Your electrical panel regulates the electricity coursing through your home. If too much electricity is demanded on a circuit, a circuit breaker is tripped in the electrical panel to stop the electricity from overloading the wiring. An overload can cause a fire, so it’s the job of the electrical panel to break the circuit and regulate the electricity in the system to keep your home and family safe.
Unfortunately, as your home gets older, the electrical panel could have a hard time keeping up with the increased electrical demands on the system. Your appliances, televisions, computers, HVAC systems, lights and other electrical gadgets are increasingly energy efficient, but the average modern household uses more gadgets than ever before. If your home is more than 10 years old, your electrical system may not be able to keep up with your electrical demand. How do you know for sure?
How an Electrical Panel Works
The main power line from your electric company connects directly to a power meter on the outside of your home. Then the line goes directly to the electrical panel. You can usually find your home’s electrical panel in a garage, utility room, closet or basement. It’s usually painted gray.
When you look inside the electrical panel, you will see rows of switches. These are the circuit breakers that distribute the main power line into smaller branch lines. Some of the switches are doubled or tripled together because they power appliances that require large electricity loads, such as air conditioners and electric dryers. Inside the electrical panel door there should be a label that maps out the locations of the outlets and appliances according to the numbers on the switches. The switches also have numbers on them that tell you how many amps the branch line can carry before the breaker switch is tripped. The electrical panel also has a main power breaker that can turn off power to the whole system.
Symptoms of Sick Electrical Panels
Old electrical panels can malfunction, but most of the time the problem stems from overloaded circuits. At first you might notice flickering lights or you might have to turn off an appliance in order to use another plugged into the same circuit. But if the panel is malfunctioning or defective, the breakers will trip often, or they will fail to trip and someone might be shocked. In the worst case, a breaker that fails to trip may cause fire, smoke and melted wires from overheating.
Checking Your Electrical Panel
Your electrical panel needs a checkup, especially if it’s more than 25 years old. Here are the signs to look for to see if you might need a new electrical panel:
- You hear crackling sounds from the electrical panel.
- You see corrosion and rust on the circuit breakers.
- The interior of the electrical panel feels warm.
- Appliances are running at less than full power.
- Outlets near water sources – such as sinks, tubs, dishwashers and clothes washers – are not GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters). These outlets stop the electricity if an appliance comes into contact with water, preventing electrocution.
- You’re always using extension cords.
- Your home has a 60-amp electrical service.
- Your home has 100-amp electrical service, but it still can’t operate some appliances.
- Your older home has a fuse block panel or split-bus panel, which do not have a main breaker.
Watch Out for These Specific Bad Electrical Panels
Your home’s electrical panel might have a serious defect if it’s more than 25 years old, because there are some electrical panels from that era that have known safety issues due to poor design. Electrical panels installed after 1990 are generally well designed and safe.
Contact DMG Electric Inc. right away to replace the following types of defective panels: