Your electrical panel is the brain, heart and lungs of your home – all wrapped into one. Because it is so important to the operation and safety of your home, it’s important that it’s operating properly and in accordance with the current residential electrical code.
Your electrical panel regulates the electricity coming in from your utility company and then sends it back out into the appliances and outlets in your home. If too much electricity is demanded from the home, 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.
Older electrical panels were not designed to keep up with the increased electrical demands of a modern home. Many panels were installed at a time when the only electricity needed was to power a handful of lights. Unfortunately, older electrical panels 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.
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.
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.
If you’re reading this page, it means that you’re wondering about the status of your electrical panel, which means it’s time for a checkup. If your electrical panel is more than 25 years old, you should have it inspected as soon as possible.
If any of the following are true, it may be time for you to install a new panel:
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.
The following panels need to be replaced immediately:
If you’re thinking about making a major improvement to your home, it’s the perfect time 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.
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.
Of course! Your neighborhood electricians at WIREONE are standing by and ready to serve you. Give us a call 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.
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