Updated on May 21, 2020
Kemah Electrician & Electrical Panel Recommendations
Do you need to change your electrical panel?
A house has a lot of benefits. Sadly, one of the drawbacks is that things are going to split. Sometimes you don’t know why something doesn’t work. The treatment of the problem is only half the fight. When it comes to electrical issues, most homeowners have little knowledge of exactly what the problem is, much less how to address it.
If you’ve had trouble working properly with electricity or equipment, our electrical panel recommendations will shed some light on if you need to update your electrical panel.
What’s the Breaker Panel?
Before we discuss how and why your electrical panel might not work, let’s talk about the breaker panel itself. The electrical panel is the central point that links the wires from outside to the wires inside your house and how the electrical service company delivers power to your building. It is often referred to as the main breaker box, the fuse box, the distribution panel, the load center, and even the breaker panel. This is where you’re going when you need to flip the breakers off and get the power back on when you’ve tripped the breaker. It’s usually located in the garage, on the outside of your house or in the utility room, but it can be anywhere in your household.
There are several different types of panels available: main breaker panels, main lug panels, and shift switches.
Main Breaker Panels
These panels have a main built-in breaker that is capable of shutting off all power to your property. This double-pole circuit breaker determines the power of the circuits of your panel and prevents these circuits from being overwhelmed.
Central Lug Panels
Instead of making a central breaker, line wires are going to lugs in these panel forms. The main lug panels have a separate shut-off system, which could be near the meter or connected to the main panel breaker. Using a disconnect near your meter allows firefighters to turn off your power without having to reach your living system.
If you need more than one circuit in a specific area, such as a greenhouse or a laboratory, you may want a sub-panel. Sub-panels normally do not have their own disconnection and are usually operated from the main panel.
A specific type of sub-panel used for transferring portable generator power is a shift switch. Shift switches are often recommended in areas with regular storms, where alternative power sources may be required on occasion. This configuration makes it easy for a homeowner to turn to a backup power source when a regular power source is not available. Manual shift switches are less expensive, but allow you to switch the power load manually to your backup system, while automatic transfer switches provide homeowners with more robust protection.
The main types of circuit breakers are single pole, double pole, arc fault circuit breakers (AFCO) and ground fault circuit breakers (GFCI). You can choose between full size, half size, and twin or tandem single pole breakers that supply 120 volts of electricity. Hot water heaters and appliances tend to have dual pole circuit breakers providing 240 volts of power. When worn or damaged wires are present, AFCIs turn off power to the area. These are usually built-in common areas and bedrooms. A good Kemah Electrician will recommend that GFCI’s kitchens, bathrooms and garages protect homeowners from electrocution around wet areas.
Most of the time, you will not know much about the breaker plate. However, like other equipment in your home, electrical panels sometimes need to be replaced or upgraded. There are a number of reasons for this.
Do I need to change my electrical panel?
Circuit breaker panels usually last for 25 to 40 years. There are other questions to ask before deciding whether you need to upgrade or replace your electrical panel, such as: does your home still have a fuse box?
If your home still relies on an old-fashioned fuse panel, which is common in homes built before 1960, then you probably want to upgrade to an electrical circuit breaker panel. The fuse burns out and needs to be replaced, and the circuit breakers need to be reset with a flip of the switch.
Is your house over 20 years old?
If your home is more than 20 or 30 years old, you might need an update. Older homes usually have panels that are 60 to 100 volt. Newer homes typically have 200-amp panels that suit our lifestyles. Today’s energy demands are greater than before with high-definition televisions, smartphones, digital refrigerators, and other appliances.
Do I need to change my electrical panel?
A question to ask to determine this is- Is the electrical panel warm? If the panel feels warm to the touch, it could be a sign that the panel is overloaded, incorrectly installed or defective.
Does your electrical panel smell?
If the panel emits a burning smell, this could be a warning that either the circuit breaker is wrong or the wire is not properly attached. Either of these warning signs could put you at risk of an electrical fire.
Do you have an electrical panel trip often?
If your electrical panel moves often or if it makes a cracking sound, it may need to be repaired. The system will trip when you plug too many appliances into a circuit that requires more power than the circuit can accommodate. “Tripping” or turning off the power is a protective measure to prevent overheating of the wires. This may mean that only the breaker needs to be replaced, not the whole frame.
Do you have your appliances running at full capacity?
If your machines are not running at full capacity, this may be due to a faulty electrical panel. Circuits could have been overloaded. If that’s not the problem, it might be that the panel is out of date and you need more electricity to handle the current load that your home needs.
Do your lights dim or flicker frequently?
If your lights dim or flicker often, particularly when you use other devices, this could be a symptom of a loose connection or a malfunction.
Are you replacing your appliances or moving them to your home?
If you’re planning a major new appliance update or an extension to your home that would require additional amps, you may consider an upgrade.
Should you think you’re using a lot of power strips?
If you need additional wall outlets in your house, you can consider upgrading the panel to provide the electricity you need to operate it all.
If you need more answers, it’s best to call a reputable electrical company like Bay Area Electrical.