that has a 60-amp electrical service.
- The home has 100-amp electrical service, but some appliances still do not operate properly.
- Your older home has a fuse block panel or split-buss panel, which do not have a main breaker.
Defective Breaker Boxes
If your home is more than 25 years old, it could have a serious heart defect in its electrical system that needs to be repaired. Some electrical panels installed before 1990 are now known to have safety problems because of bad design flaws. Most electrical panels installed in the past 25 years are regarded safe, but they still may break without causing smoke or fires. If you think your home has one of the defective electrical panels described below, call Mr. Electric of Chattanooga immediately
Federal Pacific Electric Electrical Panel
Installed between 1950 and 1980, these defective panels can cause fires or shocks. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission classified this panel as a safety defect warranting a new electrical panel.
Zinsco Electrical Panel
In the mid-1970s, these panels were discontinued. If you are renovating a home older than 1980, they will need to be replaced. These are dangerous panels because their defective design allows power to flow even when the breakers are switched off. Zinsco electrical panels also are known to overheat, melting the breaker switches, causing burn scorch marks, or even catching fire. Replace them with a new electrical panel immediately.
Pushmatic Electrical Panel
These breaker boxes have weak breaker switches in them, and the older they are the harder they are to reset. More dangerously, the Pushmatic panels do not feature a main breaker switch to stop power into the panel. Replace these electrical panels with a modern panel from Mr. Electric of Chattanooga.
The oldest electrical panel in existance is actually called a fuse box, which can only handle 30-60 amps of power. Modern homes require at least 200 amps of power. A fuse box operates by the fuse literally breaking whenever there is a power overload, which requires to fuse to be replaced. Now most fuses cannot even be purchased or obtained. Fuse boxes are a huge fire and electrocution risk. Immediately contact Mr. Electric of Chattanooga to remove a fuse box and install an electrical panel with a breaker box. If a fuse box is still in your home, the wiring in the home may not be up to modern electrical code standards. Mr. Electric can do an assessment and determine how to re-wire the home properly.
Think Before Starting Renovations
Remember to assess how much additional power your home will require if you are making a renovation or major improvement. Your home may need an additional breaker box or expanded electrical panel if you are making room additions, kitchen remodels and adding major appliances such as heating & air conditioning systems, hot tubs, double ovens, garage door openers, and outdoor lights. The electrical system may need more modern outlets, or special 240-volt circuits, or a sub-panel for a hot tub or power generator. It makes sense that if your body adds a few pounds of muscle, your heart will have to pump harder. The same concept goes for your home’s electrical system. Mr. Electric can do a power assessment for you.
Your Home’s New Electric Life
Contact Mr. Electric of Chattanooga for a home electrical inspection whenever you notice one or more of the symptoms listed above. Our licensed electricians will measure how much power is being used on the circuits, and they will inspect the electrical panel to ensure it’s safe. If the electrical panel is old, not working properly, or should be expanded, our electricians can install a new breaker box and panel that will exceed state and local regulations. Mr. Electric of Chattanooga has installed electrical panels in homes throughout the southeast Tennessee and northern Georgia area, including Chattanooga, Collegedale, East Brainerd, Harrison, Hixson, Lakesite, Middle Valley, Ooltewah, Ringgold, Rossville, Signal Mountain and Soddy Daisy. Call Mr. Electric today to schedule an appointment – we have the power to make things better!