An electrical panel upgrade is probably the farthest thing from your mind. In fact, you may have not even considered it before. But depending on the wiring in your home, the age of your home, and whether your electrical demands have changed in the past 10 years, there’s a pretty good chance that your electric panel needs an upgrade.
It may seem like your current panel works fine, but there are several warning signs to look for to determine that you might benefit from an upgrade.
What is an Electrical Panel?
The electrical panel houses breakers that are designed to protect your home from electrical shocks. The outside power lines are fed directly to your electric panel, which allocates electricity to different areas of the house.
If an overvoltage event occurs, the breaker trips, shutting off the power on that circuit.
Indicators that You Need a New Electrical Panel
There are several signs that can tell you that you might benefit from an upgrade to your electrical panel. Here are a few of the top things to look for:
The Style of the Current Box
If you still have a fuse box in your home, then you are way past due to get a panel upgrade. A fuse box may still work fine, but you likely have less electrical output than a new panel would provide.
Here are some things that an electrical inspector can look for with your current box:
- Testing to see if the panel is producing heat
- Listening carefully for crackling sounds
- Looking for rust or corrosion around the breakers and the bottom of the box
If the panel is producing heat, especially if it’s hot to the touch, then there could be a short in the electrical panel. Crackling sounds is another indicator of a short. Rust or corrosion could be signs of a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed by a qualified electrician, as well.
The Breakers Keep Tripping
If the breakers keep tripping, it could be due to the presence of too many load-bearing appliances. As early as the 1980s, the normal electrical needs were around 100 to 150 amps. Now, most homes require 200 amps.
If your home is not receiving the power it needs, a load is created, which will continue to trip your breakers.
Investigating Your Home’s Power Needs
The power is the central heart of your home’s electrical system, but the wiring throughout may indicate the need for an electrical panel upgrade.
Electrical outlets that are not attached firmly to the wall, have burnt marks, or ones that are otherwise damaged are a good first place to look. An inadequately operating outlet can create a short and draw extra current. It can also start a fire in your home.
Two-prong outlets should be replaced and upgraded to a three-prong style, too. The third prong is a ground, which safely transfers excess current away from the outlet.
Outlets around any water source should be GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters). GFCIs are outlets that contain a fuse, so if you’re using something electrical near the water and there’s a mishap, the outlet will kill the circuit immediately to avoid serious damage.
Warning Signs in the House
Some of the most effective warning signs that it’s time for an upgrade are missed by homeowners, especially when they get used to seeing them.
Some of these signs including:
- Flickering or dimming lights
- Frequently needing to reset circuit breakers
- Having an abnormally high electric bill
- Receiving a mild shock when touching an outlet or switch
- A buzzing or hum coming from an outlet
While these signs may not require a panel upgrade on their own, they do warrant contacting a professional electrician to come and take a look.
Adding a Large Energy-Drawing Item
A new hot tub sure does look exciting, but it’s also an energy hog. Whether you’re thinking about adding a hot tub, a new air conditioning system or HVAC unit, or setting up a shop in the garage with all your new tools, consider the electrical requirements for the new items.
Whether you’re upgrading the kitchen or adding another room for the new baby, always check with a professional electrician to make sure the electrical panel can handle the new load.
When Panel Upgrades Are Necessary
You’ll usually have options when it comes to the timing of panel upgrades, but not always. The following situations can make panel upgrades imperative:
- Water damage
- Presence of mouse or rat pellets
- Damaged wires
Water damage requires a new panel. There is no sensible way to ensure the water is out of every area in which there’s electrical current.
Mouse droppings indicate the presence of rodents. Rodents can feel the warmth from electrical wiring, and for some reason, it makes them want to bite it. They also chew the insulation off the wiring to maneuver around the wires with greater ease. It is hard to find all the wire damage around the panel or in the walls.
Damaged wiring suffers the same fate. Damaged wires can cause fires.
If the house is over 30 years old or if it’s been that long since the panel was replaced, it is time to upgrade. There are too many possible hazards hidden in old circuitry.
Find the Best Electrical Expert for Panel Upgrades in Austin, TX
At SALT Light & Electric, our highly trained staff members are all certified and licensed to handle the easiest and toughest residential and commercial electrical needs, including panel upgrades. For over 35 years, we’ve served the greater Austin area, including Round Rock, Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Georgetown, and Manor. Give us a call to see what we can do for you today.