5 Signs You Should Replace Your Electrical Panel
Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping
If there is frequent tripping in your circuit breaker, it indicates something is going wrong with the circuit. There may be a short circuit or a ground fault in one of your appliances. Maybe there is a circuit overload or a sign indicating the circuit breaker box is faulty. Keep an eye out for all these reasons that might be causing your circuit breaker to trip more frequently.
You Live In An Old Home
If you’re purchasing an old house, make sure the home’s electrical system is in safe and working order before you close on the house. Have a professional electrician inspect the system, and specifically ask them about these aspects of the house’s wiring.
Fuse Box or Circuit Breaker
Find out whether the house has a fuse box or circuit breakers. While both are technically safe, circuit breakers are more common today than fuse boxes for a couple of reasons.
First, circuit breakers are safer in home settings where homeowners sometimes try to use do-it-yourself solutions when problems arise. Fuses are generally safe in and of themselves (and even more sensitive than circuits), but homeowners sometimes use tinfoil or other techniques to bypass fuses. This creates an unsafe situation – and never should be done!
Second, circuit breakers are easier to reset when a power surge causes the system to trip. Resetting a circuit is as simple as turning a switch fully off and back on again.
If you want to reset a fuse, you must take out the blown fuse and install a new one. This means you need to have fuses on hand, and you must purchase a new fuse every time one blows. If a system keeps tripping for some reason, you can go through quite a few fuses before the problem becomes apparent, which increases the cost of repairs.
Should the home you’re looking at have a fuse box, you might want to ask the seller if they’ll pay to switch the box over to an electrical panel with circuit breakers. They might claim that the box is safe, but a circuit breaker is a more modern way to wire a home. Even if an electrician says a box is safe, you probably will still want to change the system over soon after your purchase.
Capacity of the Circuit Breaker
Just because an older house has an electrical panel with circuit breakers doesn’t mean the control panel of the electrical system is capable by today’s standards.
Older homes’ electrical panels often have lower capacities than today’s systems because there used to be fewer appliances and devices that consumed electricity. As high-end kitchen appliances, larger stoves and refrigerators, and computers became more common, homes began to need more electricity to power all of these items.
Electrical panel capacities are measured by amperage, and most new panels come with a 100-, 150- or 200- amperage capacity now.
By today’s standards, a home that’s under 3,000 square feet and doesn’t have a central air conditioner should have an electrical panel with a 100-amperage capacity. A home that has more than 2,000 square feet and does have central air needs a 200-amperage panel.
Older homes, however, might have only a 60-amperage panel. Such a panel would be able to support just one major appliance at a time and is insufficient for today’s homes. If you’re interested in an older home that has such a low-capacity panel, have the seller pay to upgrade the panel or expect to hire an electrician to make the change after you purchase the property.
Type of Wiring
Beyond the electrical panel, you should also have an electrician check the type of wiring. In particular, ask if the house has knob and tube wiring anywhere.
Knob and tube wiring is an old type of wiring that was widely used up until 1940 and was still installed until 1975. In theory, the system is safe if it’s properly maintained by a knowledgeable electrician. In practice, homeowners often don’t maintain their home’s electrical systems properly.
If a house has knob and tube wiring, have an electrician carefully inspect the entire system to see whether it is safe. If there are any areas in disrepair, make sure they’re replaced before you move in.
Electrical Panel Smells Bad
A burning smell from your circuit breaker can mean either a wire’s insulation is burning or the breaker is overheating and melting. It’s important to take action quickly because both of these problems should be fixed as soon as possible for safety reasons.
- Turn off any important electrical appliances in your home before you cut power to protect them.
- Turn off the power to your circuit breaker.
- Call an electrician.
Undersized Electrical Panels
Your electrical panel, or breaker box, splits the power coming into your home to a number of circuit breakers. Each of these circuit breakers controls the flow of power to a particular room or appliance in your home. A breaker box that’s too small doesn’t provide enough capacity for power to flow through your home, so you’ll likely end up trying to connect too many things to each circuit. Not only is this inconvenient as it can occasionally cause the circuit breakers to trip, or shut off, having too small or too old a breaker box is indicative of bigger problems such as substandard wiring in your home.
The danger of not replacing an old, faulty breaker box or substandard wiring is that they can catch fire from their failure to prevent overloads in your home’s electrical system.
When the time comes to upgrade your appliances, it usually means an electrical system upgrade should follow suit. Outdated electrical panels oftentimes don’t have the capacity to power an entire home of new appliances. This includes your refrigerator, hot tub, dryers, water heaters, and washing machine. Most of these electrical appliances require a 240V circuit, with which older homes are not typically equipped. If you find yourself purchasing a new home and are questioning the condition and age of your electrical system, contact us with questions.
We’ll Ensure Your Electrical Panel Is Safe
If you think it might be time to replace your electrical panel, contact Capricorn Electric. Our professional electricians perform expert electrical panel replacement, repair, and inspection for Pennsylvania area homeowners.