What is an Electrical Panel?
Electric panels are sometimes referred to as breaker panels, load centers, service panels, or breaker boxes. It’s the box often in the basement, garage, or utility closet connecting the external wires from the street to the internal wires to the home, providing your lights, appliances, and more with electricity. Most homes have 100, 150 or 200 amperes depending on the number of circuits added and how much it needs to handle.
When is it time to replace your electrical panel?
So how do you know when it’s time? Here are the things you can see, hear, and understand that you can’t ignore.
1. Breakers Are Tripping
If you find yourself opening the panel box often to reset the breakers, this could be a sign your electrical panel needs replacement. Many people experience this after purchasing a new appliance unable to handle the load. Furthermore, all appliances connected to that circuit are at risk, as it shortens its lifespan with damage to the electronic circuit boards and other electrical components.
2. High Utility Bills
If your utility bills seem higher consistently without using any different devices or appliances, that could signify you need a new electrical panel. How does this happen? Rusted and weak wiring causes more electricity to go to your appliances, ballooning your electric bill.
3. Your Lights Dim Often
Lights should only dim during outage issues or with loose bulbs. When your lights dim, especially when using appliances such as microwaves and air conditioners, this is often a sign of a loose connection or something that fails with your panel.
4. You Smell a Burning Odor
Many people experience a burning odor when an electrical panel needs replacing. However, if not addressed quickly, it can cause a fire due to overheating.
Our recent project was a Baltimore City church, pictured below, where the panel box and wiring burnt over the years due to old wiring and loose connections. Our team replaced the panel, installed all new breakers, and verified all connections. The Baltimore City church now has a quality panel that poses no safety concerns.
5. Odd Sounds from the Panel
Don’t ignore crackling, sizzling, popping sounds coming from your panel. This can be a sign of loose wires. Electricity is trying to jump from one connection to another, creating a spark, which can cause a fire hazard.
6. Rust and Corrosion
You need to call an electrician immediately if you see rust or corrosion on wires, cables, circuit breakers, screws, doors, and other parts. For example, you can see in the photo below. This customer had severe rust and corrosion on all components due to an outdated panel.
7. Your Home Is Older
If you have an older home, an electrician should check your panel out. Remember, they do not last forever. So, it’s a good idea for homes built in 1995 or before to be checked by an electrician as soon as possible.
Many panels are also inferior. For example, Zinsco and Federal Pacific panels, prevalent brands in the 1960s-70s, are considered no longer safe to use due to breakers melting and problems with the aluminum bus bars, causing a fire.
Should I Hire a Professional?
Yes. Working on an electrical panel can be a dangerous job If you are unlicensed. This is a do-it-yourself project you should think twice about. A mistake can cause serious damage. Call the professionals at Milton at 410-276-3420.