Reasons Why You May Need An Electrical Panel Replacement In Your Home
All homes contain electrical panels which serve as central hubs for the distribution of power. However, older homes may contain electrical panels that are obsolete, unsafe or both. If your home has an old electrical panel that needs replacing, you shouldn't delay longer than necessary. By waiting, you are risking an electrical fire or shock as well as possibly causing damage to electrical devices and appliances. Below are several indicators your electrical panel may be failing, or it may be no longer capable of handling the electrical current load placed upon it in a modern residential environment:
Insufficient electrical capacity
One reason that electrical panels may need replacement is due to insufficient capacity as measured in amperage. The unit of measure for amperage, amps, is a way to quantify electrical "volume" flowing into the home. In contrast, voltage is a measurement of available electrical "pressure". That means the more amps that are available, the more electrical devices can be used at the same time. At the dawn of the residential electric service era in the United States, homes were originally wired to handle 30 amps of electrical current. However, this is now woefully obsolete by today's standards, since so many electrical devices and appliances are typically used by homeowners. That is why, since the 1950s, 100-amp and even up to 200-amp electrical service has become the standard seen in new construction.
If your home still is using anything less than a 100-amp electrical panel, you will need to upgrade your panel to better handle the electrical load. Insufficient capacity can lead to constant breaker tripping, which is a hassle for homeowners. To check your panel's capacity, simply locate the main breaker switch on the panel and read the number listed; it will provide you with an overall capacity rating.
No 240-volt electrical service available
Another reason that you may wish to consider replacing an electrical panel is to add capacity for 240 volts of electrical service. Many appliances require 240 volts of power for operation, including electric dryers, central heating and cooling systems, water heaters and some window air conditioners. However, a panel designed for 110 or 120 volts cannot be wired for this voltage amount, so it will be necessary to upgrade. Keep in mind that 240-volt systems require the use of two "hot" wires, so double the voltage will pass through the panel. In addition, you may also need to have additional electrical work performed to change the amount of incoming current, so be sure to contact your electrical power company with questions on obtaining a 240-volt supply if you don't have it coming from the utility pole.
Fused panel still in use
Before circuit breakers came into use in homes, fuses were the standard means of interrupting current overloads. While fuses worked fine for low-capacity systems, such as 30-amp or 60-amp wiring, they are no longer safe for use with higher capacity systems. One major concern with fused panels is that incorrectly sized fuses can be either purposely or inadvertently installed; this can lead to a potentially dangerous situation where more current is permitted to flow through a panel than it can safely handle. In addition, aging fused panels contain other potential hazards, such as brittle, cracked or frayed wiring and components.
Manufactured by Federal Pacific Electric or Zinsco
Due to inherent design and manufacturing flaws, electrical panels manufactured by Federal Pacific Electric or Zinsco, both defunct companies, should be inspected at a minimum by a qualified electrician. In most cases, complete replacement is the safest option for these panels. While not all Federal Pacific Electric and Zinsco panels are dangerous, there are several models that carry elevated risk for fire due to overheating or arcing. Your electrician will be able to guide you toward purchasing a new panel if warranted.
For more information, contact a company like Albarell Electric Inc.