Issues Requiring an Electrical Panel Upgrade in Your Los Angeles Home
If you have an old panel that is failing or has fuses instead of breakers, one manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific, have run out of space to add new circuits or have a panel that can’t handle 200 amps, it is time for an electrical panel upgrade in your Los Angeles home.
To consider some of these issues in more depth, you need to understand what your panel does and how it functions.
Your electrical panel controls the flow of electricity from the power company into your home and then controls the flow to each of the individual circuits that power your lights, kitchen appliances, TV etc.
Located at the top of the panel is the main breaker. This acts as a master switch, enabling all power to be cut in case of emergency and protecting all the circuits from overloading. The main breaker is marked with a number such as ’100′, ’150′, ’200′ or higher which denotes its capacity in amps.
The next component in your panel is the hot bus. It is made up of two copper or aluminum strips set vertically in the center of the panel. Breakers for each individual circuit connect to the hot bus bar. Single pole breakers are connected to one bar and provide 120V while double pole breakers are fixed to both bus bars and deliver 240V, which is needed by your air conditioning, stove or other heavy duty appliance.
Electricity flows into your home, through the main breaker and into the appropriate circuit when you switch on a light or start up an appliance. The electricity returns through the neutral wire which connects to the neutral bus bar in your panel. This is an aluminum strip located at the outer edge of the panel. The grounding wire for your home may be attached to a separate grounding bar or directly to the neutral bar.
Common problems with older panels include degraded connections. If a breaker has overheated it can damage the bus bar and fail to conduct electricity efficiently. Rust and corrosion resulting from the ingress of moisture, or paint dripped into the panel can also cause faults. These situations require remedial action. Panels made by Zinsco and Federal Pacific were declared unsafe by the Consumer Safety Institute in 2008 because the breakers do not always trip when the circuita are overloaded. Such panels should be replaced.
Older style panels were fitted with fuses rather than breakers. Some insurance companies are unwilling to provide cover for homes with a fuse panel because breakers offer greater safety. The problem with fuse panels is that many people replace a blown 15 amp fuse with a 20 amp or 25 amp one. This means that the wire is now the weakest part of the circuit instead of the fuse. An overheated wire increases the risk of fire where it is in contact with any wooden structure or other flammable material.
Need for Additional Capacity
A generation ago, our need for electricity was much less than it is now. A modern air conditioning system and kitchen appliances use as much or more electricity than a whole house used to. An average home needs a supply of at least 200 amps to power all the devices that form part of today’s lifestyle. Installing additional outlets in rooms where you don’t have enough helps reduce your need for extension cords but does not give you access to any more power. The way to achieve that is to have a new panel fitted with greater capacity.
If your Los Angeles home is experiencing any of the issues set out here, then you need an electrical panel upgrade. Consult a licensed electrical contractor for the best solution suited to your needs. Making sure the main power supply to your home is safe is definitely a job for the professionals.
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