Electric panels send electricity safely through circuits throughout your house. The key word is “safely.” So how do you know when the electrical system in your house, especially the panel box, is no longer safe? Should you wait until an actual danger? There are signs you need an electrical panel upgrade. Can it be a headache? Yes. A hazard or actual emergency from an old, outdated panel, circuit or breaker may be a much bigger pain.
When is Old too Old?
The safety of you and your family is the most important consideration. When, though, is it normal to think an electrical panel is nearing the end? Generally, panels can last for about 40-60 years. It’s a pretty long span. There might be situations, though, where faulty components or an event which causes damage could need attention before those years are up. Older homes and older electrical systems might need replacements to be fine with current safety standards.
Electrical panels might become under capacity or undersized for a home. This is possible if you’ve built additions on to a home or have multiple new, power-heavy, appliances, systems or devices in a home where this wasn’t the case decades ago.
Unfortunately, any major upgrade or replacement for a panel or whole system is major work – which should only be done by a licensed electrician. A 200 amp electrical panel upgrade normally runs about $1,500-$2,500. What’s the sign you’ve got to make the upgrade or replacement?
Rust comes from water. Water and electricity do not go well together. A rusted electric panel, or parts in or near the panel, is a bad sign. It’s bad for the likelihood it keeps working and it’s a definite safety hazard because – water and electricity.
Rust means there is or has been water on there, and it could be again. It could be high humidity or a drip onto the box.
Water and corrosion means the box is now unsafe and could be a shock risk for anyone touching it. It’s an electrical short or malfunction risk all the time. It’s also a fire hazard.
Not only do the panel and any corroded components need to be replaced, an electrician might well suggest moving the new equipment to another location to avoid a repeat of what caused the rust and water damage.
Breakers are Broke
If the circuit breakers aren’t working right, what’s the point in a electrical panel? The electrical breakers are the main safety device in a home electric system for you and your family. Breakers which trip when they should stop electrical shocks and electric fires. So if the breakers are not functioning properly, this puts you in jeopardy. We advise regular electrical inspections to test and fix breakers if required
Breakers Tripping too Much
Circuit breakers should trip every time they need to. So, just because a breaker trips doesn’t mean you’re thinking about a ton of system work. If breakers are tripping over and over, though, this may mean a problem with wiring, the panel, the breaker itself or something else in a circuit. There could be an overloaded circuit, a fault which keeps causing the trip or an undersized wire.
If a breaker has tripped and you then see scorched parts, signs of arcing, corrosion or damage that wasn’t there before in the panel, contact an electrician. This could mean a panel is undersized, overloaded, outdated or has another unseen problem.
A Scorched Panel
While an electrical panel is supposed to last 40 or more years, some problems can strike at any point and don’t have all that much to do with the age of the system or part. A power surge can hit and do damage anytime.
Worn electrical wiring, worn or poor insulation or an older panel can be more susceptible to electrical arcs. This can cause a fire or a burn. This can burn or scorch, creating char, melting or damage in a panel box. If you hear or smell a bad burning smell, or if a panel box is oddly hot, then carefully check this or call a pro.
Flickering, Dimming Lights
Malfunctioning lights, even just flickering or low lights, could mean you have a aging or malfunctioning electrical panel. Lights flicker or dim when an electrical panel and system is being overused. This may be happening due to bad wiring or some other wear and tear. No matter, if this is too common, you need an inspection of your panel and system.
Questions for an Electrician
Here are some good questions to ask an electrician before working on or replacing an electrical panel.
- Is the same breaker tripping often? If the exact same breaker regularly trips, it’s likely an issue with the breaker itself or the circuit entering the breaker.
- Why are there burn marks on the bus bar where the breaker links inside the panel? Burns or scorching shows there’s a problem with a breaker, the panel, or both. Regardless, a panel replacement is advised if burning has happened.
- Double-tapped breakers, I have two circuits attached to one breaker, why? And what should I do? When two or more branched circuits join in a single-pole breaker, the breaker may trip more often. Repair service may be as simple as separating the circuits properly into different breakers or mounting a two-pole to tandem breaker if the electric panel will work with it.
- Is the breaker undersized for the circuit? A breaker being overloaded will regularly trip under particular energy loads. Running a lot of devices or appliances at once can also overload and trip a breaker. Vacuums, for instance, can make a breaker trip frequently because of the power use.
When is it a Good Time to Call an Electrician? Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.