You will need to upgrade your electrical panel under these conditions:
- It is unsafe. If you have an old electrical panel, or one that uses fuses, read more about unsafe electrical panels here.
- It is not big enough. If you are frequently tripping circuit breakers, or have been told that you need to add more power, learn more about upgrading your electrical panel here.
What is your electrical panel?
Your electrical panel functions as the entry point for electricity into your home. After the power reaches your electrical panel from the utility company, it flows out into the various circuits of your home until it eventually reaches your appliances and other electrical devices.
When too much power flows through a wire, it can cause overheating and melting. This can lead to fire. If you were to ever touch a wire that is overloaded, you could even be shocked. Your breaker panel is designed to sense when there is too much electricity flowing through a particular circuit, and shut off power to that area of your home. If you have an older electrical panel, this will cause a fuse to blow. In newer breaker panels, a breaker will trip.
It is absolutely necessary that you have working circuit breakers in your electrical panel. Furthermore, you should make sure that your electrical panel is big enough to provide you and your family with the amount of electricity that you need. When making upgrade to your home, such as adding rooms or central air, you may need to install additional circuits or even a larger panel to handle the extra load. This is often referred to as a panel upgrade.
There are many names that refer to the electrical panel, such as “electrical box”, “circuit breaker panel” or “electrical service”. We have included a larger list of synonyms at the bottom of this page.
How do I know that my panel is too small?
Your home is unable to automatically provide extra power whenever you add high-powered appliances to your home. If you find that your are frequently tripping circuit breakers because you are using too much electricity, then it may be time for a panel upgrade.
The following are common reasons for an upgrade:
- Adding a Room
- Renovating a kitchen
- Installing central air conditioning
- Moving to an older home with an undersized electrical panel
- Installing a hot tub, oven, spa or other large appliance
In some cases, your air conditioning technician will inform you that you need more power, or that this could be why you keep tripping breakers. Give us a call if you would like to talk with our in-house technician.
Replacing Electrical Panels for Safety
Modern electrical panels are designed with many safety features in place. Older electrical panels, unfortunately, are not always as safe as they should be. Many of them were installed with manufacturing problems, while many others have just deteriorated to the point where they are no longer safe to use. Here is a list of known unsafe electrical panels:
- Fuse boxes
- Federal Pacific Electric Company Electrical Panels
- Pushmatic electrical panels
- Zinsco electrical panels
Safety Issues with Fuse Boxes
Before circuit breakers were used, fuses protected our circuits from overloading. At this time, homes used much less electricity than they do today. The typical fuse box was only designed to handle between 30 and 60 amps of power. It is now common for your average home to need 100-200 amps of power or even more. This can cause fuse boxes to frequently become overloaded, which leads to blown fuses.
The inconvenience that this causes will often tempt homeowners to oversize their fuses. While this may allow you to use more electricity, it can also cause dangerous overloading which can lead to fire and electrical shock. Every now and then, a fuse will be replaced with a penny. Because the penny will never “blow” like a fuse, this can be incredibly dangerous if the circuit becomes overloaded.
Another danger associated with fuse boxes is the ability to accidentally stick your finger into the fuse opening while changing a fuse. Your best solution is to upgrade any fuse boxes to more modern panels.
Pushmatic Electrical Panels
We now know that Pushmatic electrical panels are not reliable. As the breakers trip off, they will eventually wear out, making them hard to reset. After time, they may even trip off because they are too weak to hold themselves in place.
Another issue with Pushmatic panels is that they do not have a main breaker. The main breaker gives you the ability to shut off power to the entire home, rather than to just one circuits. Modern breaker boxes have this feature built in, but it was not included in Pushmatic panels.
Zinsco Electrical Panels
There have been no new Zinsco panels manufactured since the mid-1970s. Design flaws were discovered in them that could cause the circuit breakers to melt until they no longer functioned. Another issue comes from the ability of circuit breakers to appear tripped off when they are still allowing power to flow through the circuit. These electrical panels are not safe, and present serious shock and fire hazard. For more information on the hazards of Zinsco electrical panels, click here. If you think that you may have a Zinsco electrical pane, then call us today for a free consultation.
Other Names for Electrical Panels
You may hear electrical panels referred to as the following:
- Distribution board
- Residential service
- Main panel
- Service panel
- Load center
- Panel board
- Breaker box
- Power breaker
- Fuse box
- Fuse board
- Load center
- Circuit breaker panel or box
Although they are all different, these names all refer to the box that connects your home wiring system to your electrical utility company.
What do I do Next?
If you have any questions about your electrical panel, or think that it may need upgrades due to safety or size issues, please call us today. Our in-house electrician will be more than happy to provide you with a free consultation or Free Home Safety Inspection.