Is your electrical panel acting up? If so, it may be time for a replacement. The average modern household uses more electrical gadgets now than ever before, and as your home gets older, your electrical panel has an increasingly difficult time keeping up with your home’s ever-growing electrical demands.
In this article, we will help you understand how electrical panels (sometimes referred to as circuit breaker boxes) work, when they need to be replaced, and how much a replacement will cost you. If you determine you need an Olympia WA electrician to help with an electrical panel inspection, replacement, upgrade, or installation, we’re here to help!
An Introduction to Electrical Panel Replacement
Old or faulty electrical panels are not only an inconvenience but a serious safety hazard. That’s why it’s crucial to check your system regularly, make sure everything is in proper working order, and keep an eye out for potential red flags. Even if everything appears to be working normally, the electrical panel will eventually need to be replaced due to normal wear and tear over time. Generally, it is recommended that you replace your electrical panel every 20-30 years or so. Sometimes, electrical panels also need to be replaced after a new addition to your home demands more electrical power.
How to Tell If Circuit Breaker Is Bad
Do you suspect a problem with your electrical panel or circuit breaker? Below are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Signs of rust in the panel. This usually indicates that moisture has made its way into the panel, which is highly dangerous. This is a sure sign that professional help is needed.
- Signs of burning in the panel, including burn marks or burning smells. This can be a sign that your wiring insulation is damaged, which can be very dangerous and lead to electrical fires. This is another case where professional electrical assistance is required.
- Circuit breakers that trip regularly. This could indicate a bad breaker, problems with your panel, or problems with your wiring.
- Old or underpowered electrical panels. Older panels often have only 60 or 100 amps, compared to newer homes which typically have 200 amps.
- Old or bad wiring. Over time, wiring is subject to normal wear and tear, but this can lead to many problems and hazards.
- Constant dimming or flickering lights, which may point to an underpowered panel. Appliances shutting off regularly is another sign to look out for.
There are also some types of out-of-date electrical panels that have been deemed unsafe for modern use. Even if they appear to be working properly now, they are risky to continue using and should be replaced before a problem can occur. For example, Federal Pacific Electric panels (the first type of panel listed below) have high failure rates linked to thousands of house fires. Types of panels to avoid include:
- Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Stab-Lok panels
- Zinsco electrical panels
- ITE Pushmatic panels
- The Challenger panels
- Murray panels
- Westinghouse panels
If you have a tripped breaker and don’t see any other signs of potential danger, you can test the system on your own with a few simple steps. To test your circuit breaker, first go to the breaker box and check what the tripped breaker is protecting. There will either be a label next to the breaker that’s tripping or a sheet on the panel door with a map. Next, unplug all electrical devices connected to that circuit breaker, so that you can rule out if the circuit breaker is simply overloaded. Lastly, reset the circuit breaker by flipping the tripped breaker. If you don’t hear a definite click, or the switch won’t stay in place, the breaker may be bad. If it trips up again immediately, you may have a short circuit or a bad breaker. If it stays on and appears to be working normally, it is likely that the breaker was overloaded and you just need to move some electrical devices to another circuit. If you suspect any larger issues are at play, seek out a professional inspection.
Ready for an Electrical Panel Upgrade?
As you can see, there are many different issues that can affect the functioning of your electrical panel and circuit breakers, some of which can lead to serious safety hazards. It’s a good idea to check your electrical panel regularly and test your circuit breakers from time to time to screen for any potential problems. If you notice any of the red flags outlined above, contact a qualified electrician right away for a thorough inspection and diagnosis of the problem.
At Vertechs, our electrical technicians will handle your electrical panel replacement with utmost confidence and professionalism. You can rest assured knowing that we will make your schedule and safety our top priority. Schedule a service call today and we’ll get things back up and running in no time!