What Is an Electrical Panel?
The electrical panel is among the most vital components of your home, as it is responsible for the comfort and convenience you get from electricity. It is the device that delivers power throughout the house.
Your home’s breaker panel, therefore, has a significant impact on your bills, convenience, and even the health and safety of your loved ones. But it is also sensitive to technological upgrades and can easily become outdated. This can compromise its ability to serve your electrical needs effectively. If you do not have a modern electrical box, you should consider having a professional residential electrician upgrade the panel so that it is up-to-date with today’s standards.
The electrical panel is the central point that connects the wires outside your property to the wires inside and it is what electric service providers use to provide electricity to your house. It also goes by the names distribution panel, fuse box, main breaker box, breaker panel, and load center. It is the device you go to when you have to flip the breaker off and on so that the power can come back on after the breaker trips. It is typically located in the garage or utility room.
In the past, a 60 amp panel was enough to serve most home’s electrical needs. Today, however, a 100 amp panel would not even be enough to meet the needs of a typical home. This is because modern households are full of devices that require electricity in order to run. This increases the capabilities we require from our breaker panels. An old, malfunctioning panel is likely to put your family in danger. The amount of stress put on older panels by today’s devices makes them prone to sparking and can lead to fires. As such, it is important to ensure that you are using an up-to-date panel.
Some signs that you may need to change or upgrade your electrical box include:
- You Still Have a Fuse Box
If you still rely on traditional panels that have fuses – typical of homes built before the 1960 – you should consider upgrading to a modern panel with circuit breakers. Fuses usually burn out and need to be replaced while circuit breakers can be reset with the flip of a switch.
- Your Home is Over 20 Years Old
If your home is over two decades old, you may need an upgrade. This is because older homes tend to have panels that are between 60 and 100 amps. To meet our current lifestyles, panels typically need to be 200 amps or over. Our electricity needs today are greater than before due to modern appliances such as smart TVs and refrigerators, computers, and more.
- Your Panel is Warm
If your electrical box feels warm to the touch, it might be an indication that the panel is improperly installed, overloaded, or defective.
- It Gives Off a Burning Smell
If your breaker panel is giving off a burning smell, it could be an indication that either there is an improperly connected wire or a malfunctioning circuit breaker. Both are warning signs of a potential electrical hazard and should be inspected by a professional electrician immediately.
- Your Panel Trips Regularly
If you find your panel tripping often or consistently making a crackling sound, it might be about time that you replaced it. Circuit boxes often trip when you plug too many devices or appliances into a circuit that cannot provide as much power as they need. Cutting off power or ‘tripping’ is a safety measure that prevents the wires from overheating. In this case, however, you might find that you only need to replace the breaker and not the whole panel.
- Your Appliances Are Not Running at Full Capacity
If your home appliances are not running at full capacity, you could be looking at a case of a faulty panel or overloaded circuits. However, if that is not the case, then it could be that your panel is outdated and thus cannot handle the load that your appliances require.
- Your Lights are Dimming and Flickering Constantly
The frequent dimming or flickering of lights, especially when you are using appliances, is an indication of an overloaded or failing panel.
- You are About to Buy New Appliances or Upgrade Existing Ones
If you are about to do a major appliance upgrade, first ask your electrician to check out your breaker box to ensure that it can handle the new load.
Apart from solving a number of problems, upgrading your panel offers you the following benefits:
• Less need for extension cords
Extension cords are meant to be used for short periods only. As such, if you find yourself using extension cords all over your house, you should consider a panel upgrade. A panel upgrade will allow you to use less electrical cords. This further lessens the risk of a fire.
• Save Money
Modern panels are designed to use energy more efficiently. As such, you may see significant savings on your electricity bills.
• Increase Home Value
An electric box upgrade increases the overall value of your house. Additionally, it is more attractive to modern buyers than a home that still uses traditional systems.
Modern breaker panels are designed to last a long time – up to 40 years. Nevertheless, you need to perform regular maintenance to get the most out of your panel.
Electrical panels are one of the most under-appreciated utilities in our homes. A malfunctioning electrical panel not only poses a risk to your appliances but is also a threat to the safety of your loved ones. As such, if your panel exhibits any of the warning signs discussed here, it is important that you contact a reliable local residential electrician so they can determine whether you need an upgrade.