Your electrical panel is basically the heart and the brain of your electrical system. All the electrical circuits in your house run through it, and without a working panel, your appliances won’t be able to function properly. That’s why it’s extremely important that if you believe there is something wrong with this device, you contact an experienced electrician to see if you need to install a new one ASAP. Keep reading for the top ten signs you need a new electrical panel, and remember that you can count on Roby Services for all of your essential electrical needs.
10 Signs It Is Time to Upgrade Your Electrical Panel
- Your Panel Is Old: A functioning electrical panel can last anywhere from 25 to 40 years. However, even if your panel falls somewhere within this lifespan, it may be a good idea to have a professional check it out. As we’ve discussed on our blog before, many homes built between the 1950s and 1970s were constructed with Federal Pacific Electric and Zinsco brand electrical panels. Many of the models manufactured by this company were faulty, and later linked to electrical fires, shocking, and accidental electrocutions. If you do not know how to hold your electrical panel is or what company made it, call Roby Services today, and see if you could be putting your home at risk with an out-of-date panel.
- Your Panel Feels Hot to the Touch: A panel that is warm or hot to the touch is almost as dangerous as a panel that is emitting a burning smell. A panel that is functioning correctly will stop your electrical system from getting overheated by flipping a circuit breaker and cutting off the flow of current to prevent electrical fires. But if your panel is hot, it may indicate that it is no longer capable of doing this job, and might need to be replaced.
- Your Panel Is Making Strange Sounds: While your electrical panel should operate silently, the occasional “click” or “pop” of a circuit breaker flipping is not out of the ordinary. What is concerning is a consistent buzzing, humming, or hissing sound coming from your electrical panel. Usually, when this type of sound is coming from your electrical equipment, that means there is some bad wiring or a loose connection that you cannot see. If this problem is ignored long enough, you might have to replace your panel’s wiring, if not the entire device, so it is key to act right away if you are hearing strange sounds coming from your electrical panel.
- Your Panel Has a Hard Time Powering Your Electrical System/Appliances: It is not uncommon for older electrical panels to have a difficult time supporting the modern electrical needs of the average household. For instance, older houses often do not have as many outlets, and while you could plug in power strip on top of power strip, this may present the risk of overloading an older electrical panel. It is also possible that your panel will have trouble providing power to heavy-duty electrical appliances, such as your dishwasher or HVAC equipment. While you could solve this problem partially by installing new dedicated circuits for these appliances/outlets, but it is often safer to just install a completely new panel. Especially if…
- Your Lights Keep Flickering: One of the most common signs of an electrical problem islights that flicker on and off when you are using your electronics. If even using smaller devices such as your microwave or vacuum causes your lights to flicker, the problem may lie not with your wiring or your lights themselves but with the electrical panel that is powering them. Call an electrician if your lights keep flickering and find out whether your panel is causing this issue.
- Your Circuit Breakers Frequently Trip: Circuit breakers trip when an unexpected flow of electrical current occurs, cutting off the power to a specific circuit, thereby protecting the appliances on the other end. While it is normal and even good for your circuits to trip occasionally, as this means they are doing their job, frequently tripped breakers are often a sign of a problem within your electrical system. When your electrical panel no longer has the capacity to facilitate normal electrical flow, your breakers will trip more than normal, in which case you may need to upgrade the entire panel.
- You Have Fuses Rather Than Circuit Breakers: While circuit breakers that trip all the time are definitely annoying, dealing with blown fuses is even worse. A fuse box (which is basically just a term for an electrical panel with fuses instead of circuits) essentially does the same thing as a breaker panel, but fuses have to be replaced every time they stop excessive current, as opposed to breakers, which can just be flipped back to the correct position. You can use larger fuses to cover more ground, but these often allow too much current through your electrical system, which makes your equipment more likely to experience electrical fires, almost defeating the purpose of the fuse to begin with. On top of this, the more fuses you blow, the more taxing it is on your electrical panel. For these reasons, upgrading from a fuse-based panel to a circuit-based electrical panel is usually the safest and most convenient choice for the average homeowner.
- You Smell Electrical Burning: We’ve all smelled that nasty burning smell before—that melting odor that comes with burning wires or other electrical equipment. If you detect this odor around your electrical panel, call an electrician immediately. This smell is usually caused in electrical panels by the plastic jacket or the electrical wires in your panel melting, or by the wood and insulation in the wall behind your panel getting scorched. But whatever the burning smell stems from, this is an extremely serious issue, and may even lead to a house fire in a worst-case scenario, so again, acting with speed here is key.
- There Is Rust Around Your Electrical Panel: Rust around your electrical panel is a clear sign of damage, and often means you should consider a replacement. Usually, rust builds on a panel because water has dripped on it, in which case you probably have a leak somewhere in your home. You should determine the source of the leak promptly and call an electrician to look at your panel, as the last thing you want for your electrical equipment is for it to come in contact with water.
- Your Panel Has Experienced Other Visible Damage: While rust is probably the most obvious sign of panel damage, there are other things on your panel’s exterior that may cue you in to a problem. For instance, if you see any dents on your panel, it is possible something fell on it, or – if your panel is located in the garage – that a car bumped up against it. While a dent or other visible damage does not always mean there is some internal problem with your panel, it is still a good idea to call an electrician to have it checked out—especially if you notice any of the other signs on this list.