Does My Home’s Electrical Service Panel Need to be Replaced?
We do a lot of work for realtors and home owners in Northampton and Lehigh Counties and from time to time we get asked; “When is it time to upgrade an electrical panel?” So, we thought we should share with you the following advice from our experience.
It may seem a bit long, but it’s what we think you need to know to make your own good decisions about keeping you, your family and your home safe!
First, what IS your electrical panel?
The electrical service panel is the component of your house’s electrical system where the electricity is brought in to the house from your power company. The electrical wiring that runs throughout your home starts at the service panel and is used to separately feed the different areas and appliances at your home that require electricity. Each separate wire leaving the panel and feeding your home is called a circuit. This panel is like the “heart” of the electrical system of your entire home. Like veins and arteries, any and all wiring going throughout the walls and ceilings of your home all originate at this location! Keeping this in mind, there are several reason it may be necessary to upgrade your electrical panel.
Do you have fuses of beakers?
If you live in a home built before 1960, you may have an electrical panel with fuses. Fuses are used to control and limit the power of the electricity leaving the panel through each individual circuit. If any circuit calls for more power than that circuit is rated for, the fuse will “blow”, meaning it will automatically stop the flow of power at that circuit and as a result will then need to be replaced. This requires you to keep a few spares of the different fuses you have within your electrical panel. If this is the type of panel you have in your home, it is probably time to upgrade to a new panel with what are called circuit breakers.
Like fuses, modern circuit breakers prevent power from overloading circuits. However, the circuit breakers do not burn out. Instead, they simply “trip” and only then need to be reset, there is no need to replace them. A breaker panel is therefore much safer than a fuse panel.
Does your electrical panel have enough power capacity for how you use your home?
With fuses, and even if your home has an electrical panel with circuit breakers you may want to check the power capacity of your electrical panel, called its ampacity. Many homes may have only a 60-amp or a 100-amp panel and that may not be powerful enough to handle many of the modern conveniences we have in today’s homes such as central air conditioning and modern appliances. If you are often blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers, maybe notice your lights dimming low and staying low, or a burning smell coming from the area around your electric panel, it is likely past time to upgrade your panel.
Another time to consider upgrading your electrical panel is if you are building an addition to your home. Adding additional space with additional electrical needs may necessitate an electrical service panel upgrade at that time.
Replacing the electrical panel may not always be necessary
The right professional electrician can help you decide if your panel really needs to be replaced or upgraded. For example, if you have expanded the size of your home, upgraded all your appliances, and or added something that has put an additional electrical load on your existing system you may not need to upgrade your electrical system! This is where dealing with an electrical contractor known for integrity can save you money. We have worked with customers in the past who did not need to update their system. Shafnisky Electric did the calculations on their electrical load and found they were still within the safe range.
If you have questions about your electrical panel or would like someone to come out and check your panel, please call our office at 610-435-2237 or click here to schedule an appointment.
Remember, upgrading your panel should be done by a licensed, insured professional electrician for the ultimate safety of you, your family and your home!