Is It Time for an Electrical Panel Upgrade?

Enjoy reading the latest DIY articles and saving money?

Receive our latest helpful hints, tricks and savings, directly to your inbox.

Posted December 13, 2018

You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your electrical panel. You just turn on the lights and carry on your business.

But that electrical panel plays an important role in your house, and if you need an electrical panel upgrade, you can’t afford to ignore it. If it’s the choice between spending between $1,500 and $3,000 for a new panel or risking an electrical fire, you’re well-served by spending the money on your safety.

Not sure whether you need an upgrade? Here are 14 signs that your panel needs some TLC.

What Does Your Electrical Panel Do?

If you think of your electrical system as the veins and arteries of your house, then your electrical panel is the heart, where electricity is pumped to circuits that carry power to plugs, lights, and appliances throughout your home.

If your electrical panel is malfunctioning, though, your entire electrical system (and your whole house) will be at risk. It’s one of the easiest ways to create serious electrical hazards that can turn into fire hazards at the drop of a hat.

Signs You Need Electrical Updates

If you want to keep your home safe, you need to make sure your electrical panel is up to snuff.

You might be surprised to find how many common electrical issues can be traced back to a faulty electrical panel. Remember, your panel is linked to your entire electrical system, so if the panel is malfunctioning, the damage is more widespread than the basement or dining room.

It’s not like changing a bulb. Your electrical panel is like your heart–it’s vital to the overall health of your system.

If you spot any of these issues, make sure to get in touch with a reputable electrician service right away.

1. Indoor Lights Frequently Dim or Flicker

Remember back in the day when everyone thought that flickering and dimming lights were the work of ghosts?

They might make your house look like a horror movie, but the cause of flickering and dimming lights is actually more mundane than the afterlife.

Your lights should only dim when they’re connected to a dimmer switch. Any other dimming signals a problem in one of two areas:

  1. Your electrical panel
  2. Your utility company

Utilities usually experience power problems due to storms or blown transformers. These are usually isolated incidents that go away as soon as the storm passes or the company fixes the issue.

If your lights frequently dim, especially when you use appliances like the microwave or an air conditioner, that’s a red flag that your electrical panel needs to be replaced.

2. Your Home Relies on Fuses and a Fuse Panel

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with fuses and fuse panels, per se.

A fuse and a circuit breaker both protect an overloaded circuit by interrupting the flow of electricity, switching off the power before the circuit blows. The way they do it is very different.

A fuse contains a piece of metal that melts when overheated, while a circuit breaker has an internal switch mechanism that cuts power when it senses an unsafe power surge.

As we said, there’s nothing technically wrong with fuses and fuse panels. They’re common in older houses built before the 1960s. The problem is that, because it uses a melting piece of metal, they’re a major fire hazard.

3. Old or Faulty Wiring

If your electrical panel is up-to-date and your lights still dim and flicker, that’s a sign that your wires may be old.

If you’re not sure whether your wires are old or faulty, there are a couple other red flags you can look for.

A burning smell near electronics or appliances isn’t a ghost–it’s the scent of burning wiring. The same thing applies to a shock or tingling sensation when you touch an appliance. Sometimes it’s static electricity, but if it happens often, it’s probably not static.

And if you see any discoloration near plugs, it’s time to switch off your power and call an electrician.

Generally, if you live in an old house, it’s a good idea to get your wiring checked regularly–the house likely contains outdated wiring systems that may need to be replaced.

4. Burning or Melting

As a rule, burning or melting is a bad sign, especially when it comes to your electrical system.

Generally, where there’s burning or melting, a fire will soon follow.

If you smell any burning, especially if it’s coming from your circuit breaker, don’t put your home and family at risk. Cut your power and call an electrician ASAP.

5. Circuit Breakers Fail or Trip Regularly

Circuit breakers are essential to protecting your home from electrical fires. Like a fuse or fuse box, circuit breakers prevent short circuits or overloaded circuits by interrupting the flow of electricity as soon as they detect one of these issues.

If your system is working the way it should, then the circuit breaker shouldn’t need to interrupt electrical flow very often. When your system causes a breaker trip, you can reset it and return to your everyday life.

But if the breaker trips regularly, that’s a sign of either an overloaded circuit or a malfunctioning circuit breaker. When that happens, you need an electrician to replace the breaker.

The same thing is true of a breaker that fails to stop a potentially dangerous circuit overload. That means it didn’t detect an impending problem, and next time, that could result in an electrical fire.

6. The Breaker Trips When You Plug in an Appliance

Now, if your breaker trips regularly but has a predictable pattern, the problem may not be isolated to your circuit breaker.

If your breaker frequently trips when you plug in a particular appliance, like a hair dryer, or when you turn on specific appliances, like a microwave or dishwasher, then it’s time to take a closer look at your overall system.

These particular appliances require a lot of power to operate. If your system is functioning properly, it should be able to handle these appliances without issue. But if your system is old or malfunctioning, it may not be equipped to handle the powerful pull of large appliances.

