Do I need to replace my home's electrical panel?
Your home’s electrical panel is what brings electricity from the power lines into your home. Electric panels usually last at least twenty-five years, but because many were built before today’s increased power needs, your home’s panel may need to be upgraded sooner.
What is an Electrical Panel?
An electric panel is a metal box full of fuses or breakers, usually located in a home’s basement or garage. It pulls electricity from your power grid and distributes it to the lights, appliances, and electronic devices in your home. Electrical panels are also called the main breaker, breaker box, or fuse box, even though most homes don’t use fuses anymore.
You should make checking your electrical panel a regular habit, even if you don’t suspect a problem.
12 Signs You Should Replace Your Electrical Panel
Your electrical panel is probably not one of the things that you think about on a daily basis, but it's the key to the electricity in your home, so it’s important to make sure it is operating correctly.
Here are ten signs that your electrical panel needs to be replaced.
1. Your Electrical Panel Is More Than 25 Years Old
While you don’t want to replace a panel that is still in good working order, if your panel is over 25 years old, you should have it inspected by a certified electrician. Even if your home’s electrical panel shows no signs of wear and tear, homes today have more electrical needs than in years past, so even if your panel doesn’t need to be replaced, it may need to be updated.
Your Electrical Panel Doesn’t Have Enough Amperage
One sign that your electric panel is too old is if it has under 150 amperage. Many old homes were wired with only 60 amperage, which is usually not enough power for the modern home. Newer homes usually have a rating of 150—200. If your amperage is too low, contact AirPlus to have your electric panel updated.
You Still Have Fuses
Electrical panels used to use fuses instead of breakers. While breakers will simply flip if they can’t handle the amount of electricity flowing through them, fuses will literally burn out. This means that instead of simply flipping them back on, they will need to be replaced.
If your home operates on fuses, it’s probably time to upgrade. Not only is replacing fuses harder than dealing with breakers, some fuses can actually be fire hazards. Having a fuse box may make your home insurance more expensive as well, or be a reason they won’t pay out in the event of a fire.
2. Your Electrical Panel is Warm or Smells Burnt
Your electrical panel should control how hot your electrical system gets, so overheating should cause your breaker to trip, protecting your home from fire. However, if you have noticed that your electrical panel is hot to the touch or smells burnt, that can indicate a serious problem.
The burning smell can either be the plastic jacket of the electrical wire or the wood and insulation in your walls being burned. In case of a warm electrical panel or a burning smell, call a professional to have your electrical panel inspected immediately.
3. Your Breakers Trip All the Time
While tripping circuit breakers protect you from your circuits drawing too much power, if they trip too often, that can be a sign that your electrical panel needs upgrading. Your breakers tripping regularly most likely means that your electrical panel doesn’t have enough amperage for your electricity use. To fix the problem, you’ll need to have your panel upgraded.
4. You Can Never Find an Outlet
If you have an older home, it’s likely that it wasn’t built for modern electric needs. If you find yourself unable to find enough outlets for your phone, computer, and smart hub, or you resort to power strips to plug in all of your appliances, that’s a sign that your breaker might not be set up to handle your electricity needs. Luckily, you can easily fix the problem by having your electrical panel upgraded.
5. You Are Adding Onto Your Home
When you add onto your home, you need to add onto your electrical panel. You may need an upgrade, a new panel, or a sub panel. This is true not just for add-ons, but also for remodels, such as finishing your basement, since your electrical consumption in that area might not work for its new use.
Redoing your electrical panel during an add-on or remodel is financially advantageous because the labor for replacing your panel can often be combined with other labor for your remodeling project.
6. You Just Bought a Major Appliance
One of the most common reasons for replacing your home’s electrical panels is because older panels don’t have the capability to power modern appliances. Whenever you plan to purchase a new appliance, like a dishwasher, washer, or air conditioner, it's a good idea to have your electrical panel inspected. Your new appliance may need a dedicated circuit just for it, a fairly simple install as long as your panel has the room for it.
7. Your See Rust on Your Electrical Panel
Rust is very bad when it comes to your electrical panel, as it is a sign of water damage. If you have any reason to suspect water damage to your panel or you see rust or corrosion on your panel, you need to call an electrician immediately to have it inspected.
8. Your Electrical Panel Is Making Weird Noises
Electrical panels should be quiet, so if you hear buzzing or hissing coming from yours, you might have a bad wire or loose connection. This is a repair you’ll want to have done sooner rather than later, as faulty wiring is a fire hazard and the longer you wait, the more damage could incur.
9. Flickering or Dimming Lights
Your lights shouldn’t dim just because you want to plug in your vacuum or microwave your dinner. If they do, this is a sign you don’t have enough amperage for your electricity usage.
You might also notice that your appliances don’t seem to be running at full speed, like a microwave that barely gets your food hot or a vacuum that doesn’t have enough suction. To fix this problem, your best bet is to have your electrical panel upgraded.
10. Your Electrical Panel Has Been Hit by Something
If something falls or runs into your electrical panel, you’ll want to have it inspected and possibly replaced. Damaged electrical panels are fire hazards.
11. Faulty Wiring
There are many signs of faulty wiring that you should look out for, since it is one of the leading causes of fire. Older wiring is more likely to be faulty, so if you have an older home, you should have your electrical panel inspected to catch any issues.
If you notice flickering lights, get shocked when you touch an appliance, smell something burning, see scorch marks or sparks in your outlets, or your electrical panel feels warm, you should have it inspected immediately.
12. Future Proofing
Any time you have work done on your home, it’s worth having your electrical panel inspected or updated so that it lasts as long as possible. Having your electrical panel upgraded before selling your home or shortly after buying a new home is also a smart move, since it can boost your home’s value and prevent future problems with your electrical system.
Should I Replace My Electrical Panel?
If you notice any of these signs that your electrical panel needs to be replaced, you should call an electrician to have it inspected. Most of the time, there will be more than one sign that your electrical panel needs to be replaced or upgraded. It’s important not to ignore the maintenance on your electrical panel, since not maintaining it well can be a fire hazard and cause damage to your appliances.
How Much Does It Cost to Upgrade Your Home Electrical Panel?
The cost to upgrade your electrical panel will depend on the labor and exact work that needs to be done.
Cost to Replace Main Breaker
Upgrading your electrical panel to a higher amperage will cost anywhere from around $2,300 to $4,000, depending on the amperage you need to add.
Cost to Replace Old Electrical Panel
Replacing the fuse box in your home with a circuit breaker will usually cost around $2,500.
Adding a subpanel, such as for an outbuilding or an add-on, will cost around $500 to $1,000.
DIY Electric Panel Replacement
Since the bulk of the costs to upgrade your electrical panel are labor, you might be interested in doing some of the work yourself. However, electrical work is often dangerous, and Virginia requires you to have an electrical permit to replace panels or wiring, as well as to service or disconnect equipment.
Professional Home Electrical Panel Upgrade
AirPlus offers professionally-installed, full copper electric panel replacements starting at only $2,500. For a safe and reliable upgrade to your electrical panel, call AirPlus for licensed electricians you can trust.
Call AirPlus Today.
To learn more about your options for backup power, we invite you to contact us at AirPlus Heating, Cooling & Electrical today. Our team of experts can answer any question you have about selecting the perfect backup power source for your home.