When Is It Time to Consider Electrical Panel Replacement?

Electric breaker box on a wall

A home electric panel typically last 25-40 years but today’s increased power use may mean your panel is working beyond its intended capacity. If you own an older home with a fuse box or have circuit breakers with outdated amperage, it may be time to consider electric panel replacement.

There are many signs your home’s power supply is outdated and unsafe. Flickering lights, tripped circuits and low amperage are red flags that it’s time for an update. Learn how your electric panel works and how it affects your home’s electricity needs.

What is an Electric Panel?

Your electric panel is a metal box in your basement or garage. It contains all the electric circuits for your home. Electrical panels receive are where your home receives electricity from the power company. The panel distributes the power from this electricity to your lights, appliances and electronic devices. You may know electrical panels by the common name “fuse box,” but since most homes don’t use fuses anymore, that name is a misnomer. h

Your electric panel distributes electricity via circuits in your home. Different rooms, areas, or appliances have their own dedicated circuits. All your kitchen outlets, for instance, might be on one circuit, while your living room outlets are another circuit. Ideally you or the electrician has labeled all of the circuits on your panel. You can control each circuit in your home in one of two ways:

  1. Fuses look like the end of a lightbulb. They are small electric plugs that screw into your electric panel. If the circuit they power becomes overloaded, then a small wire within the fuse melts to stop the flow of electricity to that circuit. You need to replace fuses manually. Electricians consider fuses an outdated system.
  2. Circuit breakers are more common and safer. They are the switches inside your electric panel. If a circuit becomes overloaded, then they’ll simply switch off the power to it. You can unplug whatever overloaded the circuit and flip the breaker back on without replacing it.

Why do circuits overload?

Time for a little electricity 101. The amount of electricity in an item such as a phone charger is measured in amps. The force of electricity traveling to that item is measured in volts and the workload on the circuit is measured in watts. You calculate the workload by multiplying the amount of electricity needed by the force supplied:

Amps X Volts = Watts

Circuit breakers

If you plug your phone charger into a typical 120volt outlet, your phone draws the amps it needs from that force. If that outlet is part of a circuit that is already at its maximum workload (watts), then it becomes overloaded. A proper electric panel troubleshoots this problem by shutting down the overloaded circuit to prevent it from overheating. In worst case scenarios, an overloaded circuit can become a fire hazard.

Frequent overloaded circuits are an indication it’s time for electrical panel replacement.

Signs You Should Replace Your Electric Panel

Since your electric panel is the heart of your home’s power supply and its defense against overload, it’s important to keep it in good working order at the proper amperage. 10% of home fires in America are electrical fires. You can avoid dangerous fires like these with the proper upgrade and electrical wiring.

If your home operates on fuses, it’s probably time to upgrade. Fuses are not as safe or reliable as circuit breakers and often insurance companies will penalize you for having an outdated system.

Check the amount of amperage coming into your panel. The installer or company will have notated where this is near the top of the panel. Your older homes probably has 60 amp wiring. Unfortunately, this is no longer a sustainable amount of power for an average home. Ideally you want a rating of 200 amps to power a modern home safely. If your amperage is low, electrical panel replacement is the best solution.

In addition, periodically check your panel for any of the following physical signs:

  • Rust
  • Burn marks
  • Buzzing
  • Smell of burning plastic

If you observe any one of these, then you may need to replace your electrical panel.

Is Your Home Telling You It’s Time for Electrical Panel Replacement?

Beside the physical signs on your electrical box, your home may be telling you that the electrical wiring you have is insufficient. If you experience any of the below, it may be time to upgrade an electric panel.

  • Circuit breakers trip frequently. If you have circuits that frequently overload, then your electrical service is probably not enough to keep up with the demand. Your use exceeds your supply.
  • Lights flicker and dim. Have you noticed when you run the microwave the light above dims for a moment? Another sign that you’re putting too much stress on your home’s power system.
  • Electric shocks. Do your outlets or lights ever shock you when you plug something in or turn them on?
  • New appliances. Installing new appliances may mean a bigger power draw. Many appliances now require 240v circuits rather than the typical 120.
  • Home remodels. If you’re remodeling your home and especially you are expanding it, remodeling is the perfect time to upgrade or replace your home’s electric panel to meet the new demand.
  • Increase in family numbers. If your family has grown, then naturally you’re probably drawing more power. These days, kids and teens have their own phones and computers. If you working from home right now, then you’re using more electricity too.

How Do I Replace My Home’s Electric Panel?

Electrical panel

Upgrading your home’s electrical service makes life easier for everyone. But the process requires the technical knowledge of a licensed electrician. Tinkering with your electrical panel can be dangerous if not deadly. The large black wires at the top of your electrical box are the lines from the meter outside and are always live. Do not touch them or the lug nuts connecting them.

Minnesota requires homeowners apply for a permit to do electrical work in their home. You will also want to check with your insurance company before performing any home electrical yourself to make sure you will still be covered. You may require an inspection as well.

Get Professional Electrical Panel Replacement

Take the hassle out of electrical panel replacement with licensed electricians you can trust. EarlyBird can make overloaded circuits, fire hazards, and high energy bills a thing of the past by replacing the electric panel in your home. The cost to install or replace a fuse box pays for itself in peace of mind.

Contact EarlyBird today. We’d be happy to look are your current panel and electrical wiring to make sure your home power supply is safe and adequate. We offer competitive service that won’t shock you!

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