This causes the breaker to recognize a potential electrical hazard and trip before your appliance starts running.

7. A Substantial Remodeling is on the Horizon

You might be recognizing a trend by now: if your system is old, you probably need an electrical panel upgrade.

This is especially true if you have an old home you want to remodel.

Your electrical system involves several component parts that all work together to keep your home warm and bright. Old systems aren’t inherently unsafe, but they were designed with a different set of electrical demands in mind.

Even if your system isn’t old, it’s a good idea to take a look at your electrical system if you plan on remodeling in the near future. You may be dealing with an entirely different layout that requires updated wiring for convenience and safety.

8. The Panel Often Feels Warm to the Touch

Sometimes, you don’t need fire or burning to warn of potential electrical hazards.

A lot of people have a faulty belief about warm electrical panels–they think that because light bulbs are warm to the touch, it makes sense that an electrical panel would feel warm to the touch.

Here’s the problem: your electrical panel is not a light bulb, and too much heat can quickly turn into an open flame where electricity is concerned.

In fact, a warm panel is often a red flag for frayed or damaged wires behind the panel. Wires are designed to keep heat contained. If they’re no longer doing that, you’re running the risk of an electrical fire, and you need to call an electrician.

9. The Panel Has an Outdated Design

The design of your electrical panel might seem inconsequential, but it’s actually about more than aesthetics.

Old electrical panels were designed with different electrical demands in mind, and an old system may not be able to safely meet the demands of modern appliances.

For example, if it relies on half a dozen circuit breakers instead of one, it’s probably time for a replacement. While this design might have worked for homeowners 20 or 30 years ago, there are simply too many appliances and too much power in today’s average house for that system to function safely.

10. Breakers Cannot Remain Reset

Another sign that it’s time to replace your panel is a circuit breaker that cannot remain reset.

When a circuit breaker trips, assuming that the issue was just an overloaded circuit, you can reset the breaker fairly easily and carry on with your life. Once the breaker is reset, it will allow electricity to return to normal flow, since the problem is resolved.

However, if your breaker won’t remain reset, or it keeps cutting the power even after you reset it, then there’s a strong chance you’re looking at a problem with the electrical panel.

11. You’re Installing New Appliances

And no, we don’t mean a new blender.

Large appliances like a refrigerator, a freezer, or an air conditioner require a lot of energy to operate. Your electrical panel may not have sufficient bandwidth to keep these appliances working, especially if you’re adding more appliances than you already had (more appliances = more electrical load).

Most standard electrical panels provide 100, 150, 200, and 400 amps of power. If your new appliances require more amps than your panel can provide, your circuit breakers will trip regularly to protect your system from electrical overload.

12. Extensive Use of Extension Cords and Power Strips

Do you have extension cords or power strips plugged into most of your home outlets?

If so, it’s high time to get an electrician in to inspect your electrical panel.

A power strip here and there won’t hurt your system in the long run, but it does demand more electricity through that outlet than the outlet was originally designed to give.

If your house doesn’t have enough outlets to meet your current needs, it might be time to install new ones. Just make sure you update your electrical panel too, so you don’t overload your system all over again.

13. You’re Wiring a House for the Future

Maybe you’re not trying to repair an existing problem. Maybe you’re trying to prevent a future problem. Maybe you’re trying to wire your house in a way that will support your future usage.

If that’s the case, you need to upgrade your electrical panel.

Technology is always changing, but if history has shown us anything, it’s that the electrical systems of today aren’t designed to support the electrical demands of the future. Your electrical panel needs to be able to keep pace.

14. Your Home is Approaching its 20-Year Anniversary

There’s something about an old house that draws you in–a sense of history and charm that can’t be manufactured.

But an old electrical system is not part of the draw.

If your home is beyond the age of legal adulthood or nearing middle age, it’s probably time to update your electrical system, especially your electrical panel.

Think of it this way: picture your mother’s appliances, or your grandmother’s appliances. Now picture your appliances.

Chances are, there’s more of them, they’re bigger, and they’re smarter. That means you need more electricity to keep them running–electricity that your outdated system cannot safely provide.

Old electrical systems aren’t quaint. They’re potentially hazardous, especially when combined with modern appliances.

Need an Electrical Panel Upgrade?

Does this sound like your electrical panel?

If you need an electrical panel upgrade, take a deep breath and take some worry off your plate by calling in the pros.

We offer professional electrical services across four states, and we’re proud to offer True Transparency Pricing for the services you need. Because you don’t want to worry about what your safety will cost–you just want a house you can live in.

If you need an appointment to talk with an electrician about your system, don’t hesitate. Get in touch with us today.

Daily Promotion

Indoor Air Quality Inspection

Indoor air is often 2-5 times more contaminated than outdoor air!

Get Promotion

Related articles in Tips & Tricks

More Tips & Tricks Articles