Electrical Panel Upgrade: When You Should Do It?
You might not have given much thought to an electrical panel upgrade, but it is a critical part of your home’s electrical system. Most homeowners pay attention only when something breaks down and scramble for quick fixes.
A few things in your electrical panel require an upgrade over time, such as outdated fuses, because they pose a severe fire risk., Outdated fuses kill almost 500 people and cause $1.3 bn of property damage each year. Flickering lights and a burning smell are also concerning and demand your attention.
Besides these reasons, if your home is older than 20 years, you should probably consider upgrading your electric panel because of code compliance, insurance requirements, or safety concerns. This article will discuss all that one needs to know about electrical panel upgrades and how they improve your life in many ways.
Signs That Your Home Needs An Electrical Panel Upgrade
If you noticed any of the below-mentioned signs, it’s a sign that your electric panel needs an upgrade:
- Frequent tripping of circuit breaker
- Unusual warming of electrical panel
- Failing of circuit breaker
- Regular dimming or flickering of lights
Electrical Panel Problems and How to Resolve Them
Electric panels can face many problems over the course of their life, such as corrosion, over-fusing, dangerous openings, and more. Let’s discuss them in detail and understand how to address them.
Whenever the capacity of a load-carrying wire does not match the rating of a fuse or breaker to which it is connected, over-fusing occurs. A wire that doesn’t have enough capacity can overheat quickly and start a dangerous fire.
You can replace individual circuit breakers to resolve this issue. However, always consult a professional electrician before doing that, as there might be other underlying problems you should have noticed. Replacing just the circuit breaker without going into the issue in depth might prolong it.
All electrical panels have perforated knockouts that work as entry and exit points for electrical wires. They are also the access points to fuses and breakers. Sometimes the perforations get damaged, and a permanent opening remains there if no breakers are installed. It opens the way to the interior of the panel, which can be very dangerous because children can stick something inside it. It can also be an entry point for small rodents, bugs, and dirt which can damage the whole system.
The solution to this problem is to install breakers as soon as possible to fill the gaps so that children, animals, bugs, or dust cannot access them.
Corrosion affects many electrical panels and ranges from mild to excessive, depending upon the exposure of the panel to moisture and humidity. Water entering the main service wire can cause a lot of issues. It can hinder the connection between branch circuit wiring and service cable wiring, resulting in increased resistance and heat, which can ultimately cause a fire.
The full extent of damage from corrosion can only be judged by an experienced electrician with all the required testing and safety equipment.
Damaged or Missing Handle Ties
Handle ties are devices that connect two breaker switches to ensure that two halves of a multiwire branch circuit are switched off at the same time. They ensure that both sides are switched off simultaneously.
Sometimes these ties get damaged or are missing altogether, which calls for a replacement. However, a seasoned electrician should do it because doing it yourself poses a huge hazard.
If you’re living in a new home, chances are you have upgraded from a 100 amp to a 200 amp panel. However, the homes built before the 1990s usually have 100 amp panels which are insufficient these days. It can result in overcrowding with multiple wires crossing over each other.
Sometimes two wires are connected to the same breakers, which is not only a code violation but can also be hazardous. The best way out of this problem is to upgrade from 100amp to 200amp to have peace of mind.
Features & Benefits Of A 200 Amp Electrical Panel Upgrade
Here’re some of the benefits of an electrical panel upgrade:
- Upgrading your electrical system from 100 amp to 200 amp ensures that all appliances get sufficient power while preventing electrocutions and electrical fires.
- Getting more circuits helps you distribute the electrical power to multiple outlets, reducing the risk of fires.
- Installing a new power panel can help bring consistent power to your appliances, the lack of which can cause circuit overloads and tripping of breakers.
- Getting a service upgrade can also significantly increase your home’s value, especially if you have been using an outdated electrical system.
- A new electrical system is more efficient and consumes far less power than its older counterpart. As a result, you have to pay lower smaller electricity bills.
What to Expect In an Electrical Panel Upgrade?
Before pursuing every aspect of the electrical panel upgrade process, you must thoroughly understand it. Let’s look at how it works.
The time needed for an electrical panel upgrade depends upon the particular panel, the required upgrade, and the wiring involved. Old fuse panels are slightly easy to replace, as you need to unscrew them and put a new one in their place.
Sometimes, it is easy to replace the panel, but the circuitry makes the task much more time-consuming. For instance, replacing a 20-position panel with a 32-position panel shouldn’t take too long, but it can take days if it has crossed circuits.
The standard power required in homes used to be 60 amps. However, now it has climbed up to 200 amps, thanks to modern appliances such as air conditioners, computers, high-definition televisions, etc. The cost you incur to upgrade your electrical system to 100 amp, or 200 amp can fall anywhere between $800 to $3,000, or even exceed that in some instances.
If your house is over 40 years old, you’ll need to upgrade your wiring to handle the increased load. Opening the wall, installing new wiring, and connecting switches and outlets can cost up to $8,000. The cost for larger homes with exterior walls can cost even more.
Unfortunately, as long as the electrical panel upgrade is incomplete, you cannot use your home appliances because the power will stay cut off. Turning the power connection on prematurely is not only damaging to the system but is also risky for everyone involved in the process. So, be patient and let the electrician finish the task before you use your appliances again.
Usually, it takes 1-3 days, so ensure that your laptop and other devices are fully charged. Arrange some alternative power source during the outage, so it doesn’t affect your work.
Electrical Panel Upgrade Installation Process
Here’s what a typical electrical panel upgrade looks like;
- Initial Assessment: An electrician will perform an assessment and ask the power company to cut the supply until the electric system upgrade is finished.
- Replacing Meter: First, replace the existing meter with a new one to avoid faulty readings and a more manageable billing process.
- Changing Circuit Breaker: Replace the circuit breakers, especially if you notice signs of damage, such as dimming lights and foul smells.
- Upgrade: Completely upgrade the electric panel for better power distribution. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.
- Make Desired Changes: If your home needs more power, add more circuits because the new panel has enough space.
Replace traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs to complement the panel upgrade. LED bulbs save energy and can reduce your electricity bills. Once the electric system upgrade is finished, a building inspector will visit and perform a thorough inspection to ensure that all the building and electricity regulations have been met.
Note: Make sure you or your electrician has a permit for upgrading the panel or installing a new one from the relevant state authorities.
The electrical system is the backbone of any modern home, thanks to its ability to power all our appliances. Your energy bill, appliances, and safety are compromised when there are issues. Therefore, an electrical panel upgrade can save a lot of trouble with only a few simple steps.
If you’re also noticing some problems with your electrical system, don’t wait and contact MillTown. Our expert team will visit you, assess the situation, and suggest the best options for your electrical panel upgrade.