Your electrical panel is often equated to the heart of your electrical system. Just as your heart pumps blood through your brains so your body can function, your panel pumps electricity through your wires so your home can function. That’s why if your electrical panel experiences any issues, it is extremely important to get it replaced ASAP, for the safety and functionality of your entire house. Keep reading for the top ten signs it’s time to upgrade your electrical panel, courtesy of our experienced electricians at Lightning Bug Electric.
10 Reasons to Consider Replacing Your Electrical Panel
- Age: Like any important piece of equipment, your electrical panel is likely to experience wear and tear as it ages, and after years in use, it may simply not work as efficiently as it once did. However, there’s another important reason to take your panel’s age into account when considering whether to replace it. Between the 1950s and 1980s, many homes across the United States were built using Federal Pacific Electric and Zinsco brand panels. These types of electrical panels were later linked to fires and electrocutions, so if your home is more than a few decades old, it is an extremely good idea to have your panel inspected. And if you are using an FPE or Zinsco panel, make sure to have it replaced immediately.
- Flickering Lights: Flickering lights are one of the most common symptoms of electrical issues. While it is possible that you are just dealing with a faulty or loose bulb, lights that flicker on and off all the time are never a good sign. Watch out for flickering lights when you do something simple like use your microwave or plug in your toaster, as this can indicate that your panel is becoming overloaded by even simple tasks, and may therefore need to be replaced.
- Frequently Tripped Breakers: The purpose of your circuit breakers is to trip whenever the flow of electrical current to a given circuit is too much, thus preventing that circuit from overloading and damaging your equipment. While it is normal and even good for your breakers to trip occasionally, as that means they are doing their job, frequently tripped circuit breakers usually herald some kind of problem. Oftentimes, your breakers will start tripping more than normal because your panel is wearing down, and no longer able to provide adequate power to your appliances. While there could be other reasons your breakers are tripping, call an electrician to look at your electrical panel, as you don’t want to go on living with a panel that can’t supply your home with adequate electricity.
- Fuses: Theoretically, fuse boxes do the same thing as circuit breaker panels. But while fuses do stop your electrical circuit from overloading, they often take longer to work, and are therefore slightly less safe than circuit breakers. Moreover, every time you trip a fuse, you have to replace it, which is a major inconvenience. That’s why it is usually better to just upgrade to a circuit breaker panel if you are currently using a fuse box.
- Strange Sounds: The only sound that should come from your electrical panel is an occasional “pop” when your circuit breaker trips. However, if you hear a buzzing, crackling, or hissing sound coming from your panel, something could be seriously wrong with it. These noises may indicate bad wiring or a loose connection. Call an electrician promptly if you hear any sounds coming from your electrical panel, as this may mean you need panel rewiring or complete replacement.
- Burning Smells: A burning smell coming from electrical equipment is never a good sign, and a burning smell around your panel can be especially troubling. Typically, this odor usually means the plastic jacket around your panel or the wires behind it are melting. It is also possible that the wood and insulation in your walls has been singed. But whatever the cause is, it is important to call an electrical ASAP if you smell burning coming from your panel, as this leaving this problem unchecked could result in an electrical fire.
- Warmth: Almost as troubling as the smell of burning coming from your electrical panel is the sensation of heat when you put your hand up to it. If your panel is warm or hot to the touch, you’re probably dealing with a serious problem. Typically when your panel overheats, a circuit breaker should trip to prevent a fire. However, if your panel remains consistently warm, then it may be at the end of its lifespan, and in need of replacement.
- Lack of Power: Older panels may simply not be able to keep up with the needs of your modern electrical system. If you find that your breakers are frequently tripping or your lights keep flickering, it is probably due to a lack of power—and the best way to get the power you need is usually to upgrade your electrical panel. Granted, you can always just use a power strip or put in a dedicated circuit to be able to use more appliances. But these are pretty much temporary fixes, which may still result in your electrical system getting overloaded when all is said and done. This is especially true if you are undergoing…
- Home Renovations: If you are adding on to your home, or even installing a lot of new appliances, then you may need more power to compensate. While you can always install an additional circuit breaker box and connect it back to your main panel, if your home is going to consistently need more power in the future, you may just want to install a modern, more powerful electrical panel to meet your needs.
- Visible Damage: There are a number of reasons your electrical panel may experience external damage over time. If you have noticed something like rust on your panel, it is often because there is a leaky pipe nearby, and it has received water damage. If your panel is outside in your garage, it is possible for it to get dented by a car. Or maybe it’s in the basement, and something roughly knocked against it. The point is that when the outside of your panel is damaged, the inside can get damaged too, so it is always a good idea to call an electrician and see if you need an upgrade.