Your electrical panel can last about 35 years or so before it becomes outdated or worn out. Over time, the panel might not supply enough electricity and it can even become unsafe to operate. At this point, it’s time to upgrade or even replace it entirely.
What Is an Electrical Panel?
A large metal box, an electrical panel distributes power from utility lines directly into your home. It contains circuit breakers that control each individual circuit. Some circuits may serve specific rooms or types of appliances and devices. The breakers, which can trip if the circuit becomes overloaded, are lined up neatly and should be labeled to indicate the rooms or systems it powers.
Signs You Need an Electrical Panel Upgrade
If you haven't serviced your panel in a few decades, it may need to be replaced. There's no definitive expiration date. However, failing to address any issues can lead to shocks, burns, or fires. Schedule an upgrade if you notice:
- Burn Marks: If parts of your electrical panel, breakers, or bus bar have burns, chances are there's a problem with your wiring. Typically, burns occur when the insulation on wires breaks down, causing electrical arcs. The heat produced is high enough to start a fire and release burning odors. In addition to replacing your panel, electrical rewiring work may be needed to restore your safety and electrical system.
- Flickering Lights: Your service panel may be overwhelmed by the power draw if the lights flicker or dim when you use the microwave or plug in a vacuum cleaner or other device. It’s likely the panel is not rated for the power that’s being used. While 60 amps or 100 amps used to be sufficient, today’s panels usually support 200 amps. An underpowered panel is highly restrictive if you are adding new appliances, additional occupants are moving into your home, or you’re considering a remodel.
- Breaker Trips: Electrical panels have a built-in safety feature in which the circuit breakers trip if too much power runs through the system. If the breakers trip frequently, it can mean the panel doesn’t have the capacity that your home needs. It can also mean your panel is breaking down and malfunctioning. Call an electrician for an inspection as this can be a sign of a serious underlying problem.
You Have Fuses Instead of Circuit Breakers: Fuses are largely considered to be outdated technology. While they are technically just as safe as circuit breakers, fuses and fuse boxes should be inspected professionally if you have them. These are generally not rated for the power that modern breaker panels can handle. And they’re not grounded or protected against arc faults.
Another issue is that when fuses blow, they need to be replaced. You can’t turn them back on like a breaker switch. While some people install larger fuses to try to increase capacity, this can be dangerous. The safest update is to replace your fuse box with a modern electrical panel.
- Rust on Panel: Rust is a clear sign that your panel has water damage. Since water and electricity are a dangerous mix, you can be sure there is additional damage to your panel and wiring. The panel needs to be replaced. The source of the water damage must be found as well because a persistent leak will affect any upgrade that is installed and can lead to even more damage to your home.
Contact Express Electrical Services
If you have an outdated electrical panel or something that doesn’t seem right, contact us right away. Our professional electricians are trained to install the latest panels and sub-panels. They can relocate your breaker system during an electrical panel upgrade as well. In addition to servicing any electrical component, appliance, or device, we provide a full range of home safety services, including installing whole house surge protection. Call 323-727-7799 today to schedule Orange County electrical services or repair or maintenance in Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Irvine, or anywhere in Los Angeles County or Riverside County.