5 Signs it’s Time to Upgrade Your Home’s Electrical Panel

Your home’s electrical service panel consists of a series of circuit breakers and fuses that allow you to control all the electrical components of your home. The electrical panel divides all the electrical power into different circuits, each of which is protected by a circuit breaker.

Circuit breakers can be quite fickle and sensitive to various factors. Here are five signs that your home’s electrical service panel might need an upgrade.

1. Faulty wiring issues

Faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of residential fires in the United States. The risk of a fire caused by faulty wiring dramatically increases based on how old your house is. Older wiring may not meet code, and wire insulation and other materials tend to deteriorate over time. Have a professional electrician inspect the wiring in your electrical panel and throughout your home. Warning signs of faulty wiring include:

  • Flickering or dimming lights
  • Slight shock or tingling sensation when you touch appliances
  • A persistent burning smell
  • Sparking or discolored power outlets

2. Installing new appliances

We’re not talking about a new blender or toaster here. If you plan on installing a new hot tub, air conditioner, refrigerator, or other machine that consumes lots of energy, your electrical panel may not have enough power to keep those appliances going.

Standard electrical panels provide 100, 150, 200, and 400 amps of power. Anything less than that is actually illegal. If your amps don’t meet your electrical needs, your circuit breakers will trip any time you try to turn on that air conditioner or hot tub, so it’s a good idea to upgrade to a higher amperage. This also applies to any large remodeling projects (e.g. adding a new room or story).

3. Replacing fuses with circuit breakers

Fuses and circuit breakers both essentially perform the same function: they prevent short circuit or overload by disrupting (or breaking) electrical currents that channel to any connected devices. Fuses, however, are one-time use. When they detect that a current is running at too high of a level, the fuse will melt, interrupting the flow of electricity. Circuit breakers simply have to be reset.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with fuses, they are outdated; designed for an age when homes didn’t have so many things plugged into the electrical outlets. These days, fuses can actually pose a fire hazard, and many insurance companies will actually refuse to insure homes that still use fuses.

4. Excessive use of extension cords and power strips

If you find yourself plugging nearly everything into one power outlet via power strips and extension cords, it’s a good idea to upgrade your electrical panel. You can allow each circuit to run straight from the panel or install a new electrical outlet and circuit, minimizing the fire hazard.

5. Planning ahead

Who knows the types of devices and appliances we’ll be using ten or twenty years from now? If you’re already remodeling or upgrading your home, it’s a good idea to invest in some quality wiring, namely structured wiring, which consists of heavy-duty cables that enable the latest features in all your electrical devices. Structured wiring will also increase your home’s value.

If you do plan to upgrade your electrical service panel, make sure you contact a licensed professional electrician to do all of the electrical work.  Call Ideal Electrical Services to schedule your free panel upgrade estimate (619) 583-7963.

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