A lot of people know how to change a light bulb, but electrical panel upgrades are not so simple.
Just think of the electrical panels as the heart of your electrical system—they control all the electrical components in your house. If they fail or break down you can face some serious consequences, like electrical fires that could destroy your home.
So, how exactly do you know when to upgrade your electrical panel, and why is this so important? Let’s explore when and why you need electrical panel upgrades for maximum safety and peace of mind.
Electrical panels are electrical distribution boxes that distribute power from the electrical service line to your house.
They serve two purposes:
They convert high voltage electricity into low voltage for use inside of homes and buildings.
They act as the central control system for electrical distribution within a building.
Electrical panels can be made of metal and appear in many shapes and sizes depending on where they are located (upstairs, downstairs) and whether they have meters attached to them.
There are a few reasons why electrical panels need to be upgraded.
The electrical components within the electrical panel become obsolete, outdated, or too undersized for your electrical load. Materials used in wiring and equipment change over time—buildings now use much more plastic than they did years ago, so it often needs to be replaced with a different material that is designed to meet today’s fire and electrical code requirements.
Sometimes electrical panels become overloaded with the number of electrical appliances, lights, and outlets. In this case, it’s time to upgrade your electrical panel. You can do this by installing one or more sub-panels within the main electrical box; each will feed a different part of your home as needed.
When electrical panels are upgraded, the electrical components within them are changed to be up-to-date with today’s electrical code requirements. Upgraded electrical panels will have breakers instead of fuses—breakers prevent arcing and shorting, both of which can lead to electrical fires.
There are a few warning signs that you should look out for when it comes to electrical panel upgrades:
This could indicate an overload of power in your home’s electrical system—and electrical fires are a very real danger. When your electrical appliances shut off and turn on unexpectedly, this places a high demand on your electrical system. If the electrical panel is overloaded, it can overheat and potentially cause severe damage to both property and safety.
Electrical panels are designed for flexibility within a building because you never know how many electrical appliances will be plugged in at any given time (think about all those holiday decorations). When electrical panels are overloaded, they fail frequently.
Arcing is the electrical equivalent to a spark—and sparks mean fires. If you see this type of activity coming from your electrical panel, it’s time for an upgrade! Electrical components within older electrical boxes cannot handle today’s electrical appliances, electrical equipment, and electrical load.
Hissing, buzzing, and chirping sounds are signs of electrical components operating outside their normal parameters. If you notice these types of noise in your home’s wiring system this could be another sign of electrical overload.
This is another sign of electrical overload—if it doesn’t get fixed soon you could risk having a fire in your home due to arcing and electrical shorts.
Fuses protect electrical components from overloading and electrical fires, but they eventually blow out. It’s best to upgrade your electrical panel as soon as possible because it can lead to a dangerous electrical fire if left unchecked.
Electrical panels last between 20-40 years—and if yours has lasted this long without an upgrade (or several), it could be time to replace it with a new electrical box that meets your home or building’s electrical needs.
Electrical panel upgrades improve electrical safety and increase electrical service size and capacity. If any of the warning signs we’ve mentioned sound familiar, then it sounds like your home’s ready for an upgrade.
As always, we advise that any electrical work be completed by a licensed electrical professional to ensure your home’s safety.