Do you need to Upgrade your Electrical Panel?
Your electric panel controls the electricity coming into your home from your power company and directs it to where it is needed through separate electric circuits. Each circuit is fitted with a breaker or fuse which trips to halt the flow of electricity if it exceeds a safe level.
There are four principal reasons for having your panel upgraded:
1. Your existing panel is over 20 years old or you have old style screw in fuses
2. Your power supply is insufficient to meet your need for electricity
3. You are renovating or remodeling your home
4. Your existing panel is exhibiting signs of a fault
Each of these is considered in more detail below.
Old Panel or Screw-type Fuses
If you have an old style panel with screw in fuses, it should be replaced. Although it may be working properly, these designs are now considered to be a fire hazard because the fuse can degrade and generate heat as the current flows through. In addition, panels do wear out with age and are damaged by humidity, and repeated heating and cooling. If your panel is more than 20 years old, it is unlikely to be able to handle sufficient power for today’s electrical needs. Panels under the brand names Zinsco and Federal Pacific were deemed unsafe by the Consumer Safety Institute in 2008.
These days our homes are hungry for power to run all the appliances and devices that are so much a part of contemporary living. Modern air conditioning systems use as much power as a whole house needed only a generation ago. Our parents and grandparents had far fewer kitchen appliances and didn’t have any of the computers, cell phones, games consoles or home cinema systems that we have today. If your electrical panel is only equipped for 100 amps, that is not sufficient to meet the demands of all these devices and you should consider upgrading to 200 amps for security and to meet future needs.
Renovating or Remodeling
Installing additional circuits to supply electricity to a new area of your home, a garage, workshop or hot tub, for example, may require an upgrade to your panel. If you are renovating an older home or remodeling a newer one, that provides an ideal opportunity for considering an upgrade to your electrical panel. It may not be the most glamorous aspect of a home make-over but it can make your home safer, better suited to modern lifestyles and add to its resale value.
If your electrical panel is emitting sparks, making a buzzing sound or getting hot to the touch, this is a sign of a serious fault in the panel and you should call a professional electrician as soon as possible. If your circuit breakers are repeatedly tripping and you are unable to identify a fault in an appliance or device or the breaker itself, this indicates a fault in your electrical panel or your wiring. Again, you should call in a professional to accurately diagnose the fault. If the panel is faulty, for the safety of your family and your home, an upgrade is warranted.
Working with electricity can be dangerous. If you want or need to upgrade you electrical panel, you should not attempt it as part of a DIY project. It is definitely a job that needs to be undertaken by professional licensed electricians, who can minimize the disruption to your daily life and ensure that the work is completed safely and in compliance with the relevant codes